INDIANAPOLIS — Remember that whole "you don't take a guard with a premium pick in the NFL" argument being made by some when the Indianapolis Colts used the No. 6-overall pick on Quenton Nelson?
That sure feels like ancient history by now, doesn't it?
I mean, we all know what has happened for Nelson since being selected by the Colts out of Notre Dame in the 2018 NFL Draft — most notably, three straight first-team All-Pro selections to start his career. The only other NFL player to accomplish that feat in the last three decades is Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.
So as various pundits and league websites release their annual "best players in the NFL" lists about this time each year, it comes as no surprise when Nelson constantly is ranked as not only the best offensive linemen in the league, but also among the best of the best, regardless of position.
The latest example came on Friday, as Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson released his 2021 "50 best players in the NFL right now" list.
Nelson's ranking? No. 4 overall in the NFL, behind only Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and tight end Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce.
You can see the entire list by clicking here, but here's what Monson had to write about Nelson, specifically:
4. G Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts
According to PFF WAR, Nelson was the most valuable offensive lineman in the NFL last season. And the season before that._
Nelson plays offensive guard, a significantly less valuable position than tackle, but that tells you just how good he is at his current position. Nelson has now allowed just three sacks in his three NFL seasons and finished 2020 with 15 total pressures allowed across the full regular season and wild-card game. If anything, Nelson is an even better run-blocker, making him one of the best players in the game, period.
First, we want to give Nelson his due diligence. In 2020, Nelson…
• Started all 16 games for the third consecutive season. He currently ranks fourth in consecutive regular season games started (48) among active guards in the NFL.
• Became the first player in franchise history to be selected Associated Press First Team All-Pro in his first three seasons. He also becomes the first offensive lineman and the seventh player since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger to be named Associated Press First Team All-Pro in his first three seasons, joining Devin Hester, Barry Sanders, Keith Jackson, Eric Dickerson, Lawrence Taylor and Earl Campbell.
• Became the first Colts player to earn Associated Press First Team All-Pro honors in three consecutive seasons since Peyton Manning (2003-05) and the eighth in team history to accomplish the feat.
• Nelson also has the most total All-Pro selections and the most First Team All-Pro selections by a guard in franchise history.
It's rare when a fanbase knows so early in a player's career that they're already on a Hall of Fame track. So Colts fans should enjoy every opportunity they have to see No. 56 dominating up front for the Indy offense.
Now it's time to do a little griping, because Nelson is the only Colts player on this list.
Where's defensive tackle DeForest Buckner? Last season, among players at his position, he ranked in the top-five in tackles (fourth), solo tackles (second), tackles for loss (tied-third), sacks (second) and forced fumbles (tied-third), and earned first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career.
Where's linebacker Darius Leonard, who last season was a first-team All-Pro selection for the second time in his career? He is only averaging the most tackles per game (9.9) in the NFL since entering the league in 2018, and is among the top linebackers in sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles, too.
This is no slight to players selected ahead of Buckner (Donald, Chris Jones, Cameron Hayward and Grady Jarrett) and Leonard (Bobby Wagner, Fred Warner, Eric Kendricks and Lavonte David). Monson and the PFF crew are faced with plenty of challenges with this list, and I've got to imagine Buckner and Leonard were among the toughest omissions.
But that doesn't mean we still can't let our slight dissatisfactions known.
Oh well — this is the kind of thing that fuels Buckner and Leonard's fire. Which is bad news for opposing offenses in 2021.