The guard position would traditionally never sniff the top ten. OT position is the big money, and most sought after when it comes to being a high pick in the draft. Recently, we have seen some guards go early, with Chance Warmack, and Jonathan Cooper both going in the top ten. Neither one has worked out for their respective teams, and the highest drafted guard since has been Zack Martin in 2014. One prospect is looking to break the mold in 2017, and he goes by the name of Quenton Nelson. Nelson is a vicious OG who has a serious mean streak and sets the attitude for the offense. He has good size for the position as well, coming in at 6’4, 325 pounds, and displayed good athletic ability on the move. So what makes Nelson such a surefire prospect at the next level? Let’s take a look.
Ability in Space
Nelson’s ability to find blockers in space make him scheme-diverse. He can pull in a gap-blocking scheme, and he can execute well on reach blocks moving laterally. He eats up linebackers who try to engage, creating big holes for his RB’s. The play above is a great example. Watch Nelson do the pin-pull sweep against Boston College. He does a great job of getting around the corner quickly and finding the LB. He gets low to gain leverage, uses good hand placement, and drives the LB back all the way off the field. This created a big hole for Wimbush, for a gain of nine.
Here is another example of Nelson in space. This time it is in the screen game. Watch him get downfield quickly and make the key block to spring Adams for a big gain against Georgia.
While Nelson does have the ability to run a zone-blocking scheme, he is naturally a pure mauler power-blocker. Nelson has some of the best hand-placement, bend in hips, and drive you will see from a guard prospect. On every tape, you see his hands right inside the breastplate, allowing him to bully DT’s at the LOS. Josh Adams has benefitted from this, and he might put a Heisman run together based on the play of Nelson and the offensive line. Here is another play against Boston College. Watch the hole Nelson and the right guard Alex Bars create for Adams. Nelson has full control of the DT in front him, displaying very good hand placement, and hip bend to gain leverage. The hand placement keeps the DT from the opportunity to shed and make a play. This allows Adams to go untouched for about 50 yards before getting caught from behind.
Pass Blocking, Mental Processing
Run blocking is Nelson’s specialty, but he also is a very capable pass blocker in the interior. In 2016, he did not allow a single sack, and this year is more of the same. He does a good job to display the ability to anchor the DT, and not allow them to get pressure on the QB. Check out the play against Georgia above. The Bulldogs rush five, and Nelson does a great job picking up the blitzing Ruquan Smith. He shows off that excellent hand placement, getting his hands inside the breastplate, and stone-walling the pass rush with a good anchor. Smith has nowhere to move and creates a huge pocket for Wimbush to make the completion.
Another great thing about his pass protection is his mental processing for understanding blitzes and stunts. Above is the perfect example. Watch Nelson realize post-snap that there is no one to block, so he keeps his eyes up patrolling the field for extra rushers. The Safety is coming on a delayed blitz and he thinks he has a free lane to the QB, but Nelson has other plans. Nelson comes all the way to the other side to make a diving block on the blitzing safety, allowing Wimbush room in the pocket to make the pass.
Nelson is a once in a lifetime prospect at the guard position. He has every trait you are looking for in a guard to be successful at the next level. He has great use of hands, great mental processing is great in space, and is very solid in pass protection. We have not seen a guard go top five in a long time- maybe never. Nelson might just break the mold for where you take a guard prospect.