When the Indianapolis Colts took a guard 6th overall, they sent a message to the rest of the league. They weren’t just trying to protect their franchise QB - the now-retired Andrew Luck. They wanted to play a type of physical style that couldn’t be matched. Last Sunday evening, that strength came out in full force during a stunning 19-13 win against Kansas City.
Now, at the time, the Colts caught some flack for selecting Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson. Not necessarily because of his talent, but more so because of his positional value. “How much can a guard really influence a team?” was a question posed in every war room on draft day. A year and a half later, we have an answer. It turns out, a whole darn lot.
Born in Holmdel, New Jersey, Nelson has looked the part of a star linemen ever since he was young, but it turns out that wasn’t something youth leagues were particularly fond of. Playing two grades up until high school, Nelson was forced to lose 20 pounds each year just to be eligible to play. It spoke to both his level of play and his massive “fridge”-like physique.
It wasn’t just size that made Nelson special, either. His aggressive and nasty demeanor was on display throughout his early football years, and it’s that same grit and determination that allowed Nelson to be a part of the USA Today High School All-American team in 2013. To no one's surprise, his football journey didn’t stop there.
Joining Notre Dame as a 5-star recruit back in 2015, Nelson continued his dominant ways in the green and gold, providing South Bend with their newest prized possession. Nearly flawless throughout his 3-year collegiate career, Nelson was as “can’t miss” a prospect as there was.
Here’s what current Oakland Raiders GM (and former Notre Dame commentator) Mike Mayock had to say about the hulking guard pre-draft:
Despite Mayock’s comments - which were almost universally shared amongst evaluators - Nelson still fell. And organizations may not want to admit it, but it’s clear that the reason he dropped was that teams succumbed - maybe not even intentionally - to misguided and outdated “positional value” stereotypes. Thankfully for the Colts, they were able to take advantage - and their franchise was altered drastically as a result.
Quenton Nelson makes you appreciate OL play even more.— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) July 16, 2019
Armed with the 3rd pick, GM Chris Ballard and Indy had a choice. Pick the best player at 3rd overall, or trade down in hopes of acquiring more depth and future assets. By some extremely savvy maneuvering and a bit of luck, they ended up choosing both.
Trading down with a desperate New York Jets team, the Colts dropped down to 6th for an additional 3 2nd Round picks - and still got their man in Nelson. The selection was all about protecting Andrew Luck, Indy’s franchise man. Yet, over a year later, Luck is out of the picture - and the pick looks better than ever.
Nelson has established himself as one of - if not the premier - guard in the National Football League. Last week against Kansas City he posted the highest PFF (Pro Football Focus) grade for a left guard since 2012. His grit and tenacity have helped pave the way for an elite Colts rushing attack, with their offensive identity falling on his - not Jacoby Brissett’s - shoulders. Ultimately, the responsibilities he’s been assigned with (for a non-QB) might only be rivaled by Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, a player widely recognized in the MVP race.
So why isn’t Nelson, the most important player on a playoff contender, not being even remotely considered for the award?
He’s not only the best guard in the NFL... He’s one of the best overall players in the league.— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 10, 2019
Colts fans, we are lucky enough to be watching greatness every Sunday. My film room on the superstar that is Quenton Nelson:https://t.co/m6WcFzAkp0
Well, that same old, illogical “how much can a guard really influence a team” argument - whether people want to admit it or not - is still rearing its ugly head. Fans and media members want to point to fantasy stats and gaudy passing numbers - and not the direct value that players provide for their teams. Nelson IS Indianapolis right now - underappreciated and undying. And he’s going to take the Colts as far as he can on his thickly-built shoulders.
Sounds like an MVP to me.