As we continue on our 2021 On Tap Sports Net NFL Mock Draft, we start to get into some of the more talented teams. Today, we cover the Las Vegas Raiders. A team that has shown great promise since hiring head coach Jon Gruden, the Raiders have struggled to find consistency on the defensive side of the football. After drafting multiple pass rushers the past few seasons to little success, they once again try to address the inside/outside rush of the defense with the 17th pick.
Enter Zaven Collins.
Three things stand out to me when it comes to Collins: Versatility, eye for the ball, and a high motor. At 6-foot-4 and 260 lbs, Collins can play nearly anywhere on the front seven. He can rush the passer, evidenced by his 7.5 career sacks, defend the run inside, shown by his 236 career tackles, and can consistently find himself in the backfield. His 25 career tackles for loss show his ability to shed blockers and wreak havoc in the backfield.
On top of all this, Collins just has a natural eye for the ball. In just eight games last season, Collins recorded four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. He also forced two fumbles while recovering one. Simply put, Collins is a nightmare to game plan against and is a true blue plug-and-play player. This was only justified when he was named a finalist for both the Bronco Nagurski Trophy and Butkus Award.
Similar to many small school athletes, the biggest factor working against Collins is his strength of schedule. Last season, Tulsa played teams such as Oklahoma State, Central Florida, and Tulane. Not to take anything away from any of these schools, but the talent levels are far removed from the NFL. This won’t cause Collins to drop out of the first round, but it prevents him from getting real top-ten consideration.
The other thing I would say hurts his stock is the lack of a legitimate position. This won’t be a real issue on an NFL roster — a great coach like Gruden will find a permeant position for him — but his versatility can serve as a curse. At one point or another, most NFL teams have had a player who was insanely talented but never found their footing within their system. Players such as Shea McClellin and D’Brickashaw Ferguson come to mind.
Overall, I think Zaven Collins will make a fine pro with the right team. Vegas has been praying for a legitimate game-wrecker on defense since they traded cool and tough elite All-Pro outside linebacker, who is incredible in every way, Khalil Mack. Whether or not he can live up to such a name is probably impossible, but if given the opportunity to play free within a system that capitalizes off his talent, he can be a great player in this league for a long time.