Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard Much More Than Talented Football Players
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INDIANAPOLIS – Their talent is obvious.
Physical characteristics clearly played a major part in the Colts thinking an offensive guard was worthy of the No. 6 overall pick last season, or a small school linebacker had enough raw talent to be a top-40 selection.
But pigeonholing Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard into guys solely with insane physical talents would not be telling their full story.
No, strictly athletic traits don’t earn you All-Pro honors as a rookie (the first duo to accomplish that since Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus did it for the Bears in 1965).
By now, fans of the Colts know that character is such a vital trait in the scouting/evaluating process.
When it came to Nelson and Leonard, both of those guys more than checked those boxes and certainly played into why the Colts were comfortable selecting those guys higher than most draft conventional wisdom had them slotted.
“One of the things that Chris and his staff do when they are doing all the research on these guys, certain players on their draft cards are marked in a certain way where we would designate them or identify them as kind of ‘Colts players,’” Frank Reich explains. “These are the kind of guys who have the DNA, the makeup of everything that we are looking for, all the intangibles, all the character qualities, everything about them.
“It’s a really hard filter to get through to get marked that way and both Quenton and Darius had that on their card. So that says something about their maturity and how fast we think they will develop.”
As rookies, their development ascended to the highest of NFL levels.
When the 2018 Draft got underway for the Colts, it was no secret that Ballard had to find some foundational pieces for his rebuild.
The Colts needed to find at least one player that was going to be a perennial Pro Bowler/All-Pro and find his spot on the side of Lucas Oil Stadium one day.
They found two of them in Nelson and Leonard.
Nelson came in and helped shift the entire culture of the offensive line with a tenacious, aggressive mindset that was so needed up front. From a work ethic standpoint, Nelson is easily one of the Colts’ hardest workers, along with being one of their best players. That’s huge in building a new culture.
Leonard certainly didn’t have the same fanfare of Nelson entering the NFL, but the Colts felt very good about their research to know they were getting more than just a really athletic linebacker.
“He is like a sponge in terms of taking everything in, of what to do, how to do it and then improving that,” Matt Eberflus said of his stud WILL linebacker last season.
“Obviously with his gifts, he is pretty good at doing a lot of things naturally but then he wants to get better at it. And he really listens. You can tell when a player really listens to you in terms of your coaching and him wanting to get better and he does that. He does that every single day. He has a meeting before the meeting basically because he comes out of special teams and he is there just for a little bit, but we get to spend about a half hour every day together before the meeting starts. I give him a preview and can coach him one-on-one. That has been great for him because he gets to hear it one time, then hear again and then take it onto the field.”
Seeking out the total package in players is a goal for every NFL team during the draft process.
The Colts deserve major kudos for finding that in their two young stars.
“I think in both cases they bring a lot of juice into the meeting room, into the weight room,” Reich says of Nelson and Leonard
“They have infectious leadership qualities. Their love for the game, their love to compete at the highest level I just think is very infectious and you just love their confidence to be able to just let that loose.”