2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Zaven Collins

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Zaven Collins

by January 29, 2021 13 comments

With names like Brian Urlacher being thrown around, Zaven Collins has attracted the attention of any and every football analyst. His size combined with his ability to play both the run and pass well makes Collins one of the most enticing prospects in this year’s draft. Is it too good to be true? Some factors say so, but only time will tell on the blue-chip prospect out of Tulsa. 

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 NFL Draft Scouting Reports.

Player Bio

Name: Zaven Collins

Jersey: #23

Position: Linebacker

School: Tulsa

Class: Redshirt Junior 

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 260 lbs

Tackling (7.75/10) 

Collins rarely misses tackles. His form is solid, and his grip is strong. If he cannot secure the tackle on the initial hit, he usually can readjust and latch on again. His problem is that he is seen to be able to be juked out. This may become a problem, as higher-level backs, receivers, and quarterbacks move more fluidly than college-level talent. 

Hit strength (7.0/10) 

Collins is no Nick Bolton, but he can stop players in their tracks. There are a few instances where Collins stops rushers in goal-to-go situations, but these are usually against smaller backs. For his size, he hits as he should (if not too soft). Overall, his hits rank in the top 5 for their power for this class.

Run Defense (8.0/10) 

Collins is usually on the money here. He has many instances where he flies right through the correct hole and blows up the running back (look vs. UCF 2020). On the other hand, there are blips on the radar that show Collins jumping the wrong gaps. This usually happens when he is on the opposite side of the field as the ball (note: the scheme of Tulsa may lead to Collins filling any gap to prevent cutback lanes). Overall, Collins shows promise when it comes to the run game.

Pursuit (4.75/10) 

This is a huge ambiguity. There is very little tape where Collins is pursuing ball carriers because (as will be discussed later) he rarely attempts to make a play on plays that develop away from his immediate location. The minute tape shows average pursuit, but the lack of tape has to slightly knock the score below the average (average is 5.0/10).

Vision (6.0/10) 

Collins’s vision is hit or miss. In coverage (spoiler alert), he is elite with his field vision. In run coverage, his vision is 7.0 worthy; however, the vision category includes the ability to recognize plays. Collins seems to mess this up a noticeable percentage of the time. He appears to go all out on a certain play, which has shown too often to be the exactly wrong read. This may become a problem in a motion-heavy NFL.

Coverage (9.0/10) 

Collins is elite in coverage. There is a huge thing to note here: Tulsa runs exclusively zone coverage with their linebackers. His feel for coverage is unmatched (even most safeties do not show these skills). The way he feels routes developing is second to none. If Collins is drafted by a zone-heavy scheme, he may develop into a top coverage linebacker.

Straight Line Speed (3.0/10) 

Again, Collins rarely gets to display his short-area burst because he gives up on the play very quickly. There is almost no tape showing any form of speed for Collins, which is a major head-scratcher, given his ability to adjust in coverage so well. Some may begin to wonder if his vision in coverage became so great to compensate for not being able to make up ground with receivers. So far, his tape shows subpar athleticism in regards to long-range playmaking.

Short Area Burst (6.5/10) 

Collins bounces around like an energizer bunny. Le’Veon Bell might even say Collins took it from him. This said the burst is solid, not great. The athleticism does not pop when he plays, and that is scary. Maybe he would be better if he were to drop 10 pounds and be more athletic (especially since he does not have a heavy hit stick). Collins can shoot into the backfield at a solid level, but again, the twitch is far from spectacular.

Positional Versatility (5.0/10) 

This is a tricky category to grade. Collins is strictly a standup linebacker at the next level. He has the correct pass-rushing moves, but he is only effective when he lines up on the left side of the defense (not to mention he has zero bend). Why is this a problem? He plays his best on the right side of the defense. Teams know when he is pass rushing (or when he will be an actual factor pass rushing). As long as the defensive coordinator accounts for this, he may be a truly electric weapon.

Competitive Toughness (1.25/5) 

This may seem harsh, but the score is honestly generous. Rumors around campus describe Collins as having a terrible personality: no one likes him. He is stuck up, but his personality off the field is not factored into the score. The 1.25 is the on-field competitive toughness. When the ball is at (or beyond) the line of scrimmage three yards from Collins, he gives up. As said before, there is barely any pursuit tape because he does not seem to give any effort in pursuing. This is concerning for Collins. It will raise major red flags to the teams looking at him. 

Injury (4.75/5)

The injury bill is relatively clean for Collins despite a small, nagging injury to end 2020.

Player Summary 

Watch out for falling in love with the comparison. His play is eerily reminiscent of Kendricks, but what is between the ears (and a small amount of athleticism) is off. Collins has the potential to outclass Parsons if he could drop 10 pounds (or recompose his body type to become rangier). The main issue is that who he is has become a problem, not what he is. This will scare teams away from him because no amount of training can change who a player is. This is no Willie Gay situation: this is a lot more serious. Either a team will believe in him and take him mid-first (or after when their pick is) or he may fall to the third if everyone sees the problems. Only time will tell whether Collins will become the top-5 talent he projects he can be.

Final Grade (63/100): Late First Round

Player Comp: Eric Kendricks

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