Packers: Why Tulsa’s Zaven Collins should be a first-round target

Zaven Collins - Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Zaven Collins - Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Green Bay Packers getting rid of Christian Kirksey, the focus may now shift to a replacement for him.

Knowing Green Bay’s philosophy of draft and develop, one player to keep an eye would be Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins.

According to Justin Melo of The Draft Network, the Packers are one of several teams to meet virtually with him. Collins has been pegged all around as a first-round prospect for good reason.

Let’s take a look at why he deserves to be atop Green Bay’s big board on draft day.

Reason #1: Versatility

Collins proved during his collegiate career that he is valuable as an every-down linebacker. He can play in coverage, against the run, and on the edge. His skillset and usage will depend on what scheme the team that drafts him runs.

Green Bay primarily ran a 4-3 defense, but under new DC Joe Barry, they will be switching to a 3-4 base defense. The scheme Tulsa ran was a 3-3-5, but they had transitioned from a base 4-3 under new DC Joseph Gillespie, promoted from linebackers coach back in January of 2019. Collins’ versatility could set him up very well if Green Bay decides to take the chance on him — provided he’s there at #29 or within range of a trade.

Reason #2: Instinct

One of Collins’ greatest strengths as a player on defense is his instincts. He’s very good at reading and diagnosing plays. He knows when to drop back in coverage and when to rush the QB or stop the run.

He’s quick off the ball and has quick feet and swiftness in pursuit. Instinctive initiative on defense has been something that the Packers’ defense — specifically at linebacker — has lacked. Adding Collins would impact the first and second levels of the defense in a positive direction. His instinctive nature as a player is exactly what Joe Barry, as well as HC Matt LaFleur, are looking for in this “new age” defense for Green Bay.

Reason #3: Production

With Collins being Tulsa’s ‘Swiss army knife’ on defense in 2020 along with starting just eight games, his production in certain areas had dipped a bit. He tallied 36 solo tackles (compared to 42 and 51 in 2019/2018).

He also amassed four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Career wise, Collins tallied 109 total tackles, 25 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, and five total interceptions. If none of the other two reasons peak Green Bay’s interest, production at his position definitely should be the one that does.

Does Green Bay take the chance?

The Packers haven’t taken the chance on a first-round linebacker since 2006 with A.J. Hawk. If there was a player to finally take that chance on, it’s Collins. And if I’m Brian Gutekunst, I’m not letting him slip through the cracks.

With the linebacking corps taking a hit with Kirksey gone, it makes sense if he’s able to fall within the trade range or possibly to pick #29. Instant impact is what Green Bay’s defense has been lacking, and nabbing a player like Collins can help produce it.

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