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2015 NFL Draft Prospects: LSU OL La'el Collins

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After boasting a top-five offense in 2014, the Steelers have few needs in their offensive depth chart. But one area for improvement is in the development of a consistent running game. Louisiana State's La'el Collins could help those efforts.

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La'el Collins began his LSU career in 2011, playing seven games as a true freshman at left guard. In 2012, he took over the starting job, leading his team in knockdowns and earning All-SEC honorable mention honors.

He moved to left tackle in 2013, earning All-SEC 2nd team honors. Collins returned to school for his senior season, starting all of LSU's 13 games while leading the team in knockdowns again. For his efforts he was voted as a 2nd-team All-American, first-team All-SEC, and was awarded the Jacobs Blocking trophy given to the best offensive linemen in the SEC.

Collins measured 6-foot-4 1/2, 308 pounds with 33 1/4 inch arm length and 10 1/2 inch hands at the Senior Bowl, and looks to be a candidate for the Steelers with the 22nd overall pick.

Just not as a tackle.

Strengths

Collins's quickness out of his stance is impressive. He is often the fastest linemen off the ball. This explosiveness at the snap gives Collins an advantage in many phases in the game.

LSU is running a power play to the left, a play the Steelers used more frequently than any other in their run game. Here Collins' responsibilities are down block. He looks towards the defensive tackle in the three technique chips him and then uses his athleticism to get to the linebacker. This isn't an easy block to make but Collins does so almost effortlessly.

In the run game Collins uses his quickness off the ball to be a mauler. Unlike many athletic lineman who play with more of a finesse style, Collins is aggressive. He excels in drive blocking because of the explosiveness off the snap.

Collins is the playside tackle and his main responsibility to drive Florida's  Dante Fowler Jr. out of the hole.

He drives Fowler almost five yard off the football. This is the area that Collins shines in run blocking. He generates power from his lower body and uses his aggressiveness defenders off the ball. It is usually said that offensive linemen enjoy run blocking more than pass blocking and with Collins it is apparent that he enjoys this phase of the game.

Weaknesses

Even though Collins possesses many attributes of an NFL offensive linemen he also has many flaws. Some of them appear fatal for a career on the edge as a tackle, and could force him inside at guard in the NFL.

He has average foot quickness which hinders him against faster pass rushers. His angles in pass protection are too wide, and he appears to lean on his burst off the snap while guessing what a pass rusher will do. His lack of quickness leaves him vulnerable if and when he guesses incorrectly.

His hand placement is bad in the passing game and below average arm length for the position won't help him. His stance is over-aggressive, and leaning forward the way he does gives up lanes for pass rushers.

Collins' aggressiveness doesn't just affect his pass blocking though it is also a detriment in his run blocking.

Collins comes off the ball quickly and looks to block Alabama's right defensive end. He drops his head and becomes top heavy. This allows the Alabama defender to disengage with a swim move and leaves Collins on the ground.

Hitting the ground isn't good for an offensive linemen, and Collins appears to land there more often than one would want in a tackle. Balance  and core strength seem to be an issue. However he issue more than likely is because of his aggressive top heavy run blocking style. A good coach will need to rework his technique so Collins keeps his legs under him and drives with his hips not his head.

Working on his woeful hand placement will help as well.

This play is an inside zone to the right, another play the Steelers run frequently. Collins' job is to get in front of the RE and create a potential cut back lane.

Collins' first two steps are nice and quick. He take his initial bucket step with his right foot then he steps up with his left foot, cutting the defender in half. Collins gets across his face in what's essentially a textbook move. However his hand placement is what makes this block bad.

His left hand is on the RE back when engaged and then he switches to placing his right hand on the defenders left shoulder before once again being the victim of a swim move and on the ground. That is poor.

Atrocious hand placement is all over La'el Collins' film. In the drive blocking play above Collins may have won the over all block but he was initially stalemated with Fowler Jr.. Why did this happen? Collins engages Fowler with both hands on Fowler's shoulder pad.  This causes him to lose his leverage battle forcing him to win on strength alone. He needs to  work on consistently getting his hand on the defenders chest plate each and every drive.

Conclusion

La'el Collins has the size, athleticism, strength and demeanor of an NFL offensive linemen. He excelled in the running game in one of college football premiere divisions for defensive line play. But he has many issues that he needs to refine.

Technique is more important than power in the NFL, and Collins' over aggressive play leads him off balance frequently.  His pass blocking is ugly at times and poor hand placement and balance doesn't make that issue any less of a problem.

Overall Collins could be an NFL left tackle if the right coach can polish up his technique. His technique may be too big of an obstacle for him to overcome. His film suggests is better suited as a left guard in the NFL because he lacks the pass blocking ability and length required of a NFL tackle.

On the interior he can use both his strength and his athleticism to block in any running scheme and a good offensive line coach (like Mike Munchak) can teach the correct technique.  If he can fix his issues Collins looks like he could be a premiere guard in the NFL but that won't be as easy as it sounds.