Take this with a grain of salt, but the New England Patriots have met virtually with one of the 2021 NFL Draft’s top linebacker prospects in Tulsa’s Zaven Collins.
According to the Draft Network’s Justin Melo, the Patriots were one of nine teams to meet with the 21-year-old stud.
This information’s recommended measured absorption is because the Patriots met with Collins before their free-agent spending spree that led to the team adding Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Raekwon McMillan Montravious Adams. Those four join the returning Dont’a Hightower, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Terez Hall, Cassh Maluia, Anfernee Jennings, and Michael Pinckney.
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Needless to say, the Patriots have gone from a team with depth issues at linebacker to having it be one of the more crowded positions. Obviously, there are several different roles to play at the position, and not all of these guys figure to make the Week 1 active roster. Collins projects more as an inside linebacker, which would mean he’s playing the same positions as Hightower, Wheatley, Hall, McMillan, Maluia, and Jennings.
Quite honestly, if he is as good as many expect him to be, Collins is the kind of talent who could bump Wheatley and start alongside Hightower in Week 1 of the 2021 season. He’s that talented.
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Collins is Compared to Brian Urlacher
Size (6’3″ 260 pounds), football IQ, and explosiveness are three of Collins’ top traits, and he shares those similarities with one of the all-time greats, Brian Urlacher.
You can hear Collins get this comparison from the announcer in this highlight reel for the Tulsa star:
That’s not the only time Collins gets likened to Urlacher.
On paper, Collins compares favorably to Hall-of-Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher. Obviously because of their size but both were always making plays whether it was big hits, causing fumbles, or interceptions. These two unicorns are rare and hard to find, so if you have the chance to get one, you better.
Nick Falato of Big Blue View said this about Collins:
Exceptional size at 6-4, 260 pounds, and he possesses good athletic ability that is highlighted by his change of direction skills, lateral agility, and closing burst. He’s not going to run a 4.4, but he’s not a liability in terms of speed, either. Was used as a traditional linebacker, as a defensive lineman, and as an apex defender in the slot. Large tackle radius is an asset, but he’s prone to miss tackles; he has to break down, come to balance, and use his incredible physical gifts to secure the tackle down to the ground. Very effective as a blitzer – has some pass rushing moves and leverages his length well. Length closes throwing windows at the second level and he has a good feel in zone coverage. Receives a lot of Brian Urlacher comparisons due to his size. His best fit is in a blitz heavy defense that would routinely pit running backs in pass protection against him. Collins may find himself in the first round because of his incredible size and ability to move in space, despite only receiving one college scholarship coming out of high school.
Will the Patriots Be in a Position to Draft Collins?
If New England is going to trade up to draft a young, dual-threat quarterback in the first round, like Justin Fields or Trey Lance, it’s going to cost them their No. 15 selection and more. Unless the team has designs of trading back into the latter part of the first round to get Collins, they won’t get that kind of quarterback and the Tulsa star.
However, if they strike out in an attempt to trade up for Fields or Lance, the Patriots could likely add another later pick in the draft by trading back five or seven picks while still nabbing Collins in the 20-27 range in the first round.
That approach would likely have the Patriots looking at a quarterback like Jamie Newman or Kellen Mond on Day 2 to add depth at quarterback.
Collins is an exciting defensive prospect whose versatility would seemingly fit well with New England. It’ll be interesting to see if they can find a way to add him to their roster.
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