Saints draft profiles: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

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Maddy Hudak
·2 min read
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While the New Orleans Saints don’t often deviate from their draft approach in targeting the best prospects available, the team needs to address top roster needs in the 2021 NFL draft. With eight picks at their disposal, the positions of cornerback and linebacker should take priority with their first-round selection.

This series has focused on top prospects at cornerback, but there are playmakers at linebacker New Orleans could target at No. 28 overall. One prospect in particular, who had one of his first substantive virtual interviews with the Saints, stands out: Tulsa’s Zaven Collins.

Measurables and Pro Day Results:

  • Height: 6-foot-4

  • Weight: 259 pounds

  • Arm length: 33 5/8 inches

  • Hands: 9 3/8 inches

  • 40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds

  • Bench press: 19 reps

  • Broad jump: 122 inches

  • Vertical jump: 35 inches

Via Dane Brugler’s draft guide

Analysis:

A true off-ball linebacker, Collins offers a rare asset in pass coverage. His unique blend of size and athleticism are bolstered by impressive ball skills and awareness in the backfield. Collins shines in zone coverage with an ability to read quarterbacks’ eyes and get his body or hands up in passing lanes; he recorded four interceptions in just eight games last season, returning two for touchdowns, plus a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a safety.

Collins proved disruptive in the backfield throughout his collegiate career with 7.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. His coverage abilities and scheme versatility are diminished only by lacking play strength and ability to shed blockers. He offers a dynamic presence in pass coverage and, once he strengthens his physicality in blocking, upside on blitzes.

How he fits the Saints:

New Orleans hasn’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since their 2015 selection of Clemson’s Stephone Anthony; fans were high on LSU’s Patrick Queen in last year’s draft, but he didn’t fit the Saints physical prototype. While Collins’ long-speed is lacking with a 4.67 40-yard dash, his short quickness makes up for it: his 1.63 10-yard split at Tulsa’s pro day was faster than what Demario Davis recorded coming out of Arkansas State.

With the departures of Kwon Alexander and Alex Anzalone, Collins offers a strong compliment next to Davis; his versatility and untapped potential are a great fit in Dennis Allen’s defense. Technique is teachable, and easily outweighed by his playmaking ability. This selection would leave questions surrounding the team’s trade up for Zack Baun in the third-round of last year’s draft, but the loss of two position group starters could demand doubling up at the role with a dynamic playmaker in Collins.

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List

30 mock drafts link Saints to 14 different first-round prospects