I recently shared my first Redskins three round mock draft, in which I had Alabama safety Landon Collins going 5th overall to the Skins. Today, I would like to justify why I think the Redskins would be smart to take the talented safety this high in the 2015 draft.
Landon Collins was a cornerback coming out of high school, but all the major recruting services had him rated as a safety due to his size and hitting ability. He was a 5-star recruit, and number one player in the state of Louisiana on Scout, Rivals and 247Sports, and was either the number one or two player at his position nationally. He was timed in the mid 4.4's at various camps he attended before his senior season, and had a vertical that was close to 40". This was a kid who had hips like a corner, and the body of a strong safety, and every college coach in the country would have gladly taken a pledge for him to attend their school.
Collins spurned the home state school(LSU) on national television, much to the dismay of his mother, and chose to play for defensive mastermind Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Before he entered school, his mom proudly claimed here son would be three-and-done at Alabama, in order to persue his dream of making it in the NFL. Well, although mom was wrong about her son's choice of college, she was correct in her prognostication of three-and-done, as Collins has told multiple people in NFL circles that he plans on entering the NFL draft in 2015.
So, why would Landon Collins be a good fit for the Redskins at pick 5?
First off, it's very rare for a strong safety to be taken this high in the draft, but Landon Collins is not your normal strong safety. He's built like a linebacker, but has the fluidity of a corner. I have watched a lot of film on Collins recently, and a few things stick out to me. One, he is a violent tackler, who can make plays inside the box, one-on-one on the outside, or deep down the field in the passing game. When he hits a player, they go down! Two, the kid is always around the football. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart uses Collins talents in so many ways, that offenses can't scheme against him. Smart will walk Collins down to be his 8th man in the box, flex him out to cover the tight end, bring him on a blitz off the corner, or sit him back in deep coverage. It is this versatility that makes him such a unique player to NFL scouts. Finally, when Collins is back in coverage, and the ball is in the air, he makes up a lot of ground in a hurry. This is exactly what you look for in a safety prospect, and I believe his ability to do this will not limit him to simply a strong safety in the NFL. Landon Collins is the new hybrid breed that every NFL defensive coordinator covets.
Landon Collins is an athletic freak. From the moment he set foot on the campus of Alabama, he became the best athlete, on the best defense, under the best defensive coach, on the best team in the country. His athleticism is off the charts. He will very likely blow up the combine with mind-boggling numbers for a player his size. I expect him to run his 40 yard dash somewhere in the low 4.5's, but it wouldn't schock me in the least if he posted times in the mid-to-high 4.4's. His vertical has been reported at 40 inches, and he's said to bench press over 370. The most impressive attributes could come in the 3-come and short-shuttle, however, as Collins possesses rare short area quickness, impressive ankle flexion, and very fluid hips. The one-field portion of his workout, should he choose to participate, should be very fun to watch, as you just may confuse him for a cornerback.
Finally, it's worth noting, that Collins has been tutored by one of the best defensive coaches in college football. Nick Saban is a defensive mastermind, who specializes in the secondary. At practices, Saban actually coaches defensive backs, and can be seen teaching technique to his pupils on a daily basis.
I talked to a close friend yesterday, who hasn't missed an Alabama game in years, and I asked him about Collins. I told him how badly the Redskins needed a safety, and asked him to give me his impression of Collins. He told me that he's seen some very good safeties at the University of Alabama recently, and that Collins was the best he's seen; better than Barron, and Dix. He went on to tell me how much he loved HaHa when he was there, and how he thought he was doing a great job in Green Bay, but he said Dix couldn't hold a candle to Collins in terms of pure athleticism. He believes(as I do), that Landon could walk in from day one, and become a difference maker in the NFL. He also told me that Kirby Smart was able to use him the way he did at Alabama, because Collins had no weaknesses to his game.
I did bring up some concerns regarding some poor film I saw against Ole Miss, but here is what he and I discussed. Every prospect has good and bad games, and we both agreeded on this. Ole Miss was not a good game, but some of that was because Collins underestimated his competition. From my friends perspective, Collins is such a great athlete, that he sometimes looks board playing. He also tends to rely on that athleticism too much. In the Old Miss game, we saw some lapses in coverage, but my friend believes these weren't due to a lack of skill, rather they were due to him underestimating his opponent, and wanting to rely too much on his athletic ability, and not enough on his keys and technique. After re-watching the film, I tend to agree. The good thing is these are all very coachable, and should not be an issue on a regular basis in the NFL.
it is no secret the Redskins need help at safety. Both Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark are not under contract for 2015, and it's very unlikely either will be re-signed. The free agency class is weak at safety, and the draft lacks depth. Currently, Philip Thomas is the only safety with any significant experience on the roster, who is under contract for 2015. Collins could be the best safety prospect that Redskins have had since the late, great Sean Taylor was roaming the secondary, and for a team as snake-bitten at the position as the Redskins, this would be a welcome site.
I'm really looking forward to watching the game this evening against Ohio St., and to see how Smart uses Collins against the speed of the Buckeyes. A good game tonigh against a worth opponent could just reaffirm my belief that Collins would be a great pick for the Redskins at number 5. If he struggles, it will force me to re-evaluate his film.