With the 52nd pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots decided to boost their pass rush by selecting Southern Mississippi star pass rusher Jamie Collins. An underrated prospect heading into the draft, Collins is exactly the type of player the Patriots have earned a reputation for picking- under-the-radar, yet talented once you look below the surface.
There’s little doubt in my mind that the Patriots needed to add somebody else at defensive end who can rush the passer, because I came away thoroughly unimpressed with Jermaine Cunningham’s third season. He wasn’t terrible, but it’s clear to me that Cunningham isn’t earning his draft stock. This isn’t easy for me to say either, because I touted Cunningham going into last season and thought he had a very good rookie year.
The Patriots needed to add an impact pass rusher in sub-packages, and Collins will immediately play in that role. He has off-the-charts athleticism and was one of the best defensive players in the C-USA on a true bottom-feeder with 20 tackles for loss and ten sacks. He has long arms, 4.6 speed, and I can’t laud his athleticism enough. Collins is one of the most freakish pass rushers in the draft, and looking back I really screwed up not putting him on the Patriots draft radar (but Mike Loyko and Mike Reiss did).
Collins wasn’t the most consistent player in college, though, so you can’t be too rosy with projecting him. The Patriots already have one project pass rusher in Jake Bequette, so I have a feeling that the Pats think Collins can contribute immediately. After all, they did take him with their first pick in the draft. Collins most likely wouldn’t have fallen outside of the second round, and I think his explosiveness is going to be a huge asset.
I expect the Patriots to allow Collins to poach some playing time from Rob Ninkovich, and Collins is another scheme-versatile player in the front seven for the Patriots. His ability to play at linebacker and defensive end is going to give Bill Belichick plenty of options, and it’s telling that Belichick quietly traveled to work out Collins.
The issues with Collins are his motor, awareness, over-aggressiveness, and the fact that he isn’t the best run defender around. But at linebacker, Collins would be an immediate upgrade in coverage (he used to play at safety), and the Patriots don’t need another DE who can play the run well. That would have been a nice bonus, the primary concern is adding an impact pass rusher. Collins can certainly make an impact with his athleticism, speed, explosiveness, and length. There’s a lot of upside to be had in this pick, and hopefully the Pats can teach him to be more disciplined on defense and more focused- he sometimes has mental lapses. Collins isn’t the most consistent player, but he could very well be the impact, versatile player that this team needs.
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