LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins has officially signed with the Dallas Cowboys after going undrafted in last weekend’s NFL draft.
The offensive tackle was widely seen as a first-round talent prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, but he fell off of draft boards leaguewide when the Baton Rouge Police Department requested to speak with him regarding a local murder case. Collins spoke with police on Monday and has reportedly met with several NFL teams this week.
The Dallas Cowboys promised La’el Collins two things:
One, the same thing as all other bidders for the first-round talent who slipped into the undrafted-free-agent pool: A three-year guaranteed salary of $1.65 million, the Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) maximum.
And two, a chance to join what Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called, in his Wednesday night pitch to the player, “the best offensive line in football.”
Before last Thursday’s draft, Collins was an automatic first-rounder. But he went undrafted after Baton Rouge (La.) police said they wanted to talk to him in connection with the murder of a woman and the subsequent death of her baby boy. The police said all along that Collins was not a suspect in the case but teams nevertheless red-flagged him until this week, when a paternity test found Collins is not the father of the deceased child and a polygraph test demonstrated he was being truthful about not being involved in the double-homicide.
Jones hosted a gathering at his Dallas mansion that featured members of Collins’ family along with QB Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen. Collins was told he might begin his career at guard (Ron Leary is presently the left guard) but eventually compete at right tackle (Doug Free’s spot).
The Cowboys already have Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zach Martin as young Pro-Bowl-caliber players grabbed in the first round. And now they have what they believe is a fourth — but grabbed as an undrafted steal.
As mentioned, Collins could potentially play at either guard or tackle, as he has the versatility to compete for playing time at multiple spots. Regardless of where he plays, Collins gives the Dallas Cowboys four first-round talents along its offensive line.
2015 NFL DRAFT PROFILE: La’el Collins – Offensive Tackle
LA’EL COLLINS | OT | SEC: LSU – Senior | 6-4 / 305
2015 NFL Draft prospect ranking: #18 overall
STRENGTHS | Collins sports a thick, powerful frame that makes him about as difficult to move as a chest freezer. His frame belies his quick feet, an attribute that when combined with his long arms, impressive strength and aggression make him a devastating run blocker. Collins is often the quickest of LSU’s offensive linemen off the snap and he routinely drives his assignment off the line of scrimmage with pure power, creating easy running lanes for LSU’s backs. He’s surprisingly quick to the second level and has good body control to adjust to moving targets.
As a pass blocker, Collins shows good initial quickness in his kick-slide and uses his long reach to maintain the arc. When he gets his hands on opponents and remains square, it is generally lights out for the defender. Collins showed his willingness to potentially convert inside, impressing on a few snaps at left guard at the Senior Bowl.
WEAKNESSES | He does not possess elite balance and can be challenged by speed-rushers. He’ll over-compensate occasionally and leave the inside open for counters.
Collins’ aggression is admirable but also leads to mistakes. Rather than patiently waiting for defenders to come to him, Collins will occasionally lunge, making himself top-heavy and prone to slipping down the body of his opponent. This can lead to his hands getting too low or slipping onto the side and/or back of defenders, which invites them to swim over the top of him to disengage.
Comparison to: James Carpenter, Jets: Collins is a better athlete than Carpenter and therefore may be likelier to remain outside than Alabama’s former tackle, who has since become a mauling run blocker at left guard with the Seahawks.
PLAYER OVERVIEW | There are two basic truths evaluators have grown used to when scouting LSU – for one, the team will be loaded with talent. Second, the talent is so rich so that the best players rarely use all of their collegiate eligibility before leaving for the NFL. Unlike many of his former teammates, Collins elected to return for his senior season despite the fact that he reportedly earned a first round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.
Collins certainly did nothing to harm that grade in 2014, putting forth yet another dominant campaign at left tackle for the Tigers and following that up with a strong performance at the Senior Bowl.
Collins earned immediate playing time for the Tigers as a true freshman, playing in seven games at left guard. He took over the starting position a year later, leading the team in total snaps (846) and knockdown blocks (64.5) while earning Honorable Mention honors from the AP. Collins made the switch to left tackle as a junior, earning second-team All-SEC accolades from league coaches and posting another 65 knockdown blocks despite missing one game (Furman) due to injury.
