According to Pro Football Focus (subscription), Indianapolis Colts 2x All-Pro offensive guard Quenton Nelson ‘could be a season away from being the best player in the NFL.’
Now, earlier PFF noted that Nelson has the longest active streak among all offensive guards with not having allowed a sack in 30 consecutive games. Considering he’s only played in 34 career games (including playoffs), the two sacks he allowed came in his first four starts as a rookie during 2018.
Since that time, PFF notes that, “From Week 5 of his rookie season onward, Nelson has been the best guard in football, earning a 91.7 overall PFF grade over that time span.”
Nelson was PFF’s second highest graded guard last season (behind only Philadelphia Eagles’ Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks, who had a career year in 2019) with a +91.2 grade overall—highlighted by a +90.1 run blocking grade.
While Nelson obviously still excels as a pass blocker (and was not placed in the most protective pass blocking environments with Jacoby Brissett behind center last year), it’s his run blocking that is Nelson’s biggest and best calling card—among his stacked deck of greatness.
At 6’5”, 330 pounds, Nelson is an excellent athlete with surprisingly quick feet, movement skills, strength, and awareness—which allows him to deliver WWE-like body slams, pancakes, and mauling blocks as a run blocker—when he routinely pulls, traps, and gets to the second and even third levels of defenses—completely manhandling opposing defenders.
Simply put, Nelson is a certified road grader in the ground game, and the numbers show it:
“Since the first month of his NFL career ended, Nelson has the highest run-blocking grade among all guards by almost five grading points,” PFF’s Sam Monson writes. “Nelson is the only player with a grade north of 90.0, and only three other guards are even above 80.0 in the same time span — all current or former All-Pros.”
“Nelson leads the league in percentage of positively graded run blocks among guards over the past two seasons and is top three in percentage of dominant blocks.”
“Another hallmark of quality is being good in all situations, and that’s exactly what we see in his case. Not only is Nelson good at pass blocking or run blocking, but he’s also good against any type of run play. On zone runs, he was in the 98th percentile among guards last season, and he was in the 93rd percentile on gap run concepts. In all of PFF’s stable metrics — those that predict future performance well — there is no category in which Nelson ranked lower than the 85th percentile in 2019. If you extend that over his entire NFL, his floor is the 88th percentile.”
Since being selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft—and as an offensive guard at that (which has tended to be historically undervalued), Nelson has lived up to the enormous hype coming out of Notre Dame as one of the top guard prospects in the past 25 years—or really ever.
Still only 24 years old, the 2x NFL All Pro is already the best offensive guard in football and a dominant interior force of nature at that. He’s been a catalyst for one of the league’s best (and most improved) offensive lines over the past two years—with his tremendous physical play, toughness, and leadership:
.@colts @BigQ56 #fightingirish #colts Welcome to Gator Country. After BigQ “goes about his business” he likes to sit on his victims like a Lion sits on his game for the whole pride to eat. No one plays the game like this . I can’t wait for next Sunday. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/o1xNxhL0cw— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 19, 2018
.@colts @BigQ56 was so good Sunday that I had to do this in 2 parts. It will become a SuperHero series. I would hire BigQ to fight all the bad guys and all the evil in the world. Part 11 coming up in 5 minutes. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/k8Y9uPR59R— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 10, 2019
For what it’s worth, he was ranked #4 overall on PFF’s Top 50 players earlier this offseason.
Led by his run blocking prowess and overall stellar play, the fact that Nelson could arguably be the best player in football a year from now is pretty incredible—but still entirely believable.