Photo by Aaron Babcock.
Nebraska star defensive tackle Maliek Collins decided to forgo his senior season and take his talents to the NFL.
ESPN’s Matt Miller ranked Collins as the 20th best overall prospect for the upcoming draft, while the NFL Draft advisory board handed Collins a second round projection.
I watched him all season, and saw how dynamic he could be. So, I broke down his film, and found several aspects of his game that make him a coveted player in the upcoming draft.
Collins stands tall at 6-foot-2, and weighs 284 pounds. Most players that size aren’t able to move quickly, but he is surprisingly quick on his feet. His footwork is superb, and he easily gets around the offensive line. In 2015, he finished with 29 tackles, six for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. In addition, he had six quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.
These numbers do not seem like a top pick’s numbers, but he did all of that damage while being double teamed. When single teamed last season, he had a team high 14 tackles for loss, to go along with 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
In addition to his footwork, his upper body strength is off the charts. On numerous occasions, I saw him push two defenders back towards their own quarterback. Last season, he played along with Dallas Cowboys second round draftee Randy Gregory, and when you compare the two, Collins anticipated and jumped to the snap much quicker than Gregory.
Another thing I noticed by Collins’ play, was that he had a very impressive snap anticipation. This helped him in college, and is going to be a very good attribute in the NFL.
I expect Collins to open eyes at the combine, with his footwork and speed, along with his strength.
Collins is a great player, but some see problems with his stamina and finishing out plays. There were some plays where he acted like the play was over seconds before the ballcarrier was tackled. While this may not be a pleasant attribute to Maliek’s draft profile, it is certainly teachable, and doesn’t seem like it will be a big problem for the Nebraska product.
It is also noteworthy that at the end of Nebraska’s loss against Northwestern, he was handed an unsportsmanlike penalty that ended the Cornhuskers chance at getting the ball back with 20 seconds left. While this certainly didn’t help his draft stock, we have never seen him do anything like that besides that occasion.
NFL Comparison: Nick Fairley, Los Angeles Rams
Collins should be as dominant as the Rams’ Nick Fairley. Only seven pounds separate the two, and Fairley being two inches taller. What doesn’t seperate them is the way they both excel at getting to the quarterback. Maliek is quicker than Fairley, but Fairley is better at bringing the quarterback down. Either way, Collins’ and Fairley’s games are extremely similar, and teams should expect to get that type of execution come April.
Perfect Fit: Detroit Lions
The last time Detroit took a Nebraska defensive tackle, it worked out pretty well. The Lions desperately need help on the defensive side of the line, and Collins would be a great help replacing the void left by Ndamukong Suh. We saw Ezekiel Ansah pick up a lot of the slack Suh left, but they still need more help up front. Maliek’s size and quickness would be a big help for Detroit, and their sparce defensive line.