Miami Hurricanes OT Zion Nelson on 20 college football players to watch

ORLANDO, FL - AUGUST 24:.(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - AUGUST 24:.(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The development of Miami Hurricanes left tackle Zion Nelson is being projected to culiminate in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft by some analysts and scouts. Nelson was named by Ben Kercheval of CBS Sports as one of the 20 Players to Watch in College Football in 2021 according to 247 Sports.

Nelson has played 23 out of a possible 24 games his first two seasons with Miami and has made 20 starts. Miami will have one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football in 2021. The Hurricanes OL has developed two years after Jakai Clark and Nelson started most of the season as true freshmen in 2019.

Miami needs to continue to develop on the OL. The Hurricanes finished 99th in the country in 2020 allowing 2.73 sacks per game. Nelson improved greatly over the second half of last season. Entering the 2021 season, Nelson could become the best player on the Miami Hurricanes.

Nelson is clearly the best NFL prospect Miami has. Ereck Flowers was the last Miami OT to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The New York Giants drafted Flowers ninth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Nelson continuing to play at the level he did in the second half of the season should validate his projections.

"4. ZION NELSON, OL, MIAMI“Over the final six games of the 2020 season, Nelson was one of the best left tackles in the ACC, earning a 79.7 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus while allowing only five pressures and two sacks over that span. That pass-blocking grade was the third-best amongst ACC left tackles.Nelson was a 247Sports Composite three-star recruit out of Sumter, South Carolina. He was also the No. 29 ranked player in the state of South Carolina in the recruiting class of 2019. “By the end of the season, Nelson had not only reclaimed the starting left tackle job as his but emerged as one of the most impressive linemen in the ACC.Just a three-star prospect coming out of high school in South Carolina, Nelson is a true junior with plenty of experience to suggest he’s worthy of consideration among the best tackles in the sport.”"

Nelson provides Miami with an anchor on the left side of the OL. D.J. Scaife and Jarrid Williams will compete to become the starting RT. Scaife moved from right guard this spring. Williams started 10 of the 11 Miami games at RT in 2020. Nelson has improved his body from 6’5 24o when he entered Miami to 316 pounds currently.

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Nelson started as a true freshmen despite being undersized. Analysts and scouts wants Nelson to continue to develop strength and improve as a run blocker. If Nelson and the Miami Hurricanes OL continue to develop, the Hurricanes offense can become more consistent and explosive in 2021.