2022 NFL Draft Profile: Zyon McCollum, DB, Sam Houston State

In this 2022 NFL Draft Profile we highlight the uber-athletic defensive back out of the FCS school Sam Houston State, Zyon McCollum.

Profile

Height – 6’2

Weight – 199 Pounds

DOB – May 3, 1999 (22 years old)

School – Sam Houston State

Position – Defensive Back

Arm Length – 30 3/4”

Hand Size – 9”

Wingspan – 74”

40-Yard Dash – 4.33 Seconds

Vertical Jump – 39.5”

Broad Jump – 11’0”

3-Cone – 6.48 Seconds

Background

Zyon McCollum began his athletic career at Galveston Ball High School, in his hometown of Galveston, Texas. While attending the school, McCollum starred on the gridiron and in the classroom. He became a captain for the football team, earning a three-star rating from 247Sports and adding a first team all-academic selection to his resume as a senior.

The first offer that McCollum received came from FCS powerhouse, Sam Houston State. He had bigger aspirations though. A mere two days later, McCollum got exactly what he was looking for. The University of Utah extended a full ride scholarship to the driven defensive back from Texas. After mulling it over for a few days, McCollum committed to the Utes on June 16, 2016.

However, citing a long discussion with family and many prayers, McCollum decommitted from Utah in November of the same year. Kyle Wittingham is very picky in terms of the type of player he looks for, so to get an offer from him speaks volumes to McCollum’s character. There were no hard feelings and the entire staff wished him well in his future endeavors.

Following this decision, McCollum opened up his recruiting once again, with his lone offer being his very first one from Sam Houston State. He was contacted by Tulane, and subsequently offered a scholarship soon thereafter. McCollum struggled to decide, taking well over a month to weigh the pros and cons of each option. Ultimately, he chose to stay home and commit to the school that wanted him all along.

With the difficult stuff now in the rearview, McCollum was in the clear to do the fun part — play football. It did not take long for his infectious energy to seep over to the locker room. He served as a team leader early in his career, starting ten games as a freshman in 2017. His three interceptions marked the first time a true freshman at Sam Houston State was able to accomplish that feat since 2001.

He matched that number in each of the following two seasons, giving him a total of nine interceptions heading into his senior season on campus. With a growing reputation as a ballhawk and someone you don’t want to target in pass coverage, McCollum began seeing less opportunities. Who can really blame offensive coordinators for throwing away from a lockdown cornerback?

Still, even amid the pandemic, McCollum excelled in 2020. He essentially took away half of the field each week, causing opposing teams’ to cut their playbook down severely. McCollum took advantage of an extra year of eligibility offered due to COVID, returning to Sam Houston State for a fifth season that saw his interception numbers resurface. He again picked off three passes, bringing his career total to 13! Incredible statistics for a cornerback that everyone knows they shouldn’t throw at.

McCollum parlayed this success into an invite to the prestigious Senior Bowl, held annually in Mobile, Alabama for the top senior prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. While in Mobile, McCollum proved that he belonged. He was regularly found hounding receivers, glued to their hips at every move. There were a few times that McCollum looked a bit overwhelmed, but those issues disappeared by the end of the week. He displayed a true willingness to learn and improve, something that surely stuck out to the slew of NFL scouts in attendance.

His impressive offseason didn’t end there. McCollum made his way to Indianapolis for the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He somehow one-upped the Senior Bowl performance by testing at a level that has never been reached before, literally. With a pristine RAS of 10, McCollum is perched atop a cornerback list that features 1923 other names. “Generational athlete” is a term thrown around far too often, but this guy isn’t even generational: he is a one-of-one.

Now that we have detailed his journey to the 2022 NFL Draft, let’s take a deeper look at what makes Zyon McCollum one of the most intriguing prospects this draft season.

2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Best Traits

Athleticism – Duh. This one goes without saying, but McCollum is one of the best pure athletes in this entire draft. He uses this god-given athleticism to stalk pass catchers downfield. He also possesses otherworldly range, giving some scouts the belief that he could excel at safety as well as cornerback. The closing speed is exceptional, and no matter what, McCollum is NEVER out of a play.

Man-Coverage – McCollum is not only agile as an athlete, he can be extremely physical. Especially in press coverage and when receivers reach the top of their routes. He routinely breaks their rhythm, disrupting the timing between the pass catchers’ and their quarterback. This happened numerous times in Mobile during one-on-one drills. Another feather in his cap is the ability to mirror receivers. It’s almost like he has a sixth sense for knowing the play before it’s ran.

Ball Skills – As I highlighted earlier, McCollum has a nose for the football. He intercepted 13 passes over the course of his collegiate career, and broke up nearly 40 more of them. Two times, McCollum was able to return an interception for six points. Once as a sophomore versus Houston Baptist and another as a junior versus Oklahoma Panhandle State. The former Bearkat is a true playmaker at the cornerback position.

Leadership – McCollum is not just a leader on the field, but also in the classroom. He was a member of the all-academic team in high school and that followed him to college. Furthermore, McCollum held locker room captain duties at both levels. Many times, the team looked to their star defensive back to light the path, and every single time, McCollum answered the call. From interceptions, to pass break ups, to hard hitting tackles… he brings the energy to any defensive unit.

Potential – Although he played five seasons at Sam Houston State and is slightly older than some of his contemporaries, McCollum contains as much potential in his 6’2, 199 pound frame as anyone in this class — regardless of position. A competent defensive coordinator should be able to mold this athletic marvel of a human into a superstar on the boundary. McCollum just needs to clean up his technique a bit and the sky is the limit for the Galveston native.

Needs Improvement

Reps vs Premier Talent – This one really can’t be blamed on McCollum. Unfortunately, the strength of competition on the FCS level simply doesn’t compare to that of the NFL. The tape available on McCollum shows that he is among the best cover corners in the draft, however outside of his showing at the Senior Bowl, very little of it has come versus NFL-caliber players. Until he shows that it will translate to the highest level, these questions will continue to linger.

Tackling  – Perhaps the most disappointing part of McCollum’s game is his tendency to over-pursue tackles. Too many times he takes himself (and his teammates) out of the play by trying to play hero ball. That term is usually saved for the offensive side of the ball, but when you watch McCollum you instantly see that it fits his defensive style. He is such a superb athlete, it is hard to hold it against him for thinking that every tackle should be his. I admire the effort and willingness to get nasty, but sometimes it is best to live to fight another day.

Too “Grabby” – While most of his technique is consistent and on-point, there is one big drawback that could hinder his ability to get the job done on Sundays. The physical edge that he plays with is great, but at times he can become too grabby. What this means is, while defending receivers down field, he can get in the habit of tugging on the jersey or making contact after the allotted five-yard window. In the NFL you can get away with physical play, but savvy wide receivers will take advantage of inexperienced guys by drawing a number of pass interference penalties.

Final Thoughts

Zyon McCollum is one of the most athletic players that any of us will ever have the luxury of seeing in our lifetime, and obviously tops in the 2022 NFL Draft. He glides around the football field effortlessly, but brings a mean streak to the position that is necessary for success. McCollum thrives in one-on-one opportunities, and is the epitome of a “ball hawk”. He amassed 13 interceptions at Sam Houston State, and with that combination of production and athleticism, there is no doubt that McCollum has high-end starter potential at cornerback or as a safety.

He must refine some of the more technical aspects of the game to stick at corner, but all of that can be learned. You cannot teach his instincts as a player, nor his mythical prowess as an athlete. Right now, I have a strong round-two grade on McCollum and believe he will be a starting cornerback (or safety) early in his career.