2021 Raiders Draft Prospect Profile
Name: Zaven Collins
School: The University of Tulsa
Weight: 260 pounds
Although blessed with upper-level athleticism, Collins’ advantage over the other athletes is vision. He possesses a multi-level vision. That is to say, by using sight and instincts, Collins immediately makes a decision in the play. Either he will meet or beat the ballcarrier. While he plays fast, Collins doesn’t look out of place or hurried in his pursuit. From blowing up screens to diagnosing the run, Collins will play all three downs at the next level.
People forget how large Collins is, due to his ability to move. At Tulsa, the coaching staff deployed him in ways that took advantage of this trait. As a rusher, Collins does not waste a single step streaking into the backfield. More importantly, he closes on the quarterback to secure the hit. Meanwhile, in coverage, he shows the same explosion. See and go looks to be Collins’ calling card.
While his rush set makes look rather basic, Collins will use the ability to get skinny when dipping under tackles. Also, when knifing in to stop the run game. As mentioned, the explosion jumps off the film with a hip flip and the ability to breakdown without overpursuit.
While Collins profiles as a sure tackler, where’s the force. Granted, he will wrap and drag from various angles. However, for a player that gets this free, with a clean shot, Collins must make opponents pay. Also, a couple of times, he will paw and reach instead of closing the space on perimeter plays.
Collins shines in this attribute. Regardless of spacing or distance, he excels. With sound, deep drops, and change of direction, he appears comfortable away from the line of scrimmage. In watching his film, his gather and drive aren’t a laborious issue. Collins will push off his drop and bolt towards the ball. On top of that, he traces underneath routes. Most importantly, Collins’ ball skills not only flash, but remain consistent. During Collins’ career in Tulsa, he picked five passes, running two back for scores.
When free, the former AAC Defensive Player of The Year splits guards and makes the play in the backfield. However, Collins must avoid the trash and sift better. He cannot use his athleticism in confined space.
As stated above, Collins’ feel and vision for the game elevates the defense. He also brings an encyclopedic knowledge of scheme and offensive tendencies to the field. He strives to make every play with his eyes first, then makes the clearest decision en route.
The Raiders paid Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton millions of dollars to solve the perennial problems. While Kwiatkoski seems like a keeper, Littleton struggled mightily in coverage, missing tackles, and losing opponents. While the Raiders will retain him, they do need a third linebacker. In Collins, the Raiders could use him in a plethora of various offenses. From an OLB in a 3-4 to a 4-3 ‘backer that never leaves the field. Behind Kwiatkoski and Littleton, the Raiders do not employ another starting quality linebacker that hasn’t reached their ceiling. On the other hand, Collins gives Vegas a versatile talent that will immediately make plays.
Grade: 25/28 based on a 1-4 scale.