2015 NFL Draft Preview: OL La'el Collins
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This seventh week, the focus is on offensive linemen. Our first O-line prospect is La’el Collins out of LSU.
Collins started for three years at LSU, the first at left guard in his sophomore year. He then switched to left tackle for his junior and senior seasons. He played in a total of 45 games for the Tigers, starting 39. He was a second-team All-Americans in his senior year, and he also won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is awarded to the best offensive lineman in the SEC. He was also voted team captain and won his team’s most outstanding player award.
Official stats are not kept for offensive linemen, but LSU unofficially credited Collins with 222.5 knockdown blocks in his LSU career, an average of 4.94 per game and 5.7 per start.
At 6’5”, 305 pounds, Collins has a thick, strong frame. He has great upper-body strength and long arms. He is a gritty, powerful run blocker known as a finisher and a mean player. He can pass block well, too, but his hand movement needs serious work. Collins is familiar with the pro-style offense, and he can play either tackle or guard. Versatility is a major plus.
Collins’ aforementioned problem with his hands in pass protection is the main reason why most project him to play at right tackle, if not guard. Even though he did not play on the right side of the line in college, his has a very good chance ending up there, if drafted as a tackle. Collins’ footwork also needs improvement, and his balance needs work as well. His stance is too high, which makes him top-heavy, and he lunges too often.
The ever-present need for offensive linemen will likely lead to Collins going in the first round, and some have him in the top 10-15. His pass protection needs work, especially with his hand usage, but his run blocking abilities should lead a needy team to pick him early on. He should start right away, as a guard or right tackle.
Three teams stick out in the top half of the first round: the New York Giants, St. Louis Rams, and Cleveland Browns. Each team needs help on the right side of the line, and each team could use some offensive line versatility (as could any team, really). If I had to guess today, I would mock him to St. Louis at 10th overall.