INDIANAPOLIS — When the 2018 NFL season began, the Indianapolis Colts had one obvious rookie standout in the No. 6 overall pick: guard Quenton Nelson. However, one of their second-round picks on the other side of the ball has put in one of the best starts by a rookie defender not only in Colts franchise history — but in NFL history.
NFL Media analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah released his first quarter NFL rookie rankings today, and skyrocketing up the list is Colts linebacker Darius Leonard.
After a red-hot beginning to the regular season, the man they call "Maniac" grabbed the top spot in the rankings. Here's what Jeremiah had to say:
"Leonard has stuffed the stat sheet through four games, with 54 tackles, four sacks, two passes defensed and a forced fumble. He has incredible lateral range against the run and he's displayed timing and burst as a blitzer."
Leonard was initially No. 15 on Jeremiah's list when the season began. The tackling machine who on Thursday was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September has obviously caught eyes around the world after leading the league in tackles through the first month.
The rookie linebacker also earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors following his 19-tackle performance in Week 2, and is hoping to bounce back from an ankle injury that kept him out of Thursday night's game against the New England Patriots.
Coming in at No. 21 on Jeremiah's list is Nelson.
"Nelson is a mauler in the run game," Jeremiah wrote. "But he's still developing as a pass protector."
Nelson initially held the No. 14 spot on Jeremiah's initial list. Overall, he is the third-ranked offensive lineman behind New York Giants guard Will Hernandez (No. 11) and San Francisco 49ers tackle Mike McGlinchey (No. 16), who was Nelson's college teammate at Notre Dame.
Through four games, Pro Football Focus has credited Nelson with 17 pressures/hurries, one hit, two sacks and two penalties (holding). That may sound worse than it actually is — especially considering he's a rookie — but official stats (at least not positive ones) aren't kept for offensive linemen.
One way you can tell the mark of a good lineman is if you aren't hearing their name on gameday, meaning they aren't causing issues for their team. That's been Nelson so far. When you're coming up with any issues the Colts are facing right now, their top pick in this year's draft isn't one of them.