INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts have selected guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft.
Nelson fills a huge need for Indy as it tries to find some extra protection for injured quarterback Andrew Luck. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound guard from Notre Dame provides interior stability for a team that has been playing musical chairs along the line for most of the past six seasons.
Nelson started 36 games for the Fighting Irish at left guard and should start immediately next to center Ryan Kelly, Indy’s first-round pick two years ago. He was a second-team All-American last season and was one of four finalists for the 2017 Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best interior lineman.
He’s the first guard the Colts have taken in the first round since Ron Solt was taken at No. 19 overall in 1984.
Indy has struggled mightily to protect Luck, who missed all of last season after having surgery for a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Luck still has not returned to the practice field and still is not throwing regulation footballs.
With Luck out, the Colts offense allowed 56 sacks in 2017 with Jacoby Brissett going down 52 times over the final 15 games.
Pass protection wasn’t the only problem. Indy averaged just 3.7 yards per carry on the ground and lost top runner Frank Gore in free agency.
Nelson should help in both areas.
Coach Frank Reich told reporters that he was convinced Nelson was not only the top lineman in this year’s draft abut also was the best linemen he had seen out of college in “a while.”
It didn’t take long for general manager Chris Ballard to be sold on Nelson, either. Ballard said he attended only one workout in person and it was Nelson’s and that he could just sense Nelson would be a star.
Indy had eight more picks, including four on Friday — three in the second round and one in the third.