NFL Hot Press: Teams See Zaven Collins as Potential First-Rounder

Teams See Zaven Collins as Potential First-Rounder

Updated Dec. 18, 2020
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

One could make the argument that Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins has been the best defensive player in college football this season. With the top talents like Gregory Rousseau and Micah Parsons sitting out, and injuries limiting Aidan Hutchinson, Kwity Paye and Andre Cisco, Collins has provided perhaps the most consistent impact of any defender in college football this year. He had an overtime pick-six to beat Tulane, and he has produced splash plays all year. NFL teams have taken notice, and sources from five different teams say they expect Collins to be either a late first-round or early second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Teams love Collins’ combination of size and speed. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder is a big linebacker who has a versatile skill set. He is athletic in space and also has the speed to fly around the field. Because of his diverse talents, they see Collins being very flexible for his NFL defense. They think he could be a superb Sam – strongside – linebacker in a 4-3 defense, and he could also play Mike – middle – linebacker in a 4-3. In a 3-4 defense, they feel Collins could play inside or outside linebacker.

On top of his physical talent, this is the third straight season in which Collins has been a productive defender. He has totaled 52 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two passes defended this season. In 2019, he totaled 97 tackles, and that was coming off 85 stops as a freshman.

Sources from five different teams say that due to Collins’ strong play this season, he could get selected in the back half of the first round and should not last long if he makes to Friday night of the 2021 NFL Draft.