The Dallas Cowboys selected some defensive help they can use in 2016 in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday, taking Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins.
Collins' selection came after the Cowboys stunned league observers by taking Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round, a player that most likely will not play in 2016 due to an ACL and MCL tear at the Fiesta Bowl.
That won't be the case with Collins.
Collins (6-2, 311 pounds) is considered a three-technique tackle, which makes him a good fit for the Cowboys, who are looking for depth behind starter Tyrone Crawford.
Collins' best season came in 2014, when he played inside with current Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory, a second-round pick last year. Collins notched 10 1/2 tackles for loss in the final 10 games of that season. Along the way he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors and was named the Huskers' co-defensive MVP after notching 45 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 of his seven career sacks.
His production dropped in 2015 as Collins managed 29 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 2 1/2 sacks to earn third-team All-Big Ten honors. Collins and the Cornhuskers underwent a coaching change last season, going from Bo Pelini to Mike Riley.
Scouts like Collins' explosiveness off the line of scrimmage, but seem a bit wary of the drop in production last season, unsure if it was due to the scheme change or other factors. He possesses interesting athleticism as he was a wrestling champion in high school, failing to lose a match his senior year.
He has drawn comparisons to former Cowboys tackle Henry Melton.
Collins becomes immediate competition for playing time behind Crawford, and his progress is worth monitoring considering Gregory will miss the first four games of 2016 due to a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. In addition the Cowboys may lose end Demarcus Lawrence for the same length of time, if his suspension for a similar violation is not overturned on appeal.
Collins joins a defense with three other tackles that come in at 300 pounds or more — Cedric Thornton, Terrell McClain and Casey Walker.
Collins represented the final pick of the second day of the NFL Draft for the Cowboys. Along with Smith, the Cowboys selected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott on Day 1 with the fourth overall selection.
The Cowboys have six picks going into the draft's final day on Saturday:
Round 4: No. 101 overall
Round 4: No. 135 overall (compensatory pick)
Round 6: No. 189 overall
Round 6: No. 212 overall (compensatory pick)
Round 6: No. 216 overall (compensatory pick)
Round 6: No. 217 overall (compensatory pick)