I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. Find all the profiles here.
La'el Collins, T/G, LSU - 6'4, 305 - Senior - 5.12 40
Some schools, including Louisiana State University, are being examined every year for draft prospects. It seems that no matter how often you do this, you end up going back to the same 20 schools over and over again. So, with that in mind, you can imagine how shocked many are to hear that La'el Collins has a chance to be the first LSU offensive linemen to be picked in the 1st round since Alan Faneca was chosen with the 26th pick by Pittsburgh back in 1998. That is almost 2 decades in between 1st round picks from the OL? I don't understand.
Regardless, Collins looks like a very impressive athlete that has 38 starts at left tackle for LSU, but like Scherff, the question then becomes whether or not he is able to handle that NFL left tackle spot, switch spots to the right side where (hypothetically) there is more help available and less elite pass rushers - (this is a trend that is disappearing every year) - or, move inside and play a dominant guard position like Zach Martin did last season after being a 4-year left tackle at Notre Dame. To examine Collins work, we popped in Florida, Auburn, and Ole Miss. Look for #70 in the clips at LT for LSU.
What I liked: He is a very competitive, physical bull-dozer with a mean streak. He wants to stay after you through the whistle and gets the label as "a finisher" which is a guy who is not interested in blocking you for 3 seconds when he can mess with you for 6. He has very strong zone blocking skills in the running game (as you might assume any member of that LSU attack would have). He is comfortable in pass protection and gets centered with the edge rushers very well with a kick-step that beats his man to the angle which is exactly what you want. He can square up and get the first punch in with large hands and generally control the situation in pass protection, but I will readily admit that LSU was running a lot more than passing so in 200 snaps, it is difficult to say he can run right into a NFL situation where the QB might be in shotgun and passing 45 times a game right off the bat at left tackle. He also seems to get better as a game goes along. Good disposition and good competitiveness.
What I did not like: He looks like he occasionally over-runs his man or misses his angle slightly, but enough to get into a spot where he has to hold. He looks like he either holds or comes close to holding far more often than his contemporaries. He also will go to the ground a bit too much, which any zone running team will tell you is not a great trait, because, of course, a giant man laying in the path of your RB is an undesirable obstacle and the reason so many offensive line coaches are yelling "stay on your feet" during practices. While I didn't see him lose very much in pass-pro, he will get beaten on occasion with quickness and in space which makes people wonder if his best spot is at guard, but like Scherff, I would be far more likely to try them both at tackle before I concede and move them inside.
Summary: Overall, I think Collins is a very nice prospect and i would have to think about where I would rank him relative to the Stanford prospect Andrus Peat. Given his size, I am sure more would err on the side of the 6'7 Peat, but I think I like Collins as a versatile player a bit more. The question remains whether it is prudent to put a 1st round pick on an offensive guard. I realize Martin was excellent last season, but given the job Larry Warford, Trae Turner, Gabe Jackson, and Brandon Linder all have done (all 3rd round picks), I still am of the mind that unless you think a prospect is a tackle, you don't need to over-invest in interior linemen at the top. There are just too many "solid" guards down near pick #100. So, when it comes to these 1st round linemen, if people really believe they are only guards at the next level, then you don't take them this high, in my opinion. Personally, I think Collins can play tackle, and therefore, I would be fine with him going pretty high in this draft.
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