Draft Daily: Alabama S Collins an Unlikely Option
Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. If you have a player you want covered, let us know on the Birds 24/7 Facebook page.
THE BACK STORY
Before Ed Marynowitz landed with the Eagles in 2012, he directed Nick Saban’s recruiting efforts at Alabama.
And part of his last class in Tuscaloosa included Landon Collins, a defensive back who chose the Crimson Tide over LSU, much to the dismay of his Mom, who wanted the New Orleans native to stay in-state.
Much has been written about Chip Kelly’s inclination to bring on Oregon players. But given Marynowitz’s ties to Alabama (2008-2011), it’s reasonable to wonder whether the Eagles will see an influx of players from his former program.
Collins enters the draft after his junior season and seems to be the consensus top safety in the class. He totaled 102 tackles and three interceptions last season. Many believe he’ll be the only player at his position to go off the board in the first round.
The Eagles have a giant need at safety, and Marynowitz is familiar with Collins. So surely if he falls to No. 20, he’s a no-brainer, right?
As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friends.
At 6-0, 228, Collins carries more weight than most safety prospects. Here’s what the spider chart looks like.
As you can see, Collins is not a great athlete. He ran a 4.53 40, but tested below average in every other athleticism category when compared to other safeties.
His weight is beneficial when he’s attacking downhill in the run game or laying the wood on receivers over the middle. But as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com writes, it could hamper him in coverage:
Shows some hip stiffness when asked to open up and run. Might be carrying too much bulk.
The safety position is difficult to evaluate with All-22 tape. Off of TV copy, it’s nearly impossible. But we can at least get a sense of where Collins lined up and what he did when he was around the ball.
He’s at his best when he’s near the line of scrimmage. At the 3:31 mark against Florida, Collins times the snap, attacks the ball-carrier and comes up with a tackle for loss.
Said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “I think he’s a strong safety on first and second down, and then on third down he walks down and becomes your dime linebacker, similar to [Arizona Cardinals safety] Deone Bucannon.”
Collins has shown some pretty good ball skills also. When he’s able to anticipate where the ball is going and get a jump, he shows good range and the ability to break up passes, like we see here at the 1:41 mark.
And he can certainly play the role of enforcer as we see at the 5:17 mark. Collins closes on the ball, delivers a hit and forces an incompletion.
Clearly, there’s a lot to like. Collins is outstanding near the line of scrimmage, is an excellent tackler and can make plays on the ball. But there are question marks too.
Per Greg Cosell of NFL Films, he has “significant limitations on the back end.”
The key for Collins will be finding a defensive coordinator who has a plan for how to emphasize his strengths and hide his weaknesses.
When it comes to playing safety in Billy Davis’ scheme, the two most important skills are being able to play single-high and being able to cover man to man. The Eagles like to stay in their base 3-4 on early downs, which sometimes requires safeties to cover slot receivers or pass-catching tight ends.
And Davis uses a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3 – both coverages that require a deep-middle safety to play center field.
Based on what I saw and what those with access to game tape have noted, Collins is not a scheme fit. Covering man to man and playing single-high are his weaknesses, not his strengths. Remember, Davis’ ultimate goal is a mirrored defense. The Eagles don’t play with a free safety and a strong safety. They have their safeties play sides.
Last offseason, the Eagles signed Malcolm Jenkins, a former cornerback with good cover skills, and he excelled in this scheme. This offseason, they made a strong push at Devin McCourty, another player with a cornerback background.
Collins is in many ways the opposite of those guys. He will excel in the box and can hold his own in split-safety looks. But if the Eagles are going to spend a first-round pick on a safety, the guess here is they would want to target a guy who fits how they want to play. And Collins doesn’t seem like that guy.
Obviously, there are always curve balls come draft time, but I’ll be really surprised if Collins is a player the Birds target in the first round.