+Physical freak that destroyed the combine
+Actually has the production to back it up
+Extraordinary length for his size
+Record setting vertical for linebackers
+No matter how much Southern Miss sucked, he played hard
-Good long speed, but his quickness is average
-Played mediocre competition
-Played a lot of end at Southern Miss, but probably a linebacker long term (unless he adds bulk), and he doesn’t have a ton of experience there
-Not too strong
Jamie Collins is easily one of the most underrated prospects in this draft. I think he’s better than Dion Jordan. Now, that’s as much of a testament to how much I think Jordan is overrated (People say Jordan is a raw Aldon Smith. That’s a nice way of saying he’s Jarvis Moss) as much as it is a testament to how much I think Collins is underrated, but still. I can think of nothing that Jordan brings to the table that Collins does not.
Collins has excellent measurables. He showed up at the combine at 6’3, 250lbs, ran a 4.64 40 (4th among linebackers), set a record for linebackers with a 41.5 in vertical (!), good for second best at the combine for all players (Christine Michael), had the best broad jump at the combine among all players at any position at 139 inches, had the second longest arms of any linebacker at the combine at 33 6/8 inches (Cornelius Washington), but underwhelmed on the bench with only 19 reps. His long arms are a disadvantage on the bench, but he does need bulk, and, if his vert/broad jump are any indication, he definitely is more filled out in the lower body than in the upper body. Still, an incredible performance for Collins at the combine.
Many people were surprised by Collins’ performance at the combine. But I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: Jamie Collins is the only pass rusher in this draft class that combine ridiculous measurables with on field production. He’s the only guy in this draft class who ran a sub 4.8 40 at the combien AND got 10 or more sacks this year (4.64 40, so, room to spare). He’s the only guy who ran a sub 4.8 40 AND had at least 16 TFL’s (20 TFL’s, so, again, room to spare). In 12 games, nonetheless. He was 7th in the NCAA in TFL’s per game and 20th in total sacks. He has stats and the physical tools to back them up. You can’t say that about any other defensive end or outside linebacker in this draft class. Not too mention, 92 tackles in 12 games is absolutely terrific for a defensive end, and he played mostly end last season. Also, he was very productive in 2011, with 98 tackles, 19.5 TFL’s, and 6.5 sacks in 14 games.
Collins is solid against the run. He has room to improve as a tackler, he needs upper body strength if he wants to play end at the NFL level, and he could get better leverage, but, beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find a flaw. His instincts are very good and he does a very good job of using his hands to shed blocks. His range is absolutely phenomenal and he has great lateral quickness. He knows how to use his length to shed blocks (that’s why he gets TFL’s) and his excellent speed combined with his above average fluidity makes him a demon in pursuit of the ball (that’s why he gets tackles). Also, what I can’t help but admire in Collins is that even when Southern Mississippi’s season went into the toilet he never stopped playing hard. That jumped out at me in the Southern Methodist game, where Collins, playing for an 0-9 team, really played with great passion in a 34-6 loss. He’s a tough guy. Right now, he doesn’t have anywhere near enough strength to be playing end at the NFL level, but, if he adds 20lbs, it’s definitely a possibility. He sounds short a bit short at 6’3, but there’s a misconception about height when it comes to linemen, both offensive and defensive. Height, by itself, is perceived as an advantage for linemen, when, in fact, it isn’t. The low man wins in football, so being really tall makes getting good leverage difficult for linemen, unless they have incredible flexibility. The reason why height is perceived as a good thing is that there is a strong correlation between height and arm length, and the advantage of long arms usually more than makes up for the disadvantage of height. However, in Collins’ case, he may be 6’3, but he has the arms of a guy who is 6’5 at 33 6/8 inches, making defensive end a legitimate possibility. He also has more than enough range, tons of flexibility, and well honed instincts at the position. However, he could do a better job of using his size to get better leverage against the run, often playing high and off balance.
Collins does a little bit of everything against the pass, and he has a lot of potential. He’s an average pass rusher for an end, but he has the potential to be very good. He’s not the quickest guy off the ball and he only gets average leverage (he should do better there given his flexibility), but he has phenomenal speed and change of direction skills. He also uses great fundamentals, flashing a variety of pass rush moves, and this is where his potential lies, in a poor man’s Aldon Smith like manner. He has good length for his size (the difference is that Smith has incredible length for his size), and he knows how to use his hands, just like Smith. Hand usage and pass rush moves are all about one thing; controlling the arms of the opposing offensive lineman. Don’t let them get a finger on you. To dominate with hand usage, you need long arms (Collins is slightly above average for a defensive end) so you can reach linemen before they reach you, good fundamentals (check), and the strength needed to move the arms of opposing linemen wherever you please. Collins is lacking in the latter. He’s 2 for 3, and he’s got the hardest thing down, being the fundamentals, which he has not quite achieved a level of mastery yet but is still well above the learning curve for a guy who has only been playing end for 2 years (did I mention that?) and already solid by the standards of NFL defensive linemen. If Collins adds strength and gets to 270lbs, his hand usage gives him the potential to be a guy who gets 120+ sacks in his career. But, if defensive end doesn’t work out, he has a future as a linebacker, because he’s awesome in coverage. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given he’s a former safety, and he moves like a safety to this very day. I don’t see him in coverage very often, as he lines up in a 3 point stance more often than a 2 (about 4/5 of the time), but, when he is in coverage, you almost never see him make mistakes. He’s a really good athlete that covers a lot of ground (especially laterally), plus his excellent length and fluidity give him the potential to be really good at covering tight ends at the NFL level. He also has excellent instincts in coverage and solid ball skills.
I’d like to bring up the comparison of Collins to Dion Jordan. The biggest perceived difference between the two is height. Jordan is 6’6, while Collins in 6’3. However, as I stated earlier, height isn’t actually an advantage for defensive linemen. The only reason it is perceived as one is because it correlates with arm length, and the advantage of long arms more than offsets the disadvantage (in terms of leverage) that comes from being very tall. In terms of arm length, Jordan only has an 1/8 inch advantage over Collins, so nothing significant there. Collins is 250lbs and ran a 4.64 at the combine while Jordan is 248lbs and ran a 4.60 at the combine. No significant advantage there, plus Collins did significantly better in all the other test of athleticism, such as vertical jump and broad jump. From a strength perspective, subjectively, they’re similar. Against the run, Collins is years ahead of Jordan, for both have mediocre strength but Collins has good instincts, while Jordan has awful instincts (stats aren’t everything, but Collins had twice as many tackles as Jordan last year). Against the pass, Jordan’s supporters say he has the potential to be Aldon Smith if he learns how to use his length and add strength. Collins already knows how to use his length but, like Jordan, needs strength. The difference in fundamentals is why Collins got 10 sacks last year while Jordan got 5. Both are terrific in coverage. The only advantage Jordan really has on Collins is Alma mater. So why Jordan is a top 3 pick while Collins is a 3rd round pick is beyond me. In the end, Collins is one of the draft’s most underrated players while Jordan is one of the most overrated.
NFL Comparison: A poor man’s Aldon Smith. Collins is much skinnier and not as strong Smith, and Collins’ length/hand usage are merely good while Smith is ridiculously good, but Collins is a bit more athletic. If Collins bulks up, the only difference between the two will be length/hand usage.
Grade: 93 (worthy of a late first round pick)
Projection: 80 (will be a late second to early third round pick).