According to team owner Jim Irsay on 1070 The Fan’s ‘The Ride with JMV’, the Indianapolis Colts could still kick out starting All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson to left tackle—although it’s not the ideal scenario for the franchise (via The IndyStar’s Jim Ayello):
Jim Irsay on @JMV1070 says moving Quenton Nelson to LT remains a possibility.— Jim Ayello (@jimayello) April 21, 2021
BUT the "general feeling is, if we can leave Quenton at guard, that would be the ideal thing."
Update 5:35 PM EST (with the actual quotes):
“The general feeling is that if you can leave Quenton at guard, that would be the ideal thing,” Irsay told JMV on Wednesday. “But there’s no question that he can play left tackle in my mind and would play left tackle in my mind if it helps the franchise win more games and be a better football team. I think that’s the way Frank Reich looks at it, and that’s the way Quenton looks at it. ‘I’ll do anything you need if it can help the team be better’. And he’s a selfless guy, and that’s the reason he’s such a great leader and a great person and a great football player.”
“But again, ideally, his power, his bend, his explosion inside, his ability to move people in a short space, is so, so rare. Probably only matched by John Hannah and I’ll include Chris Hinton in there. . . . He’s such a rare football player.”
“. . . My gut feeling is that we’ll find a tackle and Quenton will stay put, but it’s really nice to know that you have that option because there’s no doubt in my mind that he can play that (left tackle) position unquestionably. But I think at guard, he’s one of the top 5 offensive linemen in the history of the game. And at tackle, he would be great but not quite to that level because guard just suits his play so well.”
Now, this isn’t necessarily a new development, as since this past February, the Colts have at least considered switching either Nelson or starting right tackle Braden Smith to left tackle in the aftermath of longtime veteran blindside bookend Anthony Castonzo’s earlier offseason retirement.
It provides the Colts additional options—or at least makes for a good smokescreen with a loaded offensive tackle draft class coming up in late April’s imminent NFL Draft.
In a high stakes game of poker—with potentially the 21st overall pick involved (even in a trade down), the Colts simply may not want to tip their hand publicly to competing teams.
That being said, per the ‘The Injury Expert’ Will Carroll, one distinct possibility that would involve Nelson sliding to starting left tackle is if the Colts select Wisconsin-Whitewater offensive guard/center Quinn Meinerz in the second round to then fill in at starting left guard at Nelson’s old spot:
I'm told Colts definitely looking at OTs in second round, but one possibility is drafting Quinn Meinerz and moving Nelson out to tackle. (This comes from source on another team.) Eichenberg, Cosmi, couple others among players who interviewed.— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) April 20, 2021
It’s not the first time that the Colts have been connected to Meinerz, as Indianapolis was previously reported to have met virtually with the top interior offensive line prospect.
The 6’3”, 320 pound (with 33.375” inch arms) interior offensive lineman and draft fan favorite was named First-Team All-WIAC and a First-Team Division III All-American during 2019—having not played in 2020 because his senior season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
He started all 15 games at left guard during that season in 2019, having made 14 starts at the same spot just a season prior for the Warhawks.
Meinerz really stood out at the Senior Bowl, and as noted, Colts general manager Chris Ballard has historically loved selecting prospects who show well down in Mobile, Alabama:
“This is kind of getting borderline ridiculous what he is doing up front this week.” @MoveTheSticks checks out @UWWAthletics’ @QMeinerz at Day 2 of practice at the Reese’s @seniorbowl pic.twitter.com/fa1y443kmd— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 27, 2021
Senior Bowl: DIII Wisconsin-Whitewater center Quinn Meinerz wrecking Texas DT Graham (1) & UW DT Onwuzurike (2/3) in the first team period yesterday. Whew. pic.twitter.com/sOTHX6vkvb— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) January 27, 2021
Wisc-Whitewater OG/C Quinn Meinerz continued his dominant play today.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 27, 2021
Lots of disrespect on this rep vs. Patrick Jones: Stuns w/ outside hand, feet stay balanced and knees bent through contact. And then he finishes.
Stock continuing to climb pic.twitter.com/q1Skc8A580
Here’s one more from Wisconsin-Whitewater center Quinn Meinerz. pic.twitter.com/OhQHFHAjLa— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 27, 2021
Fascinating showdown going in Mobile: UW-Whitewater O-lineman Quinn Meinerz is currently pleading with Senior Bowl National team coach Brian Flores. An impassioned debate. Meinerz, who broke his hand snapping, is fighting to play in the game. Unreal.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 29, 2021
Despite having questions regarding his athleticism initially entering draft evaluations, Meinerz graded out incredibly well with a RAS [Relative Athletic Score] of 9.98 out of 10.00 following his recent Pro Day—which figures to elevate him on draft boards:
Quinn Meinerz is a OC prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.98 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 2 out of 494 OC from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/jcwLVpRI54 #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/K15ksX6Tqu— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 6, 2021
Featuring his notorious practice cut-off top and ‘the belly’, Meinerz is a fun player personality and could be a ‘Colt favorite’ from the get-go.
However, he also happens to be one of the top offensive guard prospects too with impeccable strength, leverage, and movement skills to overwhelm opponents in the trenches, climb to the second level of defenses, and finish them into the turf.
He packs powerful hands and has quick feet—as an incredibly physical interior lineman.
Meinerz is still fine tuning some of his raw, ruggedness and technique (regarding footwork), but he has all of the makings of a ‘plug-and-play’ interior o-line starter from Day 1 in the NFL.
The question is, in order to select Meinerz, would the Colts risk losing the offensive line’s greatest strength, Quenton Nelson, as a 3x First-Team NFL All-Pro left guard, and potentially weaken two starting offensive line spots by moving him to left tackle (where he might not be as dominant)—in what’s otherwise a loaded offensive tackle draft class?
To me, it gives the Colts another option.
However, as good of an interior offensive line prospect as Meinerz potentially projects at the next level, as Irsay already noted, it’s probably still not the ideal option all other things considered—especially if a top left tackle prospect otherwise falls into the Colts’ laps.