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Top-prospect Quenton Nelson could give 'nasty' edge to Broncos' O-line

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL has a problem in guard Quenton Nelson's eyes.

A wave of talented interior defensive linemen has arrived in the NFL, and offensive lines are struggling to adjust.

There is no easy fix — Nelson knows these linemen have "tremendous get-offs" to go with impressive technique, strength and athleticism.

But Nelson, a potential top-five pick out of Notre Dame, sees himself as the solution.

"I think I should be talked [about] in … the top-five conversation, because you have guys that are dominating the NFL right now in Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox that have just been working on interior guys," Nelson said Thursday at the NFL Combine. "You need guys to stop them, and I think I'm one of those guys.

"You talk to quarterbacks, and they say if a D-end gets on the edge, that's fine. They can step up into the pocket and make a throw, which a lot of quarterbacks, if given the opportunity, can do that. That's what I give, is a pocket to step up in. I think I also help the offense establish the run through my nastiness. And establishing the run also opens up the passing game. I think [I would be] a good choice."

Nelson showed that nastiness during his four years with the Fighting Irish.

In 2017, his unit helped lead a rushing attack that averaged the third-most yards per carry in the country. Alongside offensive tackle and other top prospect Mike McGlinchey, Nelson led Notre Dame's offensive line to the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the best O-line unit in the country.

And his mindset may be even more intriguing than his skill set. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound guard is trying to do far more than fend off defenders during games — he's trying to make them quit the game.

"As a blocker, my mindset is being dominant," Nelson said. "I want to dominate all my opponents and take their will away to play the game by each play and finishing them past the whistle."

"I believe I'm a nasty player," he added.

That potential to dominate may extend all across the offensive line. Though Nelson said no teams have discussed moving him to tackle, he played the position for Notre Dame's scout team at times and said he is equally comfortable at both left and right guard.

For the Broncos, that flexibility could prove valuable as the team decides whether to move veteran Ron Leary back to the left side of the line after he played right guard in 2017.

In total, that combination of athleticism, versatility and mental makeup have many tabbing Nelson as more than just the best offensive lineman in the draft. He may just be the best prospect at any position.

McGlinchey, who believes he has a similar mentality, certainly saw that that potential during his time alongside Nelson at Notre Dame.

"He had those highlight blocks that everybody freaks out about on Twitter, because he plays a different game on the inside, but yeah absolutely I think I have that same nasty disposition," McGlinchey said. "But yeah he's not lying to you. He's about as nasty as they come. You just see him game after game that there was some kind of highlight-reel block that was just kind of jaw-dropping for people. He makes plays all over the field. He was a great leader for us and it rubs off for the entire program."

Perhaps the best example of one of those hits came in Notre Dame's Citrus Bowl matchup with LSU on Jan. 1.

When LSU freshman linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson tried to blitz through the A-gap, Nelson easily took control of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound player. Nelson stopped Chaisson with ease, ripped him out of the gap and flung him onto the ground. For good measure, Nelson dropped on top of the Tiger linebacker and prevented him from rejoining the play.

"It feels good," said Nelson of that type of play. "It's a good feeling. There's a lot of things [you can do] on a football field that you can't do in real life, and that was one of them."

The first of those NFL hits could come quickly.

Nelson said Wednesday his technique, effort and ability to digest the playbook would allow him to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL. And while there would be certain growing pains, a potential interior line of Ron Leary, Matt Paradis and Quenton Nelson would provide the Broncos a talented and powerful core.

Oh, and don't forget nasty.

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