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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Zaven Collins OLB/EDGE, Tulsa

Background

There seems to be a trend among the players I’m covering outside of the Power-5. Collins and Trey Lance were both little known prospects who had one huge year to elevate them into the 2021 NFL Draft’s First Round. Collins was listed as the 2,142nd ranked prospect during the 2017 recruiting cycle. However, Collins will not go as high as Lance, but he might be the better overall prospect.

Collins had a solid career at Tulsa playing for the Golden Hurricanes. He played in 32 total games for Tulsa over his career. He totaled 236 tackles, eight passes defended, 7.5 sacks, 25.0 tackles for loss, and five interceptions. As a freshman, Collins was selected to the first team Freshman All-American team. On top of that, in 2020, he won both the Nagurski and the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defender and best linebacker.

Collins isn’t built like other linebacker prospects. He has a tight end’s body, with the length of a wide receiver. Collins also put on 40 pounds of muscle during his career at Tulsa. The native Oklahoman stands a 6’4 so he’s lethal in coverage over the middle, and can even be an edge rusher once in a while. Overall Collins is the new type of NFL Player, a position-less defender. He can play outside linebacker, middle, run support safety, and even blitz off the edge. Other players of his type are Isaiah Simmons and Derwin James, even though Collins isn’t as fast as those two, he’s bigger and can cover well.

Zaven Collins Scouting Report

Height: 6’4

Weight: 260 lbs.

Career Statistics: See Above

School: Tulsa

Awards: Bronco Nagurski Trophy (2020), Check Bednarik Award (2020) Freshman All-American, Lombardi Award, Unanimous All-American (2020), AAC Defensive Player of the Year (2020), First Team All-AAC (2020), Second Team All-AAC (2019)

Pros:

  1. Size and Length: As I said above, Collins doesn’t have the body that a lot of linebackers do. He’s 6’4 and long, which helps him in pretty much all facets of football.
  2. Pursuit: Collins will never give up on a play. He showed time and time again in college, that just because a runner broke free, it doesn’t mean he’s going to score.
  3. Reads and Reaction: His reads and reaction from the linebacker spot are incredible. He was a master in college versus the read-option, so with more teams implementing that in the NFL, Collins is clearly useful.
  4. Coverage: Collins is the best coverage linebacker I’ve seen in the NFL draft since Myles Jack in the 2016 NFL Draft

Cons:

  1. Bad Competition: Say what you will about the AAC this year, but they did have a truce title contender in Cincinnati. However, NFL scouts have proved time and time again, your competition matters for the draft.
  2. Improve His Pass Rush: During his 32 games at Tulsa, he only had 7.5 sacks, which can be partly blamed on coaching, however sometimes Collins is quick to make a read and drop into coverage.
  3. Experience: Honestly, just like Lance, we just need to see more game film of him, to see where he can grow the most, and unfortunately, that means his rookie season could pretty much go any direction possible.

Pro Comparison: Bigger Eric Kendricks (Vikings)

Draft Projection: Mid – Late First Round

Film To Watch: Tulsa Vs UCF (2020): This entire film sums up Collins in one game. He had 10 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and two passes defended in this game. True position-less player. If he can get faster, it’s possible some schemes could move him into a run support safety.

Zaven Collins vs UCF (2020)

Follow Me on Twitter: @BrownlojCLE

Coming Next: Carlos Basham EDGE, Wake Forest (Wednesday, Tomorrow)

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