Monday, April 06, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #60 - Landon Collins, S, Alabama

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.
Landon Collins, S, Alabama - 6'0, 228 - Junior - 4.53 40
Alabama defensive back Landon Collins (26) celebrates a play against Ohio State in the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal game, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Alabama defensive back Landon Collins (26) celebrates a play against Ohio State in the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal game, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
I think Jimmy Johnson taught us all a pretty solid lesson about where football was headed when he brought his ideas to the NFL.  He wanted to make safeties out of cornerbacks, linebackers out of safeties, defensive ends out of linebackers, and defensive tackles out of defensive ends.  The lessons there were that speed and not might were going to have to be the most important skill of any defensive player in the NFL.  He was well ahead of his time and the evolution is still happening today.  There is nothing more useless than a big hitter who can't move well in today's NFL.
With that in mind, every year during draft season, we judge without mercy the prospects based on that simple question about their mobility - change of direction with an emphasis on the fluidity of a prospect's hips.  Can this player turn those hips, accelerate, and get there before the QB can thread the needle in front of him?  This is the question of Landon Collins, the highly-touted safety from Alabama.  Everyone who follows college football has been following his progress since he annoyed his mother on decision day by going to Alabama over LSU.  Now, let's see what his tape shows.  For the study, I grabbed West Virginia, Florida, Mississippi State, and Ohio State.
Collins is #26 in the videos.
What I liked:  There are many things to enjoy about Landon Collins game.  He is a very good player who is flat-out devastating at the line of scrimmage.  He hits, blitzes, and intimidates like many of your favorite safeties before him.  He will certainly rattle some teeth at the NFL level.  He is also a standout special teams player at Alabama and I would expect that to translate as well.  Now, in coverage, his ball skills are exceptional, which means he can make plays on the ball and serve as a bit of a ball hawk when a pass is in his vicinity.  So, of course, the issue is going to be about whether his vicinity is going to be big enough at the NFL level.  But, if he is on the scene, he is a heck of a player who does all sorts of things that a team covets.  If he is a early down safety and a 3rd down "big nickel" LB, I think you will like what you get.

What I did not like:  There are not just roses being thrown at his feet.  He does have some limitations that require his new employer to figure out how to use him right.  In the college game, he seemed to have "numbers range" which means if the play is inside the numbers (or hash marks in college) he will be fine.  Unfortunately, we know that NFL QBs make you defend the entire width of the field and this is why there are so few exceptional CF safeties in the NFL.  Those sideline throws are what separate the elite from the rest in the free safety division, and Landon Collins is not going to be elite if you want him to play CF.  He also seems to lack a little nitro and can be left in the flat as he has to measure his speed so that he doesn't over-run a RB in space.  He is a decent open field tackler, but he can be defeated.
Summary:  In today's NFL, he makes people nervous who want him to be a cover safety. I think he is better than some are saying, but it is clear that he would be best served the way Arizona used Deone Bucannon last year.  Early down safety, late down linebacker.  He  is very good and the positives outweigh the negatives, but we should play to those strengths so we get the most out of this prospect.  He is a ball hawk and a special teams star, along with a play making safety who can turn games.   But, he is not going to foil Aaron Rodgers over the top very often.  Fine, but don't discount his many attributes that I feel put him safely in the first round for a team that wants this type of guy to add some pop to their back end.  He is very good, but you better figure out how to deploy him effectively. Easily the best strong safety in the draft, but this is also a very weak field.
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