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Colts’ Quenton Nelson ranked as NFL’s 3rd best interior o-lineman in ESPN annual survey

Despite a down season, the Colts Quenton Nelson is still highly regarded among league circles.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, and an annual league survey conducted by more than eighty of the NFL’s executives, coaches, scouts, and players alike, the Indianapolis Colts Quenton Nelson is ranked as the NFL’s 3rd best interior offensive lineman headed into the 2023 campaign:

3. Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis Colts

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: Unranked

Age: 27 | Last year’s ranking: 1

Nelson, the No. 1 interior lineman for the past two seasons, had never received votes outside of the top 10 — until this year.

“May be a bit harsh but the tape was not good,” said an AFC scout who did not list Nelson. “The whole [Colts] line was bad and overpaid.”

The Colts ranked 27th in total offense despite three linemen — Nelson, center Ryan Kelly and tackle Braden Smith — playing on contracts worth a combined $200 million.

Others figure Nelson is too good for last season’s play to make sense. He’s still a dominant talent.

“He must have been more hurt than he let on, because I refuse to believe he suddenly became a bad player,” one veteran NFL offensive lineman said. “There was a lot going on with that team last year, a lot of issues around him.”

It’s worth noting that Nelson missed the Pro Bowl festivities last season because of an undisclosed injury despite playing 17 games.

Starting all 17 games for the Colts last season, there’s no question that Nelson did not play to his normal pristine standards at starting left guard.

Even though Nelson was still named to his 5th career Pro Bowl—presumably more off his renowned reputation than recent play, he just wasn’t the same dominant interior offensive lineman Colts fans have been accustomed to seeing—as a former 3x NFL First-Team All-Pro and 1x NFL Second Team All-Pro.

Per PFF (subscription), Nelson was their 20th best graded offensive guard last year with a +68.4 overall grade—which pales in comparison to some of his prior career advanced grades, when he was arguably the best guard in all of football.

Perhaps Nelson was injured more than he let on or struggled sandwiched between both the Colts starting left tackle and center spots—which each had their own fair share of struggles, and was recently asked to do a lot more (after all, we all still miss Anthony Castonzo and Ryan Kelly *prime).

Nelson won’t make excuses though, and neither will we.

His play simply has to be better as the highest paid offensive guard in NFL history and hopefully an offseason spent getting healthy and right—along with an extra spark from new Colts offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr.’s hire can be the shock that Nelson needs to continue his otherwise Canton-bound career, with last year just as a mere aberration.