Zion Nelson 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report
- Three-star recruit from South Carolina; rated as No. 100 offensive tackle in recruiting class
- Initially committed to playing at App State
- Weighed 240 pounds in the spring of 2019
- Returning three-year starter at left tackle for the Hurricanes
- Scheme tendencies: Tempo offense featuring RPOs: ”speed in space”
- 2022 projected role: Starting LT
Pros: It is pretty easy to see why there’s been so much buzz around Zion Nelson. He has added ample weight to his frame since the end of his high school career and managed to maintain ample athleticism and explosiveness. As far as tools go, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find many that have better raw skills at their disposal than Nelson. Capable of creating both linear and lateral displacement in the run game, Nelson shows explosion through contact and good foot activity to continue to churn the point of attack. His ability to stay on blocks isn’t where it needs to be, but his length and wingspan are significant and allow for growth. Nelson, when he’s right, is a difficult chore on the edge in pass protection and has the lateral agility and length to ride rushers out to either gap. You can see how natural he is in space to mirror smaller players and there’s cause there for optimism that the needed growth will come.
Cons: It is pretty easy to forget Zion Nelson was once a two-star recruit who was undersized and didn’t garner significant interest. He’s come far from a physical sense but still has maturation to undergo as a football player. I think he has all the needed strength and muscle on his frame to be successful (he appears to have more room to grow, too) but his application of power through the ground and through his hands is ineffective at this point—he’s too disjointed and needs to better coordinate all the components of playing the position. Nelson’s feet die on contact too often or his weight is disproportionately spread on his base, where defenders will catch him leaning and snatch him off his set. In other instances, his hands are low and late, not offering the needed stun to afford defenders to get into his pads. His anticipation in most phases leaves you wanting more. He reminds me some of Austin Jackson coming out of USC—he’s got all the physical skills but you’re going to need to nurture his growth unless he shows significant leaps in 2022 with the Hurricanes.
Zion Nelson NFL Draft Scouting Report by Kyle Crabbs