With their 2nd round pick, the Falcons selected LSU cornerback Jalen Collins. Collins is a polarizing prospect for several reasons, but there is no doubt about his raw talent. There’s considerable upside to his game, but he’s far from a finished product, and there are off the field risks as well. Let’s take a closer look.
First off, the reason for the polarization. We might as well start with the marijuana. According to Vic Breer of the NFL Network, Collins is rather fond of it:
1) Changing attitudes towards drugs? LSU CB Jalen Collins is a test case. Had multiple failed tests in college, per sources with 4 teams.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 24, 2015
Obviously the Falcons did their due diligence there and decided Collins wasn’t a big risk to continue using marijuana. After all, for the first time in his career, there might actually be some repercussions from it. That was never the case at LSU, where a team vote can reinstate criminals far worse than Jalen Collins. The Falcons are confident Collins’ marijuana use is behind him in the lawlessness of the SEC West. For now you have to trust their evaluation in that regard, but it’s still notable as a risk.
The riskier aspect of Collins seems to be his play. All evaluations seem to agree that he doesn’t display quickness. Recovery from bad steps isn’t a part of his game. He isn’t particularly physical. There are mechanical issues that had some calling him a 3rd day project.
Brett Kollmann of SBNation’s Battle Red Blog has an excellent breakdown of Collins vs. #4 overall pick Amari Cooper in the following video. I strongly suggest it, even if I could do without the loop of “Sweet Home Alabama” in the background:
The best thing about Kollman’s analysis is that you can learn two important things about Jalen Collins: 1, why the very inexperienced Collins gets owned at times by an NFL-ready star WR, and 2, that those reasons are largely tied to his inexperience and technique. Collins isn’t a great NFL corner right now, but the reasons are all correctable. There are few NFL coaches more capable of correcting those flaws than Dan Quinn. Collins will get better in Atlanta.
Despite his rawness – he only started 10 games – he was still pretty tough on most opposing receivers, allowing just 40.9% of targets into his coverage to be completed, according to the College Football Focus project from PFF. That ranked 5th in the country among draft-eligible corners. Even with technical flaws, he made it hard to catch passes. That mix of early relative success despite inexperience and raw talent explains why Pro Football Focus named Collins their top CB prospect for the 2015 draft.
Speaking of the raw talent, it’s easy to see why coaches can dream on him so easily. He’s 6-1, 203, fitting the new trend of taller corners. He has a 10 yard split of 1.50, putting him in the 78th percentile among CBs entering the NFL, according to Mock Draftable. He ran a 4.48 40, displaying NFL-quality straightline speed. One of Mock Draftable’s coolest features is their list of physical comps, based on a database of drill results and measurables. Among Collins’ are Quentin Jammer and 3 time Pro Bowl safety Antrel Rolle. Here is a spider graphs for Collins’ measurables from Mock Draftable. Again, these things are just fun to look at.
More than any other draftee, I think, Collins needs a healthy camp season. He needs as much time on the practice field with Quinn, DC Richard Smith, and Defensive Backs coach Chad Walker as possible. Quinn clearly sees Collins as a boundary corner, and I think he could find himself starting in week 1 opposite Marcus Trufant. If Robert Alford is recovered from the problems during the games against the Giants (Odell Beckham Jr) and Buccaneers (memories of Odell Beckham Jr?), Alford could be the right corner and push Collins to NB. Either way, I expect Collins to play early and often, and frustrate fans early and often. However, I also expect him to be a significantly better player in games 9-16 than he is games 1-8.
2015 projected role: Starting CB
Longterm projected role: Starting CB