Quenton Nelson has grown into a folk hero of sorts during the 2018 draft season. He is loved by fans here in Chicago, by media members both locally as well as nationally, and has been called the best Guard prospect in the last ten years and possibly ever. Well, I ain’t buying it. Not by a little even.
First, I’d like to let it be known right from the start that I am not for drafting Guards in the first round. Ever! Even if that means possibly passing on the greatest Guard to ever play the game of football at any level in any era. They just don’t make that big of an impact. Their roles are important and a link in the chain that makes up an offensive line but they don’t score points or stop people from scoring points.
It’s also a position that does not kill you in Free Agency and one where you can find capable starters and pro bowlers even late in the draft and even in the college Free Agency market after the draft is over. It’s just a position that does not require special physical traits as most the time they’re playing in a short area of space. In a phone booth to steal a scouting term. The better ones bring a little more athleticism especially those in a blocking scheme similar to what the Bears run. Well, Nelson is not one of those guys. Some of you Nelson supporters out there are reading this and screaming, “HE HAD AN ELITE RAS SCORE!” While that’s true – his RAS (relative athletic score) was a 9.57 out of a 00.0-10.0 scale – however, those scores were inflated due to his size and strength grades, not athleticism. He also did not run the 40 which weighs in heavily on this score. There’s a reason he did not run it at the combine or his Pro Day in spite of being healthy.
As you’ll see in a lot of these clips I’ve posted in this piece he is not nimble or athletic enough to block in this Bears scheme. Even after taking away all of the bias on my never draft a guard in the first take or the ones that say pick him anywhere if he’s the best player take the fact simply is he is not a fit to excel in this type of system. Nelson will best be in a Power/Man scheme. One where he can just fire off the line and play smash mouth ball.
Here, Bradley Chubb just stacks and sheds Nelson and forces the Quarterback out of the pocket and eventually forcing him to throw the ball away as coverage was sound downfield with Chubb in pursuit backside. Nelson once again loses the hand battle as he often does by starting off with poor hand placement. His hands get too high on the shoulder pads as opposed to the chest area where you ideally want to be. Chubb easily lifts Nelson’s hands off him leaving Nelson off balance and he simply steps around him in his pursuit of the Quarterback.
Here is another example of Nelson having his momentum worked against him in this two-play sequence. He also has poor hand placement once again as his hands are on the defender’s shoulder pad. This makes it easy for the Defensive Tackle to just turn his shoulder and flick Nelson off of him like a flea. Play two the Tackle just quickly sidesteps Nelson who lunges out after him and his momentum carries him past the defender on the whiff. I literally could have posted at least 5 examples of this by Nelson every game I watched. I had to put some kind of cap on it or this blog would be a 3-hour read. This is not hyperbole either. Nelson has a tendency to lunge and put too much weight over his feet leaving him easy to sidesteps and rendering him off balance. This from a kid who was coached by a pro offensive Line coach and one of the best in the business so you wonder what progress pro coaching can do for him.
On this play, Nelson gets caught in a switch as Mike McGlinchey fires into the interior lineman and Nelson takes Chubb on the edge. Chubb just flies past him in turnstile fashion and Nelson simply is not quick enough to counter it. Chubb did not make the play but could have if the linebacker didn’t fly in and make the hit first.
On this play, Nelson executes a short pull and attempts to block the Defensive Tackle but once again gets his hands are too high on the pads and the Defensive Tackle simply lifts Nelson’s arm up and off him and then uses his length to keep Nelson’s hands off of him while simultaneously getting under Nelson’s clavicle pad pushing him back into the backfield and eventually sheds him and gets to the Quarterback for the shared sack.
Here, Nelson either gets confused on his assignment or he initially tries to get hands on the Defensive Tackle who sidesteps him leaving Nelson slightly off balanced as N.C. State runs a zone blitz with the End dropping into coverage and the Inside linebacker blitzing the A-Gap. Nelson is too slow to get a block on the blitzing backer who gets to the Quarterback and slams him violently to the ground. Either way, this is a critical mental or physical error and shows he is not quick enough to recover in time to execute his assignment. Scary when you imagine Trubisky getting flung down to the turf like this against better athletes and superior schemes in the pros as opposed to N.C. State.
Here is another example of poor technique and hand placement on Nelson’s part. He comes up too high in his stance and his hand placement is once again on the shoulder pads of the defensive lineman. The defensive player turns, grabs Nelson’s wrists lifts his arms over his head and drives Nelson to the turf pancake style giving Nelson a taste of his own medicine. His base is also off as his feet are past shoulder width leaving him with poor leverage to properly anchor and drive.
