As a tackle, La’el Collins is a very good player, just not the best in college, but look at the way he demonstrates ease-of-movement flowing as a trap blocker. Research showed that he had 23 downfield blocks in 2013 and 14 more as a senior. The average for offensive linemen taken in the first three rounds of the 2014 draft was 8.22.
Collins excels at stalking linebackers, as he demonstrates an explosive burst accelerating into the second level and the change of direction agility to make plays working down the line. He has great ease-of-movement and is by far the best trap blocker in college, but with that burst, balance and body control, most scouts feel that he can be the best guard prospect in this draft class, favorably comparing him to Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, who dominated in a move to guard, earning Pro Bowl status this year with the Dallas Cowboys.
Collins has good foot speed and quickness getting out of his stance and runs with a normal stride, showing a strong concept for angling when working into the second level. He demonstrates the body control to make hits on the move and on contact, he delivers the strength and the hand punch to shock and jolt his opponent. He displays fluid change of direction agility, doing a nice job of using his long arms effectively to pinch the defensive line back inside.
The Tiger senior has the straight-line speed to surprise a lethargic defender and has become a power-oriented blocker who has developed an aggressive nature. It is rare to see him fooled by twists or games, as he is good at adjusting to whatever the defender dictates, doing a nice job of keeping his hands inside his frame for counter moves.
Collins’s initial quickness lets him gain position and on contact. He has the hand punch, long reach and strength to adjust, sustain and finish. He uses his size and upper body strength well to absorb smaller defenders. He works hard to stay on his feet, but must maintain a low pad level to be effective. He is rarely on the ground, doing a solid job of using his hands to tie up his opponent.
Some teams might want to look at him as an offensive guard, as he shows the knee bend and thrust off the snap to stall interior defenders and neutralize stunts when working in-line. In 2012, playing guard, he was highly effective maintaining contact when moving laterally, using his hands to combat opponents trying to latch on to his jersey. He also demonstrates the pad level, base and surge off the snap to be dominant of traps and pulls.
Collins plays with good aggression and whether utilizing his hand punch to stall edge rushers working on an island or working the combo block with his left guard, he consistently gains position. He is consistent keeping his pads down, doing a nice job of walling off and widening the rush lanes. He has better agility shuffling and moving his feet to sustain as a senior than in previous seasons.
His balance and body control really stand out on film now, as he seems to be taking better angles to screen and gain good movement upon contact. He also shows the ability to be an adequate cut and reach blocker when he plays with alertness and does not narrow his base (in the past, he would sometimes get hesitant, making him look slow to engage).
Because of poor quality at the quarterback position, LSU had to rely more on their power-run offense in 2014, rarely throwing the ball in the fourth quarter, making their passing game very predictable, but Collins shows the ability to recover and redirect in his pass set. He has the ability to sink his hips and consistently deliver a strong punch (almost never takes lazy sets).
The senior’s potential as a guard in the NFL is due to his ability to get to the collision point very effectively. He also shows above average shuffle and fluid on the move when having to mirror edge rushers or retreat to protect the pocket. During his last two seasons, you can see the marked improvement when he sets with quickness and a good base to anchor.
Collins excels at extending his long arms to adjust to counter moves. With his quickness and improved foot work, he should have no problems sliding and reaching his set point at the next level (his kick and slide is much more fluid than in the past). He has enough quickness to recoil and recover inside and brings his hands up properly, especially when in tight areas or working in combination with his offensive guard and tight end. With his authority to control and adjust to his defender, he has had great success in widening rush lanes.
La’el Collins NFL Scouting Combine measurable
6-4/305 (5.12 forty)
33 1/4-inch arm length
10 3/8-inch hands
27-inch vertical jump
108-inch broad jump
7.70 3 cone drill
4.63 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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