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Prospect Fight Night: Quenton Nelson vs. Zack Martin. Round 2

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Comparing the highest paid guard in the NFL to the top offensive line prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. Combine comparisons.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the past few weeks, Zack Martin became the NFL’s highest paid interior offensive linemen earning a 6 year $84 million deal. We could all sit around and debate the worth of a guard in the modern NFL, but with any luck at all Colts fans will have plenty of time to debate that question in four or five years when Quenton Nelson is set to become the highest paid guard in NFL history — after coming off of 4 consecutive Super Bowl victories.

A guy can dream right?

Facebook reader John Fraser wanted to know how Zack Martin and Quenton Nelson compared as college prospects. Both went to Notre Dame, both were 1st round picks, both play guard in the NFL, both were coached by Harry Hiestand while in college, but what else is there? Are they similar as prospects? What traits do they share? What separates the two of them?

Ultimately, who was the superior prospect?

That’s the question I want to answer but it’s important to distinguish what I mean when I say “superior prospect”. What that means is who, coming out of college, projected to the pro game better. Ranking prospects is difficult, Trent Richardson was a much better pro prospect than David Johnson and we all know how accurate those projections were. Time will sort out the better pro player, right now all we have are projections and prospects.

There are issues with comparing the two purely as prospects, we already know Martin is a 2 time all-pro and I’m not able to completely separate the 2018 Zack Martin from 2013 Zack Martin in my mind, but I will do my best.

We’re going to square these two men off in an old fashion prospect battle, this bout is scheduled for 4 rounds, there will be no knock downs, no count outs and no tapping out. We’re going to go the full 4 rounds and at the end we’re going to declare a winner. Grab a snack, get a drink and enjoy the fireworks.

I’ve got $20 that says the first comment is some guy who didn’t read the article and then discredits the title. Anyone want to take me up on it? No? Okay, let’s get to it.

Round 2: Combine Numbers

In round one we watched two massive men weigh in. While Quenton Nelson came out on top, this fight is far from over. Today we’re going to take a look at their combine numbers, how these guys move in shorts.

Neither man chose to run the 40 yard dash, and why would they? Both men were projected as first round picks they had nothing to prove by running fast, in theory they could only hurt their stock (somehow) if they ran historically slow. Logic prevailed for both men, who realized they play 99% of the game in a 5 yard box. If they’re ever 40 yards from where the ball was snapped, something has either gone very well or very poorly and no one is expecting much from them at that point anyway.

The bench press is also nearly completely meaningless if you discount the decades of data that’s been compiled from draft eligible players since 1982. Either way, both Martin and Nelson took part. Martin put up 29 repetitions of 225 lbs, while Nelson completed 35.

The vertical jump is used to measure explosiveness which is more valuable than most people realize for guard play. Guards need to be “fast” in the first 5-7 yards. So a good vert can tell you something about their athleticism. Martin jumped 28.0” while Nelson jumped 26.5”. A clear advantage for Martin, but given the differences in size, not completely unexpected.

The broad jump is used in the same way, it’s a measure of lower body power and explosion. Martin jumped 106”, Nelson 105”. Martin jumped an inch farther at a lighter weight. Still the advantage belongs to Martin.

The 3-cone drill isn’t completely useless for an offensive lineman, but it’s close. It does show movement ability and Martin completed the drill in 7.65 seconds. Nelson, 7.65 seconds. A tie.

The 20 yard shuttle drill is used to show change of direction and quickness in a short space. It’s nice when a linemen turns in a good time but it’s hardly the most important measurement at the combine for the big ugly’s. Martin ran it in 4.59 seconds while Nelson turned in a time of 4.62. For context, both are excellent times for offensive linemen, though Martin has the raw advantage.

Declaring who had the better combine isn’t as easy as declaring Nelson the winner when we compared their size. These numbers have to be contextual to their size, if they weren’t then Dontari Poe’s 4.98 second 40 yard dash wouldn’t be impressive even though he ran it at almost 350 lbs.

Nelson’s size advantage isn’t huge, but he does have longer arms and put up more reps on the bench and he wasn’t significantly worse in any of the explosion drills while being almost 20 pounds heavier.

Advantage: Quenton Nelson

This round will surely generate some controversy as Zack Martin landed more blows but Nelson landed more big shots. Ultimately, Nelson won this round because he performed well and he won the first round which was the weigh-in. You could make the argument that Martin should be declared the winner or that this should be considered a tie. You could argue that, but that’s not how this judge sees it.

Round two score:

Quenton Nelson: 10

Zack Martin: 9