Note: The NFL Draft begins April 29 and the Green Bay Packers have the 29th pick in the first round. Between now and then, I’ll examine 29 players the Packers could select with that pick.
Today, we look at Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins.
ZAVEN COLLINS, LB, TULSA
Collins played for tiny Hominy High School in Hominy, OK — a town of 3,500 located 45 miles northwest of downtown Tulsa. As a 220-pound high schooler, Collins played quarterback and safety and was completely overlooked by Power 5 colleges.
Collins stayed close to home, then erupted at Tulsa where he won the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards as the nation’s best defender last year. He also earned first-team Associated Press All-American and AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Collins had four sacks, four interceptions, 11.5 tackles for loss, 53 tackles, two pass breakups and a blocked kick in eight starts last year. He also returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including a 96-yard game-winner against Tulane in overtime.
During his three years at Tulsa, Collins had 236 tackles, 25.0 tackles for losses, 7.5 sacks, five interceptions, eight pass breakups and three forced fumbles.
Height: 6-4 7/8
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Bench press: N/A
40-yard dash: 4.67
Vertical jump: 35”
Broad jump: 10’2”
Arms: 33 5/8”
Hands: 9 3/8”
Collins has the size and athleticism to play inside or outside. Collins is rangy and has outstanding burst, which allows him to chase plays down from behind.
Collins is extremely aggressive and loves attacking holes in blocking schemes. He also has the size and power to take on blocks. Collins can defend the run, drop into coverage, or rush the passer.
Collins has room to grow diagnosing plays, but his blend of size, length and power make him a dynamic NFL prospect.
A player like Collins would offer the Packers a number of options. And if Collins slips to No. 29 in the draft, he’d be hard for Green Bay to pass up.
Collins could be the big, athletic, rangy piece in the middle of the defense that Green Bay has lacked for years. Right now, Green Bay’s top returning inside linebackers are second-year players Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes — and both are fringe starters at best.
The Packers could also try Collins at outside linebacker. Green Bay seems set at that position today with Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. But both Smiths have large salary cap hits coming in future years, and if the Packers elected to move on from either player, Collins could step right in.
THEY SAID IT
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper on Collins: “He can play inside, outside. He had the one big game against Oklahoma State, where (three) of his sacks came. Other than that, though, he was making tackles all over the field, getting into the backfield. He wasn’t the sack artist, but he was a rangy guy.”
East Carolina coach Mike Houston on Collins: “Big, can run … he’s just a really active player. Really plays downhill. You see when he triggers, he triggers really fast on the run and he really gets downhill quickly.”
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery on Collins: “He’s a guy that’s always stepped up in big games. Every game’s a big game to him. He’s a guy that brings so much to the table every week. Teams are trying to figure out ways around him, by him, through him, over him and at least try to minimize the damage that he can do.”
Collins on adding weight at Tulsa: “I got to 245, 250 and they were saying ‘Whoa, slow down, you’re getting too big,’ and I still moved well. I got to about 255 and they’re like, ‘OK, you’ve got to stop.’ Still moving well. Now I’m at 260-263. I’ve stopped. This is where I’m at.”
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