Continuing a look at potential draft picks for the Washington Redskins. So far, most of them have been first-round targets but we'll move beyond the first round soon.
Player: La'el Collins
Weight: 305 pounds
Projected round: First, probably in the lower half of the round.
Games watched: Arkansas, Florida, Alabama (2013), Mississippi State, Auburn
What I liked: His desire to finish blocks and his disposition. I always want an offensive lineman who is said to be nasty -- ESPN's draft profile uses that word -- and it's clear on film that it's an apt description. There were plenty of times I saw him driving his man downfield, blocking to the whistle (or looking for someone to block downfield after he'd executed an earlier block. Collins took care of an Arkansas safety this way.) He showed good strength when blocking at the line -- and when not lunging at his man and staying patient. I also liked his footwork in pass protection -- or, maybe more accurately, his base. He kept a wide base and it allowed him to react well. When he got beat, it typically was not because of his footwork. He displayed a good base in protection -- that was evident in every game -- enabling him to stay balanced and react well to moves. Collins did a nice job against top pass-rushers such as Dante Fowler Jr. and Preston Smith. Fowler once tried to throw a few moves at him, but Collins stayed patient and when Fowler committed to a side, he was ready and stopped him. Collins blocked well in all phases of the Florida game, after some early struggles. He drove Fowler out on one run where his hands were perfect, he was able to roll his hips and get power. Against Florida, he showed better patience when working to the second level and stayed balanced. Fowler once tried to run by him wide, but Collins' footwork helped him win that battle. Liked one play versus Mississippi State in which he blocked down in protection, then spotted a delayed blitz to the outside. He turned and dove and shoved the blitzer off his path, preventing him from doing damage.
What I didn't like: The inconsistency as a run blocker -- at the second level, that is -- and his hands in pass protection. He needs to do a better job of keeping his hands up or not as outstretched. It's really how he got into trouble in protection. Against Arkansas at times, he did a poor job of anticipating where the defender on the second level would go and he'd miss the block. He was not quick enough to react if he was too impatient in space. Collins often lost his balance when reaching the second level. I think I saw him fall a few times in every game I watched. Sometimes he would lunge too much; other times it was a matter of his feet not keeping pace with his upper body (does that make sense?). Regardless, he fell quite a bit. In a few games, he was unable to hold his block (did a better job of this vs. Florida and Auburn). There were a couple times I wondered about his recognition of blitzes -- against Mississippi State, for example, two defenders rushed at him and he took the one upfield. Problem was, the running back already was there -- and the inside guy sacked the quarterback (the guard, too, was occupied). I don't know that he'll be great in space in the NFL, but that's why a move to the right side or to guard would be wise.
ESPN Insider on his intangibles: "Is well-respected and liked by teammates and coaches. A person of high character who is mature and handles his business. Voted team captain in 2014. No off-the-field issues. Credited with 222.5 knockdown blocks in 45-game career. Was raised in a single-parent home by mother Loyetta Collins."
Why they would select him: They need to keep looking for ways to bolster their line, especially at right tackle. There are questions about the two who will compete at that spot this year: Is Tom Compton best as a backup? Will Morgan Moses not only be healthy, but develop into a quality right tackle? If they draft a tackle in the first round, that player would be their guy for the present and future.
How he fits: Collins could start at right tackle or guard. His game translates well inside, where his attributes would be heightened. But if the Redskins want more physical play at right tackle in the run game, then he'd be fine there, too. Collins lacks ideal size for a tackle, but he could probably be OK there. He has flaws that must be fixed, but you're starting from a good point with him. Collins is not a top-10 talent, but if they traded back, he has to be an option in the middle of the first round or later. Collins played some guard at LSU.