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Prospect Fight Night: Quenton Nelson vs. Zack Martin. The Decision

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Comparing the highest paid guard in the NFL to the top offensive line prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. Who was the better prospect?

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Notre Dame vs Louisiana State Reinhold Matay-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.

Over the last few days we squared these two men off in an old fashion prospect battle that was scheduled for 4 rounds. There were no knock downs, no count outs and there was no tapping out. We went the full 4 rounds and now 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.

The Decision

Round 1: The first round saw the two men weigh in and while it was simply a battle of who is bigger, it’s an important designation when determining who the better prospect is. Quenton Nelson came away the victor by being bigger in every way.

Round 2: The second round saw both Nelson and Martin have impressive performances at the combine. While Martin’s raw numbers were better on the majority of the events, contextually the judges felt that Nelson’s performance was superior.

Round 3: The third round saw the first on field competition between the two giants. Nelson displayed some expected issues against speed while Martin’s biggest struggle was less of an issue. Martin won this round but by a narrow margin.

Round 4: The fourth round compared both men’s ability to block in the run game. This battle saw the first lopsided round in the contest. Ultimately it’s not that Zack Martin is a poor run blocking prospect, he isn’t. He’s really good actually. The fact is that Quenton Nelson is special in this regard. His ability to generate movement at the point of attack coupled with his ability to get to the second level and work in space while pulling, is second to none. Nelson took this one.

Now we’re ready to declare a winner.

With a combined score of 39 to 36, the superior guard prospect is Quenton “Big Q” Nelson.

What does this mean? Ultimately it means that Quenton Nelson is further ahead of Zack Martin at the same point in their football careers. This doesn’t mean that Nelson will be the better pro, it doesn’t mean that Nelson will even be a good pro. What it means is that if Nelson puts in the work, he doesn’t get caught up in being a top 10 pick at guard, if his coaches don’t ask him to do idiotic things, Quenton Nelson has the potential to be better than a guy like Zack Martin.

That’s an insane thing to type, but it’s true.

This fall all Colts fans should take their eye off the ball and watch the left side of the line, he’s going to struggle like any rookie will, but he’s also going to do things Colts fans haven’t seen for a long time. Quenton Nelson is going to dominate.