ORLANDO, FL - AUGUST 24: Miami quarterback Jarren Williams (15) drops back to pass while Florida linebacker Jeremiah Moon (7) tries to fight through Miami offensive lineman Zion Nelson (60) during the second half of the Camping World Kickoff between the Florida Gators and the Miami Hurricanes on August 24, 2019, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - AUGUST 24: Miami quarterback Jarren Williams (15) drops back to pass while Florida linebacker Jeremiah Moon (7) tries to fight through Miami offensive lineman Zion Nelson (60) during the second half of the Camping World Kickoff between the Florida Gators and the Miami Hurricanes on August 24, 2019, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hurricanes’ Zion Nelson Proves Why Scouts Need To Watch Film

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Certain positions are a premium in the NFL, and Zion Nelson seems to have it all.

The Miami left tackle (LT) is athletic, has long arms and he plays with good technique. Plus, he gives a good effort and he is aggressive.

What more could anyone ask for?

While Nelson was stellar on 95% of his reps in this three-game study, there was one glaring tendency that did not sit well with me as a former NFL scout.

Nelson has momentary lapses

In all three games, it showed up…

Nelson has a sweet kick step and subsequent left steps while setting up…but…

🚩For some reason he stops moving his feet at times and opens the back-door gate to the pocket🚩

In my capacity, I don’t look for the “one-offs” on game film. I am looking for patterns and tendencies, and this is his biggest negative.

It all comes down to what shows up on game film and how his natural skill set translates.

How big of a deal is this?

Turn on the Michigan State game (embedded below) to see for yourself.

The Spartans were up 17-14 early in the 4th quarter and the Hurricanes were driving, and that’s when it happened again.

For whatever reason, Nelson stopped moving his feet and lost control of the pass rusher.

The result was the Miami quarterback took a devastating blind side shot, and the ball went helplessly fluttering up into the air, and the play resulted in a turnover.

Michigan State went up 24-14 and the rest is history.

Outside of that, Nelson looks the part

Nelson looked really good outside of that one major flaw that will need correction, and it is for this reason I can’t sit here and stamp Nelson as a top-15 LT at this point.

However, he absolutely has the skill set to go in the bottom half of the first-round.

You have to love anyone at the position who is aggressive, athletic, and has the kind of wing span Nelson has. The name of the game is shielding the perimeter of the pocket, and Nelson can do that – – most of the time.

#60 Zion Nelson 6-foot-5, 316 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s Grade: First-Round – Early Fall 2022 Report

First Round Mock Big Board: TBD

Projected by 25.3% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of October 4, 2022 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

2021 game film reviewed: Michigan State, FSU and Virginia (Click to watch games viewed to form this evaluation)

Level of competition: High

2021 stats: 85.9 pass blocking grade (3 sacks allowed) – 64.1 run blocking grade (pff.com)

2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report:

Well-rounded aggressive and ultra-athletic blocker who plays with good technique. Strong and athletic-looking lower frame, arched back with thin athletic calves. Anticipates and has quick reflexes in pass pro. Quick initial kick step and subsequent left steps to set up. Physically strong and absorbs well. Uses long arms and hands to punch hard and maintain control sliding out. Gets hands up outside the pads and extends to maintain distance. Solid anchor on bull rushes. Tendency to stop moving feet once in a while and opens the back gate. Picks up stunts and blitzes. Handled inside attempts and spin move. Tough to get through or around. A positional run blocker who often did just long enough, but sometimes fails to sustain. Works at it with a strong effort level to hold the point. Solid down-line blocks. Gets to the second level and downfield with ease and good playing speed. Intriguing prospect.

What to watch for during the 2022 college football season:

  1. Does he show momentary lapses and stop moving his feet in pass protection?
  2. Does he demonstrate the same high level of play?
  3. How does he look sustaining run blocks?
  4. Does he stay healthy (he fell or bent awkwardly a couple of times in 2021)?

I liked Nelson. He has some Chris Samuels to him. I am not ready to compare him to Samuels, but that’s who went through my mind watching him play, and it wasn’t just because they wear the same jersey number either.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated New York Jets and he is the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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