The pass-happy nature of college football has made finding NFL-ready interior offensive linemen more difficult. That’s what made Quenton Nelson so valuable to the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL Draft.
General Manager Chris Ballard explained Thursday his decision to rebuff trade offers and draft Nelson, a guard from Notre Dame, sixth overall.
“(That kind of player is) hard to find,” Ballard said Thursday on PFT Live, noting that colleges employ fast-tempo pass-first offenses more frequently than the NFL. “You don’t find them as ready-made in the draft as we used to.”
Ballard also heard from someone he trusts — former Notre Dame line coach Harry Hiestand — that Nelson is a cut above.
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“He’s a big man that can move,” Ballard said. “(Hiestand) had made a comment to me that (Nelson) could be the best of all of them. He’s consistently productive. He’s consistently dominant. When you see him practice, you see the same thing. That’s when you know you have the chance to have something really special.”
Ballard acknowledged the Colts got calls from teams wishing to move up to No. 6 once they were on the clock.
“We started getting a couple calls, and I just (said), ‘Turn in the pick,’” the GM said, adding that they likely turned it in before the TV networks covering the event wanted.
Ballard added that addressing the offensive line has been a focus this offseason. They have added veterans Austin Howard and Matt Slauson, and also drafted guard Braden Smith in the second round.
“This year, going in, we knew we wanted to address the offensive line,” Ballard said.
He added: “I thought (left tackle Anthony) Castonzo played one of his best seasons (in 2017).”
Indianapolis Colts first round draft pick Quenton Nelson met with the media today April 27, 2018. Clark Wade/IndyStar
What Ballard also addressed:
Defense: “We’re going to be young, especially at inside linebacker and cornerback. There’s still some areas that need to be addressed.”
The Colts drafted linebackers Darius Leonard (second round), Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin (both seventh round).
Andrew Luck: “He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do. He’s got a program specifically laid out that puts his timeline to be back at training camp. He didn’t want to skip a step.
“I don’t know if he skipped a step last year, but he felt the pressure of coming back. … He couldn’t get back right.
“He looks the best I’ve seen him. His body looks great. His arm feels really good. He’s just taking it step by step.”
Team culture: Ballard noted that coach Frank Reich and strength coach Rusty Jones will develop players and keep them healthy because the NFL is “a battle of attrition.”