The Detroit Lions need to invest for the future and find an eventual replacement for Rashean Mathis. They've already brought in several cornerback prospects for pre-draft visits and have targeted a few long/athletic outside CBs like Alex Carter, P.J. Williams and Eric Rowe. LSU CB Jalen Collins is not a guy who has visited with the Lions, but he does fit the bill of what they're looking for in a CB, and he's also been linked to Detroit in recent mock drafts (including our SB Nation writers mock).
Jalen Collins started in just 10 of his 41 career games. After having his ups and downs in coverage, he ended up losing his starting job about halfway through last season. He decided to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft as a redshirt junior, despite receiving the "return to school" grade from the draft committee.
Pro Football Focus is pretty high on Collins with their new CFF stats. According to their signature stats, he gave up just 18 catches on 44 targets (40.9 percent) last year.
Collins is a nice athlete and has the frame that teams are looking for in an outside CB. He posted the third-fastest 3-cone time at 6.77 seconds.
For all of the talk indicating that Collins has a tremendous amount of upside, he's actually not that spectacular of an athlete compared to other CBs in this class when looking at his SPARQ rating (explained here).
Most of the focus toward Collins' game is attributed to his technical flaws, and I can't blame folks for doing so. He has some serious issues with technique, but he's also great in other areas.
Can't Be Beat Deep
Collins is nearly impossible to beat on go routes. He may not always get the right hand on you when jamming, but he has nice recovery speed and does a great job of getting physical and forcing receivers off their line.
Once you get an outside release on Collins, it's pretty much game over from there. Even when he opens his hips a little too early, or is unable to burst out of his backpedal, he still has the speed to recover and the arm length to knock passes away, just like in the play above.
Here's another nice example where Collins manages to get physical, this time pushing Cooper off his line and forcing the incompletion. It happens to be one of the only plays where he's able to get the best of Cooper.
As I previously mentioned above, Collins really puts his physicality to good use. It allows him to get great position and often wipe players out of the play (sometimes literally) on comeback and go routes.
This is exactly what I mean. In this GIF it looks like Collins gives up the catch despite playing great coverage. What you don't see is that the official actually calls an "illegal touching" penalty because the receiver voluntarily ran out of bounds and around Collins to make the catch.
I don't think there is a corner even at the NFL level who could stop Cooper from making this catch. This is just a perfect back-shoulder throw, and Collins actually does a really nice job of defending it. He does a great job of jamming Cooper and manages to turn his head, but is just a split-second away from getting a hand on the ball. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the offense.
Collins is arguably the best tackling CB out there, and this play is a real testament to how great he is in run support. I love defensive backs who are willing to charge in head first and make the play rather than letting it come to them, and that's exactly what he does here. I love the reaction after the play too. There's no doubt this kid loves to play football.
Poor Technique and Change of Direction
Collins is still very raw, so it comes as no surprise that he needs a lot of technique work before transitioning to the pros. My main concern is his stiff hips and poor reaction time. Despite posting a solid 3-cone time, he appears to have slow feet on tape and extremely questionable change-of-direction speed. Perhaps this could just be a lack of instincts and/or experience.
This play is tough to watch on so many different levels. First of all, you can tell that Collins has his eyes peeled on Cooper's shoulders rather than his hips. Once this happens, you've already lost the play. As Cooper is already in the process of cutting inside, Collins continues to backpedal and reacts way too slowly to close the gap.
With the ball already in Cooper's possession, Collins then takes a lazy route to try and bring Cooper down and gets stiff-armed into the ground as a result. This is just an ugly play all around for Collins, but that's what happens when you match up a raw prospect -- playing one of the hardest positions in football -- against the most polished receiver in the draft.
Collins' struggles continue in off-man coverage. It's probably the worst part of his game. He has a tendency of rounding his cuts when changing directions, and you can see what I mean in the play above. The ball is already in the air, and instead of taking a hard cut toward the receiver to close the gap, Collins takes a wide turn and is unable to jar the ball loose. If he's able to plant his foot in the ground and take a direct route toward the receiver, he probably breaks up the play.
Another concern I have is his tendency to play the outside and give up virtually the entire inside of the field to the receiver. You don't like to see a DB give up the inside release as easily as Collins does, so that's something else he'll have to work on at the next level.
This is also not a great look for a DB:
DeAndrew White was trying to catch this ball. Jalen Collins just wanted to hold hands. pic.twitter.com/AkLKLXUcTw— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) April 16, 2015
How He Fits
It's pretty obvious what you're getting with a guy like Jalen Collins. He's a raw athlete who will struggle early in his career, but really has the potential to be great. I honestly believe that the best situation for Collins to develop would have to be on the Detroit Lions. He'd be able to work with a DB guru like Teryl Austin and not be forced to start right away. Not to mention he'd have Rashean Mathis as his mentor and Darius Slay to pick up a few tips from as well.
Collins is a late second to early third round talent to me, but I'd feel comfortable drafting him in the second round if I'm Martin Mayhew. It wouldn't completely shock me if he was drafted in the first round, judging by how weak the top of this draft truly is. Regardless, with the recent love affair between NFL teams and tall CBs, you better believe that plenty of GMs are going to be loving the idea of taking on Jalen Collins as a project.
2015 NFL Draft profiles: OT T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh), RB Duke Johnson (Miami [FL]), CB Eric Rowe (Utah), DT Michael Bennett (Ohio State), CB Quinten Rollins (Miami [OH]), DT Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), OT Ereck Flowers (Miami [FL]), DT Malcom Brown (Texas), RB Jay Ajayi (Boise State), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA), DT Carl Davis (Iowa), OT D.J. Humphries (Florida), CB Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), DT Xavier Cooper (Washington State), OT Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M)
Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any suggestions of prospects you would like to be profiled in the comments below.