2023 NFL Draft Player Preview: Zion Nelson

  • Zion Nelson, 6-5/312

  • Offensive Tackle

  • Miami

  • Zion Nelson 2023 Preview
    By Charlie Campbell

    Career Recap: Over the past three seasons, Nelson was a solid and steady left tackle for the Hurricanes. As a freshman, he earned the starting left tackle job in the 2019 preseason and made all 13 starts for the Hurricanes. He was solid again in 2020 and looks to have the potential to develop into an early-rounder as a senior. Nelson had some struggles in the 2021 season opener against Alabama, but improved after that to turn in a quality year protecting Tyler Van Dyke.

    2022 Season Outlook: Nelson has a quality schedule and will see some decent talent in 2022. The biggest challenges will probably come in games against Texas A&M on Sept. 17, Clemson on Nov. 19, and Pittsburgh on Nov. 26. It will be interesting to see how Nelson does against Clemson’s linemen, led by Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy. Pittsburgh edge rusher Habakkuk Baldonado is an underrated talent who could test Nelson to close out the regular season.

    Skill-Set Summary: The NFL always has a big demand for left tackles who can protect the quarterback and give them time to throw. Thus, Nelson should have plenty of teams hoping to land him in the 2023 NFL Draft as he could be a starting left tackle early in his pro career.

    As a pass blocker, Nelson has natural size with a good skill set of speed and athleticism to block on the edge. He is very quick, possessing smooth movement to get depth in his drop to cut off the corner from speed rushers. Via his natural agility, Nelson does a nice job of bending at the knee and using his feet to keep to him in good position. Nelson is not a waist bender or lunging after pass rushers. With his speed and ability to glide, he is a natural pass protector.

    Nelson could stand to improve as a run blocker for the next level. He is not a force in the ground game and needs to get stronger. Nelson does not pack power or a punch to knock defenders off the the ball. He can have issues sustaining blocks and not generating any push. Using his length and size, Nelson can tie up defenders to limit what they do. However, he is not a bull as a run blocker. Thus, he would be a better fit in a zone scheme where he can use his athleticism and quickness to get to spots while moving with the designed flow of the play.

    The 6-foot-5, 316-pound Nelson has good size to be a NFL left tackle and will enter the league with a lot of experience from the college ranks. While Nelson’s tape might say he is a second-rounder right now, he plays a premium position that is always in demand and could be in a weak offensive tackle class, which could help him to rise. Nelson is a prospect to monitor with the potential to be one of the top offensive tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft.

    2023 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering fall camp, here is what an area scout told WalterFootball.com about Nelson’s draft range, “Nelson is a solid second-round pick right now. He could continue to rise from there depending on how the season goes.”


    2023 NFL Mock Draft: Charlie’s | Walt’s

    2023 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings

    2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports

    2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 9

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12