One of the top prospects in this year’s NFL Draft is Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who’s widely viewed as the best offensive lineman in this draft class.
A mauler on the interior of the offensive line. Nelson helped his Fighting Irish finish seventh in the country in rushing, averaging 279 rushing yards per game. In his final game, the Irish rushed for 154 yards against a very physical LSU team. He’s someone that’s a lock to go in Round 1 of this year’s draft, something you can’t usually say for a guard.
But how good exactly is Nelson, and how high will he go?
CBS Sports actually has him rated as the third-best prospect in this year’s draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranks Nelson fourth overall. Draft Wire and Draft Countdown have Nelson ranked as their second-best prospect.
Needless to say, Nelson is one of the truly elite prospects in this draft, but because he’s a guard, will he actually be selected in the top 10?
If not, the Bengals are sitting there at No. 12 if Nelson somehow falls that far. We’ve seen plenty of elite guard prospects fall into the mid-to-late portion of Round 1 before, so who’s to say Nelson won’t go later than projected?
But would the Bengals actually spend the No. 12 pick on a guard if Nelson fell that far?
Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin seems to think so. During Wednesday’s meeting with media at the Scouting Combine, Tobin had high praise for Nelson, but he still wasn’t ready to admit that guards are franchise-changing players.
“I’m always open to good players at whatever position they come.” said Tobin. “Guards are getting paid a lot in free agency. We found that out with Zeitler. Whether they change your fortunes or not as a team is the debatable point.
“The question was more specifically on Quinton Nelson. Quinton is as fine a college football player as I’ve seen in a long time. As complete as I’ve seen. I’m not sure Quinton can’t play any of the five spots up front. We’ll see where he ultimately lines up as a rookie and second-year player.
“It’s a philosophical question, do guards matter? Every position matters on the field. He certainly has earned his way to the top of this draft for sure.”
It certainly sounds like the Bengals like what they’ve seen in Nelson, and if they really believe he can play all five spots on an offensive line, there’s no question Cincinnati should take him with the No. 12 pick if he’s still there.
And again, even great guards just aren’t valued as much as every other position on both sides of the ball. It’s why we shouldn’t be surprised to see a consensus top-10 prospect like Nelson fall to where the Bengals could pick him.
Even if the Bengals play Nelson at guard, he’d be a massive upgrade to an offensive line that badly needs something to go right for them in free agency and/or the draft. Cincinnati may even play Nelson at left guard and keep Clint Boling at left tackle.
Needless to say, even this ‘guard’ could do wonders for the Bengals’ offense.