LB Jamie Collins on the Saints’ Draft “Wish List”

Jamie Collins
This is the first in a series of player profiles for possible selections for the New Orleans Saints in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft. Today’s featured player is Southern Mississippi outside linebacker, Jamie Collins …

Barry XHarahan WhoDat, AKA Barry, Staff Saints Writer

Go to almost any Saints fan website or call-in radio show in these last few weeks leading up to the NFL Draft on April 25 – 27, and invariably one player’s name will creep into the ‘Saints Draft’ conversation: Southern Mississippi outside linebacker Jamie Collins. While Collins just may likely be a “reach” for the Saints with the 15th overall selection in the 1st Round, he would be ideal for New Orleans in Round 3 (the 75th overall selection). The question then becomes — will Collins still be available by then ?

Originally a quarterback in high school at Franklin County High School located in Meadville, Mississippi (about a half hour drive from Natchez), Collins led his team to back-to-back Mississippi State High School Football Championships in his sophomore and junior seasons. He was recruited highly by Auburn (and Gene Chizik’s “pay to play” program) originally, but had a change of heart and decided to remain closer to home in Hattiesburg, for Southern Miss. Soon after his arrival, he made the career-changing conversion to defense, first as a safety and then ultimately to outside linebacker, and has never looked back since.

In his junior season in 2011, Collins had his ‘break out’ year, in which he garnered Honorable Mention All-Conference USA honors with 19 and a half tackles for loss, along with 6 and a half sacks and 8 pass break-ups. It was then in his senior season in 2012, that drew the attention of NFL scouts to Hattiesburg. Collins tallied a total of 92 tackles, with 20 of them for a loss —- along with 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 5 pass break-ups; earning him First Team All-Conference USA honors and working his way into the conversation of top linebacker prospects, in the process.

Collins is a unique player in my opinion, because he presents an interesting dilemma; which is that while he is relentless in his pursuit to the quarterback and excels at tackling ball carriers for loss in the backfield (from my personal perspective, he reminds me a bit of our old “Dome Patrol” buddy, Pat Swilling), there are questions regarding his penchant for being eluded by quicker players, as well as rumblings in some circles about his “motor” — in other words, there are doubts about his giving 100% effort out on the field, at all times. It’s a correctable problem to be sure, but worrisome nevertheless.

Then there are the other “intangibles”, to consider. At the Scouting Combine recently, Collins put on an absolute show ; where he came within an inch of breaking the event record with a 41.5 inch vertical leap, ran a 4.6 40 yard dash, and led all linebackers with an 11 foot, 7 inch broad jump, displaying his incredible athletic prowess. ESPN’s Draft analyst Todd McShay calls Collins a “freak”. That may be putting it mildly. Collins in my opinion would be an ideal fit for the Saints, as they make the switch to the 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Make no mistake about it: the kid would be an absolute steal for the Saints if he’s still available in the 3rd Round. In a draft that is deep with linebacking prospects this year, the possibility exists that he could indeed slip down to them at #75. Conversely, he could go high as the early 2nd Round, and be nowhere to be found at that slot. It will no doubt be interesting to see just what the Saints would eventually do at #75 — if somehow the young and talented Collins winds up still hanging around, “on the board”……………

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