In the months leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, a lot of people projected the Detroit Lions to take an offensive tackle in the first round. To go a step further, several mock drafts had the Lions taking LSU's La'el Collins at No. 23, although it sort of seemed unlikely that he would actually fall that far.
As it turned out, Collins didn't even get drafted at all. Right before the draft, he essentially became undraftable thanks to the uncertainty surrounding his potential connection to a woman who was murdered. Collins wasn't ruled out as a potential suspect until after the draft, and no teams decided to risk a pick on him, even in the seventh round.
As a result of this, Collins became the most highly sought-after undrafted free agent in NFL history. Nearly every team in the league pursued Collins, including the Lions, as we now know. Initially, it wasn't clear if the Lions had interest in him given their aversion to players with any sort of red flags, but based on what Collins told the Detroit Free Press at the NFL Rookie Symposium last week, it's clear the Lions pursued him.
"I talked to coach Caldwell briefly, like, a day after the draft," Collins said. "First of all, he just wanted me to know he was here for me and that if I needed anything, I could talk to him or if I needed to talk to him, things like that.
"And honestly, I went on a visit to Detroit and I had a great talk with coach Caldwell while I was there, I had a great meeting with them. We connected in a big way. It was nothing but love and respect for him. I think he's a great coach; I think they're going to be a great team."
I'm assuming Collins was referring to his pre-draft visit with the Lions that took place a week before the draft. At that point, he was still viewed as a likely first-round pick. Only later did things change so suddenly, and he ultimately ended up signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Per the Free Press, Collins said he did give serious consideration to joining the Lions instead, but Dallas turned out to be the place that was "best" for him.
It sure would have been nice to add a first-round talent like Collins as an undrafted free agent, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the health of right tackle LaAdrian Waddle. Getting both Collins and offensive guard Laken Tomlinson out of the same draft would have been quite amazing, but alas, things just didn't work out that way. I'm glad the Lions at least made an effort to land Collins, but given that almost every team pursued him, it was always going to be tough for them to pull this signing off.