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Chris Ballard and Frank Reich Discuss Why Quenton Nelson Was the Clear Choice

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NFL Combine - Day 2 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the sixth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard selected Quenton Nelson. When it came time to sit down with the media and explain that thought process and what went into it, Ballard wasn’t reserved in his praise of the standout guard from Notre Dame.

He’s got everything we want in terms of character, work ethic, toughness, passion for the game. He is going to be great for this team and great for the city of Indianapolis.

Ballard immediately talked about having seen Nelson more than a year ago and noticing that toughness and nastiness that he says exemplifies everything they want to stand for. For my part, the fact that Ballard has that as a part of his mentality is a point of encouragement. An offensive line that wants to not just win, but dominate the defensive linemen across from them is encouraging to me.

He also addressed the fact that they did receive some offers to move down, but simply didn’t find the value there as far as the drop off in player quality that he projected to be available if they traded back.

Head coach Frank Reich echoed the same sentiment as Ballard with regard to building the team up front both offensively and defensively.

When you’re good up front both offensively and defensively it creates a dynamic, it creates an attitude I think, that just carries through the whole team. An air of confidence to know that you can win up front.

Ballard was then asked if he was nervous going in about missing out on one of the premium players since moving back.

I was a little concerned. But I felt good last night when I started hearing all the quarterbacks that were going to come off the board. Then the Denzel Ward pick, I’d been getting a little feedback that there was a chance Denzel Ward was going to go. So, I had a feeling that one of the three: Barkley, Chubb, or Nelson was going to be there.

He talked about the scarcity of offensive linemen, and the higher level of pay for interior linemen, listing both as motivation to find good linemen in the draft and grow your own. This lines up with what we saw from other teams, as three interior offensive linemen went in the first round.

The last few years, they’re (guards) making upwards of tackle money. We saw a couple guards this year make, one in the 13-million-dollar range and one in the 11.5-million-dollar range. So, I think people are realizing-and look offensive linemen in general are harder to find.

Ballard was asked how they approached the trade with the New York Jets and if Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb and Nelson were the main group the Colts had targeted and he admitted that they had approached it with the mentality that two quarterbacks would come off the board.

There were a couple other guys in that group, that we were perfectly content, we think are going to be really good players. But we had it narrowed down to about four guys that we thought would be instant starters for us, impact players, and be Pro Bowl players eventually, in time. When we made the decision to make the trade I walked in the draft room and made sure, I said okay, let’s take worst case scenario, that a quarterback goes and 1 and a quarterback goes at 3. So, at 2,4, and 5, we had better be content with whoever is at 6. And we were comfortable as a group with who was going to be there at 6.

Reich addressed how Nelson would fit into his offensive scheme. He raved about Nelson’s productivity in both zone and gap schemes, but specifically as a puller.

We charted him as a puller. His productivity when pulling was just so far greater than anything we’ve ever seen. He’s just instinctive. I mean, he’s not only big and tough and strong and got all the football character, but we’re looking-when Chris and I started talking-we want guys who are instinctive football players. They process it quickly, and find ways to be playmakers.

When Reich was asked for his first impression when seeing Nelson, he had an encouraging, if not standard coaching answer in response to a first round pick.

My first impression was, that this is the best offensive lineman I’ve seen coming out in the draft in awhile. We want to be dynamic in our skill positions in the pass game and in coverage, but in the long run you’ve got to be good up front to sustain and get to where we want to get to.