INDIANAPOLIS — When Quenton Nelson entered the 2018 NFL Draft, he was a little bit of a polarizing player.
Everyone knew he was a dominant force and one of the best trench prospects to come to the NFL in several years. However, many wondered: how high is too high to draft an interior offensive lineman?
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard didn't care; he was taking who he felt like was the best player in the entire draft, and made Nelson the Colts' selection at No. 6-overall as a result.
Nelson's selection has paid off handsomely, as he's earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro status in each of his first two years. He is now considered arguably the best interior offensive lineman in football.
Perhaps not surprisingly, taking a deeper dive into Nelson's performance only adds fuel to that fire.
NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund recently released this year's edition of her "All-Analytics Team," which is based on her formula that finds "each player's impact on his team's ability to win games, for every snap."
"The goal is to better understand player value by capturing production in context, such as down and distance, score and time, type of play called and opponent faced," Frelund notes.
Her 2020 All-Analytics Team is then comprised of the top player at each position in the NFL, and earning the top spot at left guard was none other than Nelson. Frelund writes:
LG Quenton Nelson
Indianapolis Colts · Seasons: 2
Quenton Nelson did not allow a sack on 562 pass-blocking snaps last season, per PFF, helping drive his value as my model's highest-rated left guard. Per my computer vision, Nelson's production in the run game was the second-highest in the NFL among all guards (and the best among left guards) as measured by the number of rushing yards earned when he was in the path of the rusher (4.9).
If you're a loyal reader of Colts.com, then you know that honors for Nelson are nothing new. In fact, it seems like he's making somebody's "best of" list or "All-NFL" team every couple of weeks.
Because of that, we'll be looking at Nelson's impact specifically among left guards, as that's the achievement being bestowed on him in Frelund's piece.
Nelson played 1,042 snaps in 2019, which was the 16th-most among full-time NFL left guards after he missed some time during Week 16 while entering the league's concussion protocol.
As he did in Frelund's model, Pro Football Focus ranked Nelson as the NFL's top left guard as well, finishing with a grade of 91.2.
In the passing game, Nelson was rock solid. His 82.8 grade finished fourth after he was one of just three left guards to allow zero sacks, one of six to allow two or fewer hits on the quarterback, one of eight to allow 18 or fewer hurries, and one of three to allow 20 total pressures.
PFF ranked Nelson tied for the third-highest grade in pass-block efficiency — which weighs how often a player allows a pressure in relation to their amount of pass-blocking snaps — with a mark of 98.2.
Nelson's true calling card is his junkyard dog-like abilities in the run game, as he earned the top spot in PFF's run-blocking grades with a 90.1.
The Colts ran the ball behind Nelson or to his right, in between him and center Ryan Kelly, 108 times in 2019 for 472 yards (4.4 avg.) and two touchdowns, as well as 25 first downs and 13 runs that went for at least 10 yards.
Nelson was the top performer for a Colts offensive front that ranked quite well across the league, especially as run blockers.
The offense finished second in the league in firsts downs via rush (131) and percentage of first downs via rush (27.8), as well as tied for fifth in runs of 20-plus yards (14), seventh in rushing overall (133.1 yards per game), tied for ninth in runs of 40-plus yards (three), tied for 10th in rushing touchdowns (17) and 11th in yards per carry (4.5).
Grade-wise, the Colts finished second as a group in run blocking (85.1) and 10th in rushing (78.7). They also ranked 13th in pass blocking (75.1) and tied for the ninth-fewest sacks allowed (32).
Nelson has clearly proven his worth since becoming a top-10 pick, and perhaps is even exceeding expectations.
Many would say that if you're going to take an interior offensive lineman that early in the draft then they better become a superstar.
So far, so good.