INDIANAPOLIS — When the Indianapolis Colts selected Quenton Nelson with the sixth-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, it was widely considered an easy choice.
The Colts have struggled with consistency along the offensive line for quite some time, and because the return of quarterback Andrew Luck means his protection is at a premium, the selection of Nelson, arguably the safest player in the draft, was a layup, right?
Offensive guards aren't often taken in the top 10 unless they are perceived to be particularly special — Nelson is just the fourth to be taken that high in the last 10 drafts. However, for many, Nelson is the best guard prospect to come out of the draft in at least a couple decades.
From Nelson's strength, size, mobility and football I.Q. there wasn't much (if anything) not to like about him as a prospect.
And after completing his first NFL offseason workout program, Nelson has been as good as advertised for the Colts — at least as good as an offensive lineman can look before training camp.
For head coach Frank Reich, Nelson's offseason performance was "just a lot of confirming what we knew from the draft process."
"Just really high football intelligence and physically just really gifted for a man of that size," Reich said. "(He has) the right mentality, good leadership, good instinctive movements and showing all the right things."
That being said, Reich is realistic. He knows that Nelson, being a rookie, still has a lot ahead of him, despite how pro-ready he was entering the draft.
"Even though he's (Nelson) a great prospect and we're really excited about him, he doesn't have all the answers yet and there is a process of learning," Reich said.
The first-year Colts head coach said Nelson has even had "one or two 'a-ha' moments during offseason practices, in which he found his simple size and strength weren't going to be enough like they might've been during his time at Notre Dame.
"I remember seeing him on a double team, I forget who he was working with, but I don't know if it was Grover (Stewart) or Al Woods. They're trying to move him and he wasn't moving," Reich recalled. "I said to myself, 'I bet he's not used to feeling that.' He used to, when he gets down on a double team, of moving somebody and now there's guys in this league that it's just another step up competition wise."
Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo echoed a similar sentiment about his newest left guard.
"He's a good football player, but he still has got to make that transition from playing against Georgia to playing against the Jaguars," DeGuglielmo told reporters. "Although that's a good team, they're not the Jaguars. There is going to be a natural period of time where he is going to get adjusted."
By most accounts, Nelson was the right decision for general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts' front office. But just because Nelson was immediately inserted into Indy's theoretical first-team offensive line, one must take into account the huge step up in competition that playing in the NFL, against the best football players in the world, presents any young player — no matter where, or if, they were selected in the draft.
It is, however, a tremendous asset to already have the physical and mental attributes that Nelson possesses because any rough patches that he encounters should be easier to endure.
Nelson will take his lumps like any rookie does, but he appears to have the broad shoulders to handle it and earn his standing as a top-10 draft pick.
Colts first round pick, Quenton Nelson, arrives in Indy!