On this snap, Nelson gets sidestepped by the Defensive Tackle leaving nothing but air for Nelson to block as he executes a swim over move on Nelson and has his momentum carry him past and in pursuit of the play as Nelson is on the turf as he far too often is. Fortunately for Notre Dame, the back see’s it and has a lane the other direction and makes a nice 10 yard gain out of it for the first down rather than a big loss.
On this next play, Nelson gets stacked and shed rather easily by the Defensive Lineman. He loses the hand fight as the defensive player knocks Nelson’s hands to the side and Nelson loses his balance a little and is sidestepped as the tackle gets to the Quarterback who avoids him but gets cleaned up by his teammates for the sack. You also see Nelson grab the jersey and pulls the player down to the turf for what would have been a 10-yard penalty if it was called like it should have been and will most assuredly have been in the pros.
Here, Nelson pulls on the play and gets a whiff as he often does when pulling on plays. He has a difficult time locking on a moving target which is a big negative when trying to execute a zone-blocking scheme much like the one the Bears run.
Here Nelson whiffs on a block as he’s once again sidestepped while lunging at the player and missing the block that eventually led to a significant tackle for loss on the play.
Once more poor hand placement and having his feet too far apart leads to poor leverage and gets him dog walked right into the Quarterback as the blitzing Linebacker gets to his quarterback for a sack.
Here Nelson once again gives a glaring example of why he is not a good fit in the Bears blocking scheme. He pulls out on a sort of a trap play but doesn’t have the foot speed to get to his man in time to get a block on him and his assigned block simply runs around him and pressures the Quarterback who throws an errant pass without Nelson even laying a glove on him.
On this play, he locks on his target once again with his hands on the shoulder pads and the Defensive Tackle gets under his arms and flings him to the turf.
On this play Nelson gets a weak punch on his assignment who just whacks his arm out of the way winning the very brief hand fight and than turns Nelson sideways and drives him into the Quarterback and knocking him to the turf for the Quarterback pressure and hit as the pass is slightly overthrown as he had to throw it a fraction of a second too fast.
Conclusion: Nelson is a good prospect but I feel he is being way over-rated. As I’ve shown you in these clips (and trust me I could’ve have posted a lot more) he’s a limited athlete and I think he would be quite ordinary at best in a scheme that relies on quick tempo, and one that asks their Guards to execute quick pulls and get out to the second level off of combo blocks like the Bears do.
After watching almost every snap available from Nelson there were far too many instances where he was badly beaten with speed, quickness, and technique to even consider justifying a top ten pick on. For the life of me, I can’t understand the over the moon love for this guy from people I actually respect as evaluators albeit in the media. I get the fans who see these vicious pancake style block highlights and get football woodies, but guys who actually get paid well to give their expert opinions on players while watching thousands of hours of tape? Some with access to coaches and players both who have played and coached with and against him? Some even with direct access to scouts and executives in the NFL? After watching what I watched? I am truly baffled.
I do believe Nelson would thrive in a Power/Man scheme that relies on a power running game as their main source of offense. Much like the Jaguars, Raiders, Cowboys and others do. However, if the Bears somehow made the mistake of picking him with their top ten pick I believe it would have the potential to go down as one of the Bears draft’s biggest bust moves of all time for them because of the expectations Nelson has on him.
In my opinion, if you get picked eighth overall as a Guard you can’t have college tape like this out there. You have to win physically at a 90 plus percent rate. Maybe even 95%. I would personally even rule out the first round because in the pro’s that 90% will be 75-80%. He could even turn into a serviceable player and still have it be one of the biggest mistakes the Bears organization has ever made because of who they may have passed up in favor of Nelson.
I realize I’m the Lone Ranger on this one with nary a Tonto in sight to have my back but I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. Nelson is on the ground way too much and far often loses the leverage battle because of poor technique. This in spite of being coached by who many believe to be one of the best Offensive Line coaches and possibly one of if not the best position coaches in the entire game of football at any level. Harry Heistand. The very coach he’ll be getting if the Bears drafted him.
This leads me to believe there will be little to no progression in his development based on getting next level coaching as he already has and got to use them against far less talent than he’ll be seeing in the pro ranks. Time will tell if ten years from now I look like a fool in my evaluation or not. Until that happens though, I’m fairly confident in telling Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy if they were to ask me if they should pick Nelson eighth overall, “Don’t Do it!”