Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and the NFL for WARR; Each week leading up to the NFL Draft (April 26-28), Ryan and Ken Davis from “The D & Davis Show” will offer a scouting report on possible targets for the Bears at No. 8 in the first round; read the first report here
Quenton Nelson is one of the more interesting prospects in this year’s NFL draft, his tape and measurables all project the Notre Dame prospect as a great NFL guard.
Key words surrounding Nelson are “great” and “guard” because most NFL scouts see Nelson as purely a guard, one of the few top talents in the draft with a defined skill set, a player who can’t be seen as a project or who won’t be asked to do more than the handful of things his position calls on him to do.
Nelson’s A to B trajectory has him looking like the safest pick in this draft, one poised for a hall of fame career if injuries don’t get in the way. Nelson also is rated as the best offensive lineman in the entire draft. Therefore, Nelson is expected to be taken in the top 10 selections, which draft history shows is rare for a guard.
The guard position is one of those positions where having the best guard is great for multiple reasons, but we’ve also seen teams with average guards go on to have plenty of success. This brings up the question of whether Nelson is worth a top ten selection. Since 2010, only two guards have been taken in the top ten of the draft (Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack in 2013).
Both Cooper and Warmack are still in the league but neither player received a contract extension from the team that drafted them. To get a better idea on Nelson’s possibility as a “keeper,” let’s go to the scouting report.
- 40 yard dash – Did not participate
- Bench press – 35 (Tied second out of all offensive lineman)
- Vert Jump – 39.0 (Tied eleventh out of all offensive lineman)
- Broad Jump – 8’9” (Tied eleventh out of all offensive lineman)
- 3 cone drill – 7.65 (Tied eleventh out of all offensive lineman)
- 20 yard shuttle – 4.62 (Tied seventh out of all offensive lineman)
- 60 yard shuttle – Did not participate
- Well rounded both physically and mentally
- Good punch and first step, uses a lot of power
- Imposes his will and creates huge running lanes
- Has strength and athleticism to make spectacular recoveries if initially beaten
- Has such a wide frame and power that it makes it difficult for defenders to get around
- Can hold blocks too long before getting to next level
- More advanced as a run blocker and needs to work more on pass blocking
- May have to work on pace and speed up for the NFL game
- Still has some technique issues that need fixing
Nelson is a very interesting prospect with a seemingly bright NFL future. Guards do not tend to go high but Nelson is a high rated prospect in this draft. Nelson will need to work on some things at the next level but he comes in as a professional run blocker already and has all the physical tools and intangibles to become a truly great lineman.
What jumps off the tape is that Nelson wants to be physical and impose his will. It is great to see nastiness from interior lineman and Nelson has more than enough. Any team that selects Nelson is getting a great guard to run behind, Nelson brings stability and can be a cornerstone piece on the interior line for any team that drafts him.
Fit with the Bears:
The Bears are going to have to address their offensive line at some point whether through free agency or the draft. If the Bears were to select Nelson then it would help plug the hole within the offensive line that was created from releasing Josh Sitton.
Another upside to drafting Nelson is that it could bring some continuity for Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair, who can both stay at their current spots and not have to worry about learning a new position anymore. The trio of Nelson, Whitehair and Long on the interior of the offensive line could be one of the best in the league if Long and Whitehair can get back to previous form.
Chicago’s running game would benefit immediately from drafting Nelson and would give offensive line coach Harry Hiestand a great head start in rebuilding this unit. The only real potential negative to drafting Nelson is that he is a guard, if he is a guy that can stick with the Bears after his rookie contract then this pick should be a success.
If Nelson makes it through his rookie contract and does not remain a Bear, then we all will look back at this draft as a big miss in the first round for a non-playmaker.
Ken’s Second Opinion
Most draft experts list Quenton Nelson as the second best prospect in the 2018 Draft right behind Penn State ultra-back Saquon Barkley, and I agree.
Barkley and Nelson have the highest ceilings and lowest floors than any of the other prospects in the upcoming draft. So basically if you pick one of them you should get every penny on your dollar as a general manager, actually with the rookie salary cap limiting the amount of money that a player can negotiate any GM is probably coming out with a better return than their investment in said players.
Nelson is a nasty offensive lineman with the height, feet (athleticism), and punch you desire from any position on the offensive line, but there entails one of my issues with the Bears taking him at the No. 8th pick in the upcoming draft. I’ll go into that further shortly.
Nelson has been compared to one of the greatest guards in NFL history — Steve Hutchinson. Bears fans can remember how effective Hutchinson played against the Bears after Hutchinson left the Seattle Seahawks in free ageny to join the Minnesota Vikings. If Nelson’s ceiling comes within 80 percent of the production of Hutchinson at his prime then Mitchell Trubisky will sleep well at night. Add on the fact that Nelson’s former offensive line coach at Notre Dame, Harry Hiestand, has returned to the Bears and I’d say this is a match made in pigskin heaven. But here is the rub.
The Bears have been playing musical chairs with their premium O-Line talent, including Cody Whitehair at center and guard and Kyle Long at guard and tackle. Long WAS the All-Pro guard who was expected after a couple seasons to make a run at Canton. Injuries have since been a issue, but moving a talented player who had limited experience in college to multiple positions has played a part in his regressing from being a sure-fire Canton selection.
Whitehair was expecting to play guard upon his being drafted, primarily since the Bears had Hroniss Grasu at the lead spot at center. Forced into the middle of the line after Grasu suffered injuries, Whitehair actually thrived as a center but the Bears have still since gone back and forth with his position. I fear the same issue will take place with Nelson, who has physical traits to play tackle, which is a much more coveted position than guard.
Guards aren’t commonly drafted in the top ten, but Nelson’s ceiling dictates he’s a outlier and not the run of the mill “good” guard, so GMs won’t look dumb spending a top ten pick on him (that’s also known as C.Y.A or “cover your ass”). And that’s my issue. If the Bears take a player at a lesser valued position regardless of his greatness and horse around with his role while limiting his progress isn’t it better to go with a player who plays a much more valuable role at an impact position?
It would not upset me to see the Bears select Nelson at eight. It will upset me if they continue to play musical chairs with Nelson and the rest of the offensive line after doing so.
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