CFF Player Profile: Landon Collins, S
Today’s College Football Focus player profile is focused on the player long thought to be the top safety option in this draft class, Alabama’s Landon Collins. An impressive athlete, Collins is entering the draft as a junior after having earned plenty of accolades already in his career; he’s been a High School All-American, a Collegiate All-American, an SEC Champ twice and a National Champ as part of the 2013 Alabama team.
Rightfully viewed as a box safety at the NFL level, Collins’ size and affinity for making plays coming forward have him well-suited for that spot in an NFL defense. What he won’t be, despite his outstanding ability to accelerate, is a rangy type that will excel in coverage.
Overview & Stats
First and most importantly to note about Collins is his size and athleticism. Coming in at an even 6-foot — right at the average height for an NFL safety — Collins boasts a 228-pound frame which puts him significantly past the more typical 205-210 range. What’s most impressive about him in this regard is his ability to move the way he does in a body that size; his outstanding acceleration being the key component to pair with his build.
That size would have anyone, even at a glance, pegging him as a box safety who can add to the front and handle business as a force defender in the alley, and that notion isn’t far from the simple truth about his game. While he might not be the quickest in the class to read and react up against the run, his ability to easily hit that second gear and track a scrambling quarterback, close on a runner coming off-tackle, or chase a play to the sideline sets him apart.
Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed in his tape in this area; I came in hoping to see more of the heat-seeking missile trait I had heard so much about. What I found was a player eager to join the play but one who did so fairly often in a much more careful manner as opposed to the image of the crazed madman hell-bent on getting to the runner that I had pictured.
That’s not a knock on him, as he has proven himself a sure tackler and playing under control is a plus, and besides, in the moments where he did flash that ability to take over and shut down a run (see 3Q 11.35 vs. Arkansas where he takes on a pulling lineman and cuts down the runner in one motion) were enough to show him at his best.
What can be considered a relative weakness for him, though, is his work in coverage. While he is sure and comfortable coming down to meet receivers catching the ball in front of him (often with a thump), when put in situations where he needs to turn and run or otherwise chase a route, the hitch in his athleticism crops up. He’s not smooth in that transition and his angles need to improve as he doesn’t seem to embrace the top-down safety mentality, often coming at routes in a flat, cross-field path. For what it’s worth, at the combine his 40 time was among the best at the position while his 3-cone and short shuttle were among the worst.
Targeted 58 times in coverage, he allowed 37 completions (both among the 10 highest figures for safeties in this class) for a 63.8 completion percentage allowed that 83 safeties exceeded, but he only gave up 8.3 yards on average which had him among the 10 best. Overall, he graded well in coverage and came away with six passes defensed (to go with his three interceptions) for the fifth spot in the class, and his 15 stops in the passing game were second-best.
In 2014, Alabama didn’t use him primarily as a box player. He spent only 211 of his 916 snaps in a strong safety alignment at the snap, more often lined up as a high safety (490 snaps) or over a slot or split WR (215). No doubt whichever NFL team lands him will want to see him be able to fill a high/low role and not be locked to the box on every snap, so the experience up high will be seen as a plus, but he’ll need work to round out his game.
So where will he go in the draft?
With the rest of the safety class failing to produce a true standout, especially any to fit as an immediate single-high option that would be coveted, Collins holds the top spot. The drop-off from him to the next could be a little unclear given the variety of one-category players and the diverse, specific needs of teams around the league, but what is clear is there is a drop-off.
If a team is hungry to land a safety capable of making a difference early in his career, Collins will be very attractive and should find a home somewhere in the back half of the first round while the others will be in a fight to climb over each other for limited spots on Day 2.
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