How good has this draft class been for Chris Ballard? The eye test says it has been a game changer, and the accolades that keep rolling in to match the stat lines don’t do anything to dissuade us of that fact. Now, perhaps the biggest and most significant recognition of this team’s great haul has come down. Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson have both been voted as First-Team All-Pro’s by the Associated Press.
Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson have been selected First Team All-Pro!— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 4, 2019
They join HOFers Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers (Chicago, 1965) as the 2nd pair of rookie teammates to ever be selected First Team All-Pro.
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This is the first time since Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers that such an honor has gone to two rookie teammates. That was in 1965. So if you said this was a historic draft class, you aren’t being overdramatic, you’re being quite accurate.
In terms of the franchise, there have been just 3 rookies to be voted as First-Team All-Pros in their rookie seasons, and only 1 prior while the team has been in Indianapolis. Alan Ameche (1955), Milt Davis (1957), and Edgerrin James (1999). That is a pretty incredible achievement for these guys.
Quenton Nelson has been a dominant part of the Colts offensive line, a group which has yielded the fewest sacks in the league after giving up the most last season. He was given a Pro Bowl nod and won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in October, making himself the first guard ever to do so. Nelson has brought a mean streak to the offensive line that has been missing since Luck arrived, and has been instrumental in the change from a struggling unit to one of the best in the league and a major team strength.
Darius Leonard has certainly had a season that warrants the recognition. He finished the regular season leading the NFL in tackles with 163, 12 of which were for a loss. He also added 7 sacks, 8 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. It is pretty hard to imagine a player doing more than Leonard has as a rookie. He already won awards this season for the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in December, AFC Defensive Player of the Week in weeks 2 and 17, Defensive Rookie of the Month in September, and NFL Rookie of the week in weeks 2 and 8. Oh, and he missed a game, so his numbers could have been even more ridiculous.
Congratulations to both these guys. This has been a season to remember, and the prospect that we have two such talented rookies who still have room to grow and develop is truly exciting. It is a great time to be a Colts fan. Going on the road and getting their first playoff wins of their careers would be a great way to celebrate.