With the 16th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals took Zaven Collins, a gifted linebacker out of Tulsa. Collins’ combination of size, speed, and power has helped shape his skills as a pass rusher, wrecking ball in run defense and a premier coverage linebacker. He makes great tackles in space, shows spectacular run pursuit, and has good ball skills for a linebacker when playing in coverage.
Collins is another Cardinals’ linebacker that can play multiple positions, which could be a pro or con for the team. His versatility brings the opportunity for the Arizona Cardinals to move him around the formation but it could also stunt his growth early which they have seen in the past. The hope is that with all of their versatile players they will be able to confuse opposing offenses and if it all comes together it could be a devastating combination, but fans have to be leary of another first-round linebacker.
The pairing of Collins and Isaiah Simmons will create an extremely dynamic and versatile linebacker duo, putting these two players that can play multiple positions together will create problems for opposing teams as both linebackers will be able to rush the passer and play in coverage. However, look for Collins to slowly be worked into the linebacker room during Jordan Hicks last year of his contract.
Cardinals fans have gone through this before and need to be aware that Collins will most likely not start right away. Vance Joseph has made it a trend in the past to not start his defensive draft picks right away. Collins may work in quicker than Simmons did in 2020 due to a less interrupted offseason and the simple fact he plays more of a standard linebacker role than the Simmons hybrid role he played at Clemson.
With Markus Golden and Chandler Jones starting at outside linebacker the Arizona Cardinals will have options to rush the passer at every level including JJ Watt and Jordan Phillips on the defensive line, and Budda Baker and Byron Murphy from the secondary. If this group can mesh together, the Cardinals could become a true defensive threat, but they still have a huge hole to fill at outside corner. This is where fans could and should be worried as they are one injury away from an undrafted rookie being on the field again in 2021.