It’s easy to already picture the comments on this post. No, taking a guard with the eight pick is not a dumb idea. No, Quenton Nelson is not going to be a colossal bust. No, this isn’t going to be the pick that gets Ryan Pace fired.
That is if he makes the pick. There’s virtually no worry anymore regarding Quenton Nelson, the dominant offensive guard from the University of Notre Dame. Nelson, who is constantly compared to current Cowboys’ guard Zach Martin, is the most dominant prospect coming out of college this season. And, to the Chicago Bears, he is as close to zero risk as you can get.
The Bears are in a very opportune position when it comes to Nelson and teammate Mike McGlinchey, an offensive tackle projected to be taken in the first round. While there is obviously a need for scouting, the Bears have all the information they will ever need to have regarding Nelson. The Bears have the person who knows Nelson’s game better than anyone on the planet with the confinements of Halas Hall.
It hasn’t gone understated, but it is worth mentioning again: the Bears have a great offensive line coach. Harry Hiestand is one of the greatest offensive line coaches in the country. However, more importantly to this discussion, he comes from Notre Dame.
So, one of those questions that were brought up earlier is settled. If the Bears select Nelson with the 8th pick, he isn’t going to be a colossal bust. Hiestand knows everything there is to know about Nelson. He knows Nelson’s strengths better than anybody. More importantly, he knows about Nelson’s flaws. Sure, Nelson could blow his knee out and never be the same again. Hiestand will never be able to foresee that. However, as for how his play would translate to the pro game, Hiestand will have as much of a clue as anyone.
However, this isn’t exactly news. There isn’t one person that doesn’t hold Nelson in incredibly high esteem. Nelson is a stud, and he’s going to be a great guard in the NFL. It’s not hard to see why.
However, that isn’t the question regarding Nelson being selected in the top-10. If it was based purely on talent, it would be hard to find someone who could defend him not going within the top three selections.
However, it is his position, interior offensive lineman, which is the question. The general perception is that offensive guards do not have a good track record when it comes to high draft selections. Per NFL.com, The last interior offensive linemen to go that high were Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, neither of whom lived up to that potential.
However, no one in their draft class did. The 2013 draft class, especially the first round, is one of the weakest in the history of the NFL. Cooper and Warmack were the fourth and fifth offensive linemen taken that year, respectively. Of those five, only Lane Johnson has made the Pro Bowl.
Before that, Leonard Davis was the last interior offensive lineman taken in the top-10. He was selected in 2001 and was a three-time Pro Bowler. It’s not that offensive guards have a bad track record, they just don’t have a track record at all.
While offensive guards don’t have the positional value that a left tackle would, that shouldn’t be the deciding factor. The Bears, behind Cody Whitehair, Josh Sitton, and Kyle Long, have proven in the past couple years that a team can have a competent offensive line behind their interior strength.
However, that raises a whole different question, specifically regarding the Bears’ positional need at offensive guard. While they are set there already, Nelson is likely an automatic upgrade over either of the offensive guards they currently have. It is okay to be fully confident that Quenton Nelson will be a Pro Bowl level guard his rookie year. Josh Sitton’s contract has an out this season which would free up almost $8,000,000 in cap this offseason. While you would be cutting a great player, you would be replacing him with someone who is even better, and that is the key thing. A Nelson selection allows the Bears to have more money to spend in free agency.
Don’t kid yourselves, a Quenton Nelson pick would be a good pick. Would it be the best pick? Maybe, maybe not. That all depends on how the draft goes.
It’s obvious that offensive guard isn’t a need for the Bears. Picking an elite edge rusher would be the ideal move. However, it’s highly possible that there isn’t one of them available. It’s possible that there are no elite cornerbacks available. Unlike offensive guards, wide receivers have proven time and time again to be horrible selections this high in the draft.
Not only is Quenton Nelson the safest pick for the Bears in the draft, it is possible, depending on it plays out, that he is the best pick as well.