*INDIANAPOLIS — *Back in January, at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Lance Zierlein said he considered Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson “a future All-Pro and one of the best I’ve ever studied at guard.”
That’s saying something, considering Zierlein has studied hundreds of offensive linemen the past few years in his role as an NFL Media draft analyst with NFL.com.
On Thursday, the Indianapolis Colts showed they obviously agreed with Zierlein’s assessment, selecting Nelson with the No. 6-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Nelson would become the centerpiece of a Colts modern-era record 11-player draft class, in which general manager Chris Ballard nabbed three linebackers, two guards, two wide receivers, two running backs and two defensive linemen.
Zierlein — who since his chat with Colts.com has finalized writing most of NFL.com’s draft prospect profiles and assigning grades on every player — believes the team did a tremendous job accomplishing just what it set out to get out of this year’s draft.
In his “2018 NFL Draft class power rankings,” Zierlein has the Colts ranked at No. 3 overall in the entire NFL. You can see the entire list by clicking here, but here’s what he had to say about Indy’s haul, specifically:
“GM Chris Ballard was looking for pass rushers on defense, speed at the skill positions and enforcers on the offensive line. That's how he drafted. Nelson has generational talent and is wired with toughness that should permeate that offensive line. Leonard is a highly underrated playmaker with range and versatility at linebacker. Turay has huge potential, but needs to unlock it at DE. Hines, Fountain and Cain offered tremendous Day 3 value and potential.”
Zierlein appears to be of the same line of thinking as his NFL.com colleague, Chad Reuter, who gave the Colts an “A-minus” grade for their draft class. Reuter wrote:
“GM Chris Ballard hauled in three second-round picks from the Jets to move down just three slots. They still got Quenton Nelson, one of the top three players in the draft. He'll be a difference maker up front for an organization that needs to protect its franchise player. Ballard converted three second-round picks (two from their aforementioned pre-draft trade-down) into good players. I thought there were better players on the board when they picked Leonard and Smith early in the second round, however. Lewis didn't have great production last year, but he had a great junior season. The Colts finally found receivers in Rounds 5-6 (Fountain and Cain). Both are tremendous athletes. Fountain has to prove he can battle at the top level, and Cain has to become more consistent as a pass catcher to reach his potential. The team could have used cornerback help earlier in this draft, though.”