Collins possesses a square-ish build that makes him appear better suited to guard. His combination of surprisingly light feet, bullish power and competitiveness could earn him Pro Bowl nods. He’s quick enough to remain at tackle for power-running teams, which only makes Collins that much more valuable in the eyes of scouts.
Scouting Reports on your newest Dallas Cowboy: OT La’el Collins
The Dallas Cowboys have officially signed LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins, a projected Top 15 pick who went undrafted.
Here are the official scouting reports of football analyst Bryan Broaddus and draft-guru Dane Brugler, two of the featured analysts on the “Dallas Cowboys Draft Show,” podcast’s featured here on The Boys Are Back website.
Bryan Broaddus Scouting Report:
Games Studied: Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, Arkansas
Plays as the left tackle. Powerful man. Works to finish his block. When he gets in trouble he will become overextended and lunge. Able to adjust to the line games. Doesn’t appear to have the range to get all the way to the outside. Is far better control going inside as opposed to working to his outside. Hands tend to go outside the frame. Able to get some nice push on Dante Fowler of Florida. Able to seal the corner to allow back to the outside. Has to be careful when defender pulls him forward with his balance. Is one of those players that has upper body power and he tries to climb the block as he pushes. Will have snaps where he is off balance. Will carry his hands low in pass pro. Manages to put himself in position on his kick. Can push his man wide. Flowers from Arkansas walked him back on a rush. Tends to catch blocks more than punch. Can adjust to sudden movement. Might have to play inside or at right tackle.
Dane Brugler Scouting Report:
BACKGROUND: A five-star offensive line recruit out of high school, Collins was wooed by a number of national programs, but there was very little question where he would play his college ball, committing to hometown LSU prior to his junior season. He saw action in seven games as a true freshman back-up before earning the starting left guard job as a sophomore, starting all 13 games in 2012. Collins kicked out to left tackle in 2013 as a junior and started 12 games (missed one due to injury), earning Second Team All-SEC honors. He started all 13 games as a senior and won the 2014 Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top offensive lineman in the SEC, earning First Team All-SEC and some All-American honors. Collins played in the 2015 Senior Bowl.
STRENGTHS: Well-proportioned frame with solid upper and lower body thickness…large hands and adequate length…squares his shoulders and plays with a strong base and natural anchor, making him tough to move or bully – doesn’t play on his heels…strong at the point of attack to sustain with grip strength and stout wrists, jolting and redirecting defenders…physical mentality and not shy using his brute power to be a people mover with his aggressive punch…functional mobility to be effective blocking in motion and at the second level…displays coordination on combination blocks, making contact on initial target before disengaging to pick up another defender…dependable finisher once he gets his hands on defenders as a run blocker, playing with a mean streak and consistent intensity…sells out each snap and plays with a chip on his shoulder, taking each play personally with the will to defeat his opponent…vocal team leader and not afraid to call out his teammates and hold them accountable – durable and led LSU in snaps in 2014…three-year starter in the SEC (38 career starts) with playing time at both tackle and guard.
WEAKNESSES: Constantly lunges and leans with his upper half and falls off blocks, struggling to maintain his technique through contact…ends up on the ground too much with chaotic mechanics, starting with his base…average-at-best snap quickness and doesn’t consistently explode out of his stance to cut off speed on the edges – too often the last lineman to move off the ball…tends to labor in his kickslide with shuffle footwork that is more choppy than fluid…inconsistent footwork once engaged and relies on his upper body to get the job done…will struggle at times to decipher blitzes and tends to get mixed up with multiple rushers – needs to improve his focus and awareness…too grabby and lack of elite length shows at times as long-armed rushers get into his frame and knock him off-balance…allows his pads to rise and doesn’t rely on leverage…needs to improve his angles in the run game to better wall off lanes.
SUMMARY: A wrecking ball in the run game, Collins isn’t always the most controlled, but he sells out to eliminate bodies in his path that are wearing the other color jersey. He needs to show better bend and consistency in pass protection, too often falling off balance with limited range in his kickslide, but there is no question about his 100% effort and mean streak. The bottom line with Collins is that it doesn’t always look pretty, but he consistently gets the job done, selling out each snap with the upper body strength to get away with some of his miscues. He has enough talent to survive on the edges, projecting as a starting swing tackle at the next level, but might be ideally-suited inside at offensive guard – top-25 talent and long-term NFL starter.