Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jamie Collins: Future Star?

I figured I would continue to mention a few players that I am excited about, who haven't become household names yet, while things are still quiet in the NFL world.  Some may fail to become anything, but all of them have the sort of rare athleticism (surprise!) or production, that should give them an excellent chance at success.

Jamie Collins was a defensive end/outside linebacker, who played at Southern Miss.  He was drafted with the 52nd pick, in 2013, by the Patriots.  He averaged 19.75 tackles for a loss in his last two years in college, and is an absolute physical freak.  Here is how he compares to some of the other alleged pass rushers who were selected ahead of him.

Player                         Weight      Kang. Score    Agility Score      Total      Avg. TFL   Pick #
Jamie Collins2502.0990.3551.26619.7552
Dion Jordan248-0.2160.4260.02111.753
Ziggy Ansah2710.8940.5020.62813*5
Barkevious Mingo2410.3950.5660.43011.756
Jarvis Jones245-1.243-1.304-1.2162217
Bjoern Werner266-0.280-0.251-0.22014.524

I can't say that Jamie Collins will become the best NFL player on this list.  All I can say is that he was the most athletically gifted and productive player on this list.  Barkevious Mingo and Ziggy Ansah have respectable numbers too (though Ansah's TFL numbers came from just one year), so I wouldn't write either of them off.  Ansah could actually be quite a strong candidate for success, with only a lack of experience/production  holding him back in the eyes of the computer.  Jamie's Kangaroo Score is what really steals the show.  You're not going to find many players who are that explosive.  Depending on how things play out, there could be some GMs that will have to explain why their physically inferior and less productive pass rushers seemed like better bets.

Overall, 2013 didn't strike me as a terribly good year for pass rushers, despite some of the hype that surrounded certain players.  Dion Jordan, Jarvis Jones, and Bjoern Werner all strike me as likely candidates to become disappointments.  That might seem harsh, but it would fit the typical failure rate for these positions.  Today's shining hope, is tomorrow's bum.  One other player, who was a very exciting and productive pass rusher, is Cornelius Carradine, but he couldn't perform at the combine or his pro day, so I won't say much about his career outlook.

You can also look here for a general overview of how these scores compare to some of the explosive linebackers and defensive ends that are already established in the NFL.  According to my normal methods for these things, I would have had to give Jamie Collins a first round grade.  He has the athleticism, and he had the required production.  The computer suggests he was the safest pass rushing prospect in the draft.  Not necessarily the best, just the safest.  He may not become the next James Harrison or Demarcus Ware, but I think the likelihood of him busting is very low.  In many ways, when I've watched him play, he strikes me as more of a 4-3 OLB, as he doesn't look quite as powerful or violent as a player like Carradine when he is rushing the QB.  Still, I'll go along with the computer, since nobody else in the first two rounds really interested me nearly as much as Collins (at least among the pass rushers). Anyone who wants to laugh at that ludicrous theory is free to.  We'll see what happens.  Maybe the computer is having a bad year.

While the computer would suggest a first round grade for him, I think getting him in the second works out much better, and makes more sense.  One of the issues for Collins is his playing weight.  In college he played at about 240# before bulking up to 250# for the combine.  If he were to drop back to 240, he might not have the weight to bull rush, which is what his Kangaroo Score suggests he is suited to do.  He also might not really have the sort of exceptional agility that you normally see amongst successful lightweight pass rushers (it's good, just not exceptional).  Lighter pass rushers really need to be fairly nimble to avoid getting mauled by offensive tackles.  Staying up around 250# or so, could be important for his success, as well as embracing the bull rush a bit more than he seems to have done in college.  He seemed to run around blockers a bit more than I would like to see, when playing at Southern Miss.  It's not that he can't continue to do this.  It's just that I think he would do better if he embraced the lower body power that he seems to possess.

His tendency, from the little bit I've seen of him, to try to avoid blockers, or to just beat them at the snap, isn't necessarily a bad thing at all.  If it works, go with it.  Still, not taking better advantage of the one truly exceptional physical trait he has, explosive power, is something of a concern for me.  It may seem stupid to want him to attack opponents head on, rather than going around them, but the numbers suggest he could do very well at this.  If you are big, play big.  If you are fast, play fast.  If you are agile, then use those nimble toes of yours.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are players who seem to try to play as if they are imitating the style of someone else, rather than embracing what they do best.  These peculiar situations could also be due to coaches, who just want things done a particular way, rather than seeing that a player's style is better suited for something else (this happens a lot, I believe).  Square peg, round hole.  Regardless, I do like Collins as a prospect, and getting him in the 2nd round, rather than the 1st, quells pretty much all of my concerns, from an investment/risk perspective.

Sometimes, when all the draft hoopla is at its craziest, people get a bit carried away with tagging certain prospects as future Pro Bowlers, and forget how often these things don't work out.  You can never really know for sure what a player will do with their talents.  I prefer to look at players in terms of the risks they present, rather than the potential rewards.  If you can draft seven guys who all have a good floor, things should work out pretty well for you.  One or two may even become exceptional.  Jamie Collins would seem to fit that criteria.  Worst case?  He becomes an adequate role player.  Best case?  His exceptional athleticism lets him become one of the better pass rushers in the league.  I'll take that deal every single time.

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