In Mel Kiper’s most recent mock draft, he has the Cleveland Browns taking outside linebacker and possible edge rusher Zaven Collins from Tulsa. Not much was known about the 6-4 versatile linebacker before the 2020-21 college football season. However, during his 2018 and 2019 campaigns with the Golden Hurricanes, he was more of a run stopping linebacker and had 182 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and one interception.
This past season, Collins showcased his versatility at the linebacker spot. He only managed 54 tackles, but made up for it with four sacks, two forced fumbles and four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
With the Browns drafting 26th in the 2021 NFL Draft, there is a strong chance that Collins will still be on the board when they pick. The Browns group of linebackers this year were Sione Takitaki, B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith. Mack Wilson, Jacob Phillips and Tae Davis would all rotate at the spot as well. According to Pro Football Focus, the Browns did not have a linebacker on the roster this year that had a defensive grade above 65.
Let’s break down the Zaven Colins draft profile and analyze why he should be a Cleveland Browns draft target this season.
Zaven Collins Draft Profile
Weight: 260 lbs.
Pros: Collins is versatile enough to cover running backs and tight ends, while also possessing the run stopping mentality. He shed blocks with ease in college, and with some time in the NFL that should only improve. Collins is able to locate the ball-carrier well and has a great motor that helps in pursuit. He is was a sure-tackler in college, and is able to break down well in front of explosive ball-carriers. During the 2020 campaign, Collins showed NFL scouts that he was a great coverage linebacker, and was still a solid run defender.
Cons: Collins sometimes gets lost in coverage or is caught out of place. He is a player that will over-pursue at times, because of his will to get to the ball-carrier. He is not the quickest or the fastest outside linebacker or edge rusher in the draft. As is the case with most non-Power-5 NFL prospects, the competition he played was suspect, so throughout the draft process we will hear those comments.
Analysis: After a great red shirt-junior season, Collins proved the NFL scouts that he has the size and speed to cover in the NFL. He also attacks gaps well on blitzes and in run defense. He will need to watch his tendency to over-pursue at times, and he needs to stay focused in coverage. All in all, Collins would be a great pick up for the Browns, or any other team that is picking late in the first round.
Awards: Lombardi Award Winner (2020), Bronco Nagurski Trophy (2020), Chuck Bednarik Award (2020), Unanimous All-American (2020), AAC Defensive Player of the Year (2020), First Team All-AAC (2020), Second Team All-AAC (2019).
Pro Comparison: Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts.
Zaven Collins Draft Projection
Draft Projection: Late 1st Round or Early 2nd Round.
The Bottom Line: If NFL front offices can overlook his college competition and realize how valuable his versatility is in football today, then he could be a steal for a team picking in the mid-to-late first round.