Experienced and successful against good college talent
Should be able to play immediately
Can get burned in man coverage
Not an isolation safety on a tight end or slot receiver
Not a rangy safety
Lacks versatility to play deep free safety
Summary: Alabama has been a factory for defensive back talent, especially at the safety position. Collins is likely to be the Crimson Tide's third safety drafted in the first round during the last four years. Not only does Alabama churn out pro safeties, head coach Nick Saban coaches the defensive backs himself and gets them ready for the next level. A safety has to be intelligent and disciplined to see the field for Saban, and Collins definitely fits those criteria as he is the consensus top safety prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Collins recorded 103 tackles with seven passes broken up and three interceptions in 2014. He totaled 70 tackles with four tackles for a loss, six passes broken up, one interception and two forced fumbles in 2013. Collins did have some struggles against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl that season.
Sources with NFL teams say that Collins has some limitations in pass coverage. Those could be seen in a few games in 2014 like the contests against Auburn and Mississippi State, but especially taking on Ole Miss. Versus the Rebels, Collins was picked on and burned for two touchdowns, but it should have been even worse as he was beaten for another long touchdown by a tight end who ended up dropping the pass. He had strong performances to finish the season, and his best game was probably against Florida early in the year.
At the Combine, Collins ran faster than expected with a 40 time of 4.53 seconds. He also moved well in the field drills.
Collins isn't a rangy center fielder and can struggle to play man coverage on tight ends and wide receivers in the deep part of the field. At the next level, he'll need to be protected from those kind of mismatches with a quality free safety to handle those duties. Collins is a physical tackler and a good run-defender in the tackle box.
Sources feel that, in the NFL, Collins is going to be better playing closer to the line of scrimmage and should excel as the eighth man in the box. He is an excellent run-defender as he is a reliable tackler and also puts ball-carriers down with authority. Collins operates well in zone coverage and does well defending the short to intermediate part of the field.
Collins stands a good chance of being selected in the top half of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and he should hear his name called on Thursday night.
Player Comparison: Mark Barron/Matt Elam/D.J. Swearinger. My sources have compared Collins to three other NFL safeties: D.J. Swearinger, Matt Elam and Mark Barron. Those safeties and Collins all have limitations in pass coverage and at lining up in man. Collins is said to be a bigger version of Elam and Swearginer, and not as long as Barron. They all are tough run-defenders who can lay the lumber and serve as the eighth man in the box. Barron was a reach in the top 10 a few drafts ago. Elam was taken late in the first round, while Swearinger was a second-round pick. Collins also will be an early-round selection.
NFL Matches: Washington, Chicago, New York Giants, Kansas City, Miami, Cleveland, Philadelphia
The safety position can be a hard position to project because not all teams weigh it in the same manner. Some teams feel that safeties are better values on the second day of the NFL draft and in the mid-rounds. Thus, the right fit for Collins may not be in the group above.
The highest that Collins could hope to go would be to the Redskins. Washington has had an extreme lack of talent at safety, which could help change. However, sources with the Redskins prefer rangy safeties who are interchangeable and can cover. Collins really doesn't fit that.
Chicago needs to improve its safeties as they were a serious weakness in 2014. If Brock Vereen pans out as the free safety, Collins could step in at strong safety and give the Bears a young duo. Collins would be an upgrade over Chris Conte.
The Giants are old at safety and could stand to improve the middle of their defense. With the way Collins defends in the tackle box, he also could help compensate for a weakness at linebacker for New York.
The Chiefs could use a strong safety to pair with Eric Berry, and Collins could also help Kansas City if Berry misses some time.
The Dolphins could use a safety to pair with Reshad Jones. Louis Delmas is too injury prone to be relied upon as a long-term starter and he may not be back with the team. Miami general manager Dennis Hickey drafted Mark Barron with Tampa Bay and Collins is a similar safety.
Cleveland doesn't have an immediate need at safety, but Donte Whitner is aging, so if Collins is the best player available when the Browns pick, they could land their long-term replacement for Whitner.
Last but not least, Philadelphia has a huge need at safety. If Collins is there for the Eagles, it would make a lot of sense from a value perspective for them to land the top safety in the 2015 NFL Draft at No. 20.