Zaven Collins, the Tulsa linebacker and Bednarik and Nagurski (both given to the nation’s top defensive player) award winner has proven that he has the potential to be a top 3 linebacker in this class. While Micah Parsons and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah headline this year’s top linebackers, there are some sleepers near the bottom. Many teams picking toward the end of the first round as well as teams with early second-round picks have expressed lots of interest in Collins. He gives strong run support which lots of NFL teams would benefit from. His tackling and size also give him great tools that he can use to his advantage in the NFL. While his size does come at the cost of speed and fluidity moving around his zone. He can’t navigate his zone as well as many would want him to. This leaves some open holes that are easily taken advantage of. Without this flaw, Collins has proved his worth, and it is kind of surprising to see that he is rarely talked about as we get closer to the draft.
Zaven Collins Stats And Measurables:
Weight: 260 lbs
2018 Stats: 12 Games/85 TOTAL/42 SOLO/1.5 SACK/1 FF/1 INT/3 PD
2019 Stats: 12 Games/97 TOTAL/51 SOLO/2 SACK/1 FR/3 PD
2020 Stats: 8 Games/54 TOTAL/36 SOLO4 SACK/2 FF/1 FR/4 INT/2 TD/2 PD/
1. Collins is a sure tackler. He shows great technique and wraps up ballcarriers with ease. Once wrapped up, Collins drives through the ballcarrier well and brings them down quickly. He rarely missed a tackle and he was a force because of it. His technique is textbook, and he doesn’t miss the chance to make plays behind the line of scrimmage because of it. He takes good angles to the runner which keeps him in position and helps cover his below-average speed, and once gets to the right spot he executes efficiently. Collins rarely makes a wrong move when tackling which is something coaches cherish. Even though his speed may hinder his ability to reach a ballcarrier, when he is in position he capitalizes.
2. Great run support is another thing that Collins brings to the table. His size combined with his agility and quickness help him wreak havoc inside, and he swallowed up tons of inside run plays in college. He shoots gaps well with his ability to avoid blocks. His quickness also helps him in this department, as he can shoot gaps extremely quickly, not giving the offense a chance to stop him. Again, Collins is a phenomenal tackler, so once he gets in the backfield he rarely fails to complete a play.
3. Play recognition is another strength of Collins. He read plays quickly and let his teammates know what was happening, which helped the Tulsa defense always be one step ahead of the opposing offense. He doesn’t make a wrong guess often either which helps him tremendously. His play recognition is a huge boost to him and his teammates as it allows him to go where he needs to go quickly before the play has time to fully develop.
1. Collins speed is a question for many teams. Although his size does make up for his speed a bit, it is still a flaw and it was targeted often in college. Many teams would try to catch Collins in man coverage, where they often ran crossers which he had difficulty covering due to his poor speed. Sometimes he was not able to get to the right place even if he knew where the play was going due to this lack of speed. When in the NFL, speed will be worked on extensively as his size is there already and combining that with even slightly above average speed would be a scary sight for opposing teams.
2. His zone coverage could be worked on as well. Collins struggles to move around his zone fluidly and is often caught out of position which would let up big gains. Even though speed may be a factor in this, his man coverage ability also needs some work, as he struggled to contain higher level tight ends and running backs when matched up with them. He moves around his zone slowly, and he isn’t able to move from one side of his zone to the other before the ball has been caught. This would be worked on because the ability to move around zones quickly and fluidly can help patch up a lot of the holes that are created in a zone defensive scheme.
Collins has shown that he has a very high ceiling, and although many other linebacker prospects have received much more attention, he has the tools to make it work in the NFL. With practice and improvement in coverage, he could grow a lot as a player. His speed will also be a factor in his career, and if he can become a faster player, he will be able to get rid of a lot of his other flaws. He already provides great run support, and he recognizes plays well which is a trait you want to see in the heart and soul of your defense. He is a technically sound tackler too and he rarely misses on chances to bring a ballcarrier down. These tools help make him a lower risk prospect, and even though his size may bring up some injury concerns, he will definitely be able to contribute to whichever NFL team he joins.