For the past few seasons, La’el Collins has been the most reliable lineman on the LSU Tigers. Now, after three years with the Tigers, Collins is looking to make the jump to the NFL.
Collins started 13 games for the Tigers in 2012, earning an honorable All-SEC selection as a left guard. In 2013, Collins had the best season of his career as a left tackle for quarterback Zach Mettenberger. With huge games against other SEC teams like Texas A&M and Florida, Collins really made a name for himself. He was also a huge part of Jeremy Hill’s fantastic performance on the ground that season.
During his senior season this past year, Collins seemed to struggle a bit. He seemed to lack the motivation to continue playing for the Tigers, and then on top of that he was bothered by an ankle injury for most of the season. Collins did well against Bud Dupree of the Kentucky Wildcats, but he was less than spectacular against Dante Fowler Jr of the Florida Gators. Collins didn’t give the Gator’s edge rusher a sack and was able to move him around to open up some rushing lanes; however, he also got away with holding a few times and was called for a facemask penalty after ripping off Fowler’s helmet.
Clearly Collins has the athleticism and agility to be a solid offensive lineman in pass protection. Collins’ big shortcomings come in the run game. He wasn’t able to generate a lot of movement on the ground this past season, and he didn’t have good technique or overall style. Collins will be placed against much better, faster speed rushers next season in the NFL; but he hasn’t shown the ability to bend his knees and handles these more athletic rushers.
For every weakness, Collins brings twice as many strengths to the table. At 6’4, 305 pounds, he is obviously the right size for the job. He has very strong hands, and has no problem controlling defenders he engages with. He plays mean, and he’s been able to intimidate and move big linemen his whole time at LSU.
Collins is the kind of player that will come back tougher after getting beat on a play, and that’s exactly what teams are looking for in a lineman. Some teams were tempted to brush him aside as a 2nd round pick at the guard position, but without a strong ability in the run game he really wouldn’t work well as an interior lineman on Sundays.
At the end of the day, Collins would do best in the NFL as a tackle opposite his quarterbacks blindside. He had a lot of success in the extremely competitive SEC West, but he isn’t quite ready to be a left guard in the big leagues.
NFL mock drafts have La’el Collins going as early as 8th overall to the Atlanta Falcons; however, he will more than likely drop out of the top 10. Collins would fit in best with the Cleveland Browns at 12th overall. The Browns are still having quarterback issues, so they would be smart to bring in some form of consistent leadership and toughness on the offensive line.
Collins’ only real competition in the 2015 NFL Draft is Ereck Flowers from Miami. It’s a tossup between Flowers and Collins; however, just based on strength of schedule and who each one had to play against, Collins seems to be more NFL-ready than any other tackle in the draft.
No matter where he lands, La’el Collins will be a solid NFL starter come September. With the help of his veteran teammates, Collins should have no problem improving his technique enough to become one of the more consistent lineman in the NFL.