Quenton Nelson was a stud on both sides of the line as a prep at Red Bank Catholic High School in Red Bank, New Jersey. During his junior and senior seasons, he garnered numerous All-American honors including 2012 MaxPreps Junior All-America second team, 2013 honorable mention Parade prep All-America, and 2013 USA Today prep All-America as a second team offensive lineman.

This all culminated into a 5-star rating by Rivals.com and an invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. During his first season at Notre Dame, Nelson was one of four offensive linemen who do not see the field. In 2015, Nelson played in 12 games while starting 11 of them at the left guard position on route to helping the Irish to average 5.63 yards per carry (8th in FBS) and 207.6 yards per game on the ground. In 2016, Nelson played and started every game at left guard although the offense took a step back by averaging only 163.3 rushing yards per game.

The 2016 second-team all-american heads back to school for one more year in hopes to solidify himself as a top-10 pick in next year’s NFL draft.

Class: RS Junior
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 328

Trait Analysis

Athleticism

Listed on Notre Dame’s roster at 328 pounds but Coach Brian Kelly once stated he thought Nelson was closer to 340 during this past season. If true, he is quite athletic for his size. Rarely is tasked with pulling out of the box but shows the ability to run in space when needed. Takes great angles and arrives at the second level swiftly and with composure. Large, powerful hands allow him to control defenders and stop them in their tracks without having to be completely in front of them. Throws a hand into quicker defenders to knock them off tracks when unable to engage them fully.

Trait Grade: 18/20

Pass Protection

Jolts off the snap. Head is always on a swivel. Hunts like a dog to find work. More than willing to throw a punch or shoulder to help the C or OT when uncovered. Keeps his base wide while mirroring. Although he doesn’t have elite foot speed he only needs to get one hand on a rusher in order to influence them. Hands are like velcro. Always keeps a feeler arm out for defenders coming into his cone. Catches and passes off stunts/twists smoothly. There is one specific play against USC where he catches one defender and then snags a blitzing LB with one hand.  Have never seen a lineman with so many pancake blocks on pass sets.

Trait Grade: 21/25

Run Blocking

Most people don’t know this but there is a picture of Quenton Nelson next to the word “steamroller” in the dictionary. Wins with inside hand leverage + low pad level. Powerful initial strike on first contact and rolls hips through defender.  So many pancakes in the run game that he might put IHOP out of business. Won’t see a better double-team duo than Nelson and left tackle Mike McGlinchey. Tracks in zone are phenomenal. Never leaves a defender until he knows teammate will be able to overtake. Mostly utilized on trap blocks and quick pulls.

Trait Grade: 23/25

Summary

Has the “prick” mentality that every offensive line coach dreams about. When most are content with simply getting in the way of defender, Nelson is not. Whether it is in the run game or in pass pro, Nelson puts 110% effort into putting his man on the ground. Loves to drop full weight on top of defender once he gets them on the ground. Will then “rolling pin” them to really hammer home the fact he just had his way with them. It’s honestly quite beautiful to watch him work.

Trait Grade: 29/30

Overall Grade: 91/100 (Early First Round)

The Bottom Line

Quenton Nelson was Mel Kiper’s #1 rated offensive guard for the 2017 NFL draft but he decided to give the Fighting Irish one last year of his services. He is an enormous, thick lineman with the strength and power to match. It’s fun to see a player understand that he is bigger and stronger than the competition who also plays like it. Has the size to handle the freakishly-large defensive tackles in the NFL. Takes pride in finishing every single block. Elite in the run game with savvy hands and a knack for creating torque. Hits like a Mack truck. Better movement in the short area than in space. Traps and short pulls are his bread and butter. His deuce blocks with Mike McGlinchey are a thing of beauty. Nelson does not have the cat-like feet for pass pro you would want in an elite lineman but he makes up for it by the ability to man-handle quicker defenders while in a compromised position (See Miami game where he anchors on one knee). It’s nearly impossible to disengage from him once his hands are on you. Looks to follow in the footsteps of former Irish standouts Ronnie Stanley and Zack Martin. Once everything is said and done, Quenton Nelson could end up being the best one of the group.

About The Author Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is an irrational Chargers fan from the heart of the Midwest who is numb to laughter he often receives for admitting that. He spent a year playing tight end and punter at FCS Drake University, before finishing out at the University of Iowa this past December. After hanging up the cleats, Michael has used fantasy football and writing as a means to focus his undying love of the sport.