NFL Draft Preview 2015: SS Landon Collins
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series rolls on. This week, the focus is on safeties, and today’s prospect at strong safety is Landon Collins out of the University of Alabama.
Landon Collins had a very good college season at one of the best defensive factories in the country: the University of Alabama. In Collins' freshman year he was a back-up but did see some playing time and contributed on special teams. His last two years in school, however, Collins was a starter and played extremely well.
In 2013 he made 69 tackles and 2 interceptions and in 2014 he upped those numbers to 90 and 3. This past junior season, Collins was named as an All-American and played very well in the Tides' two postseason games.
Collins has a lot of good attributes, and many of them center around him being a tough, heady player. He plays the run extremely well. He is a great tackler who has the ability to wrap up and also has the ability to deliver to big hit. He flies toward the ball and has great pad level when coming in to make tackle. He is also pretty good in coverage, particularly zone coverage. Collins is very intelligent and does a good job of staying home and not following for quarterbacks' eye tricks. He understands where the ball is going to go and he closes ground to get there.
Collins will be ready to contribute quickly to whatever team drafts him. Even if he doesn't start at safety, Collins will be a great contributor on special teams. He had plenty of experience in this area with Alabama and led the team in special teams tackles his rookie season. His 4.53 40-yard dash impressed a lot of people during the combine and led all safeties.
Collins does have a few holes in his game. His most lacking area is his man coverage skills. When forced to line up one-on-one with slot receivers or tight ends, Collins will sometimes be exposed. In addition to that, sometimes on deep routes, Collins will overestimate his foot speed or recovery speed at times, which has resulted in some big plays made at his expense.
Although Collins may make a big play here and there, teams will also have to deal with the few that he gives up. A last flaw is that Collins is not super versatile. He is a great strong safety, but when forced to play another defensive back role, Collins lacks the skill set to excel.
Collins is thought of as the number one safety prospect in this year's draft. His pros far exceed his cons and he has the ability to be really successful in the league. Collins has a first round grade on him. Safeties are hard to project in terms of where exactly they will fall, because, honestly, there are a lot more important positions that some teams may reach for.
This year's draft is also complicated by the fact that the safety class is not deep, which may cause teams to reach. In the end, I think that the earliest Collins goes is 5, and the latest is around 20. You're probably looking at a guy hovering around the border of the top 10 with Landon Collins.
The best fit for Collins is a team that has a couple solid corners already on the roster. Collins can be a great safety, so long as he is used as a safety. If he is allowed to play the run, go after the ball like a heat-seeking missile, and trust his instincts to go and make big hits and big plays, then he will be at his best. If a team wants him to come in and play a lot of coverage one-on-one and defend slot guys and tight ends for most snaps, then Collins may run into some trouble.
A couple teams that fit this bill and have early picks in the first round are the New York Jets and New York Giants. These New York brothers both have a couple solid corners in place, but could use a guy like Collins for his talent and his toughness.