With the annual Senior Bowl now behind us and Super Bowl LV about to take place on Sunday, the next major event on the 2021 pre-draft calendar are the college pro days. Between now and the 2021 NFL Draft, however, we’re sure to be bombarded with several more mock drafts from the major media sites and that includes NFL.com, who released a new one on Thursday by analyst Lance Zierlein.
In Zierlein’s first mock draft of the 2021 season he has the Pittsburgh Steelers picking Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins with the 24th overall selection in the first round and he writes:
The Steelers need a running back, but GM Kevin Colbert doesn’t draft RBs this early. He does, however, seem to love taking linebackers in Round 1, and Collins’ rare combination of size, range and coverage will be appealing.
Interesting enough, Zierlein is now the second major media draft analyst to mock Collins to the Steelers so far this offseason as Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN did the same a little more than a week ago.
Also already noted in Kiper’s recent mock draft, Collins, who declared for the 2021 NFL Draft as an underclassman several weeks ago, registered 236 total tackles of which 25 resulted in lost yardage, in his three seasons At Tulsa. He also had 7.5 sacks in 32 games to go along with five interceptions, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
As I also pointed out recently, Collins is listed on the Tulsa website at 6-4, 260-pounds and that’s obviously not what the Steelers usually look for when it comes to off-the-ball linebackers. In fact, that’s more of what the Steelers look for when it comes to measurables for edge players that they use as outside linebackers.
Collins was asked to rush some off the edge at Tulsa but most of his game tape and play history seem to indicate that NFL team’s will view him as an off-the-ball linebacker. For whatever it’s worth, Pro Football Focus currently has Collins listed at No. 31 on their Top 100 Big Board. Below is their summation of Collins in their annual draft guide.
With the linebacker position in the NFL getting smaller and smaller in recent years, Collins is a decidedly different animal. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Collins has throwback thumper size combined with modern athleticism. His performance this past year for Tulsa was nothing short of special. He consistently made plays in coverage, with four picks and a pass breakup in only eight games. His best attribute when projecting to the next level, though, is what he can do as a blitzer — running backs aren’t blocking this dude. He’s going to be high on any blitz-heavy team’s draft board and will wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
The Steelers could indeed be looking for another inside linebacker at some point during the 2021 NFL Draft. However, after trading up in the first-round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select inside linebacker Devin Bush, one must wonder if they would seriously consider another inside linebacker in the first-round so soon with so many needs on the offensive side of the football this year. Regardless, Collins is a player that might be in consideration at 24 overall this year just the same. Thursday likely won’t be the last time we see him mocked to the Steelers during the pre-draft process.
Our own Josh Carney recently profiled Collins for the site and you can read his scouting report on the Tulsa report at the link below.