- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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We were able to get our hands on some game film on the Patriots' draft picks, and we'll plan to unveil scouting reports on the picks throughout the course of the week. These scouting reports help us to project how each pick will fit into the Patriots roster, keeping in mind that what role the team has in mind for them is yet unknown, and we may not get a sense of the roles until later in OTAs or even training camp.
We'll kick things off with linebacker Jamie Collins, the team's top choice.
Alignment: Collins was used extensively as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end at Southern Miss, playing as one bookend of their four-man fronts. Given his athleticism and range, Collins was also used as a play-in-space linebacker who dropped into coverage.
Build/athleticism: Collins is a long, linear player who has very good range in his arms (nearly 34 inches long), a strong but lean build through his core and sufficient bulk at 250 pounds. He has a very good first step off the line of scrimmage and very good ability to torque his body to squirm through crevices on "games" in which he becomes an interior rusher. He has excellent ability to close in the open field and very good range from sideline to sideline. He enters the Patriots program as the team's most explosive and athletic linebacker overall.
Skills/traits: He has very good ability to get off the ball, turn the corner and bend around an opposing offensive tackle. He spends extensive time in the backfield and is a disruptive player who can close from the weak side and chase down runners in the open field. Collins' production was excellent during his final year at Southern Miss despite a weak supporting cast that allowed opposing offensive lines to account for him. He showed just average ability to take on blocks, often being overwhelmed at the point of attack. He does not have the base right now to hold up against double-teams. He did show good ability to slide off of blocks at the second level, although he was more often playing at or near the line of scrimmage. A good tackler who has the traits to be very good and effective in the open field.
Projection: The most noteworthy area that Collins appears to have to work on is his ability to anchor as a run defender at the point of attack (he'll have a terrific mentor in Jerod Mayo for that), but his unique skill set is easy to identify. Given his athleticism, in particular his explosiveness, Collins projects to be able to play in multiple roles for the Patriots. The team has a need to improve its coverage at the linebacker spot, and it would not come as a surprise to see Collins play alongside Mayo in sub defensive packages. Though the Patriots have the personnel set to run four-man fronts, it will be interesting to see if they also elect to work in some 3-4 looks, in which Collins would be a capable weakside outside linebacker (sometimes called the "Jack" linebacker). That position lends itself to pass-rushing opportunities, and Collins clearly can rush the passer. If the Patriots don't see Collins as a fit in sub packages as a coverage player, he has the juice to be a rusher as well. The bottom line with a player like Collins is that his athleticism is impressive enough that he'll find his way on the field in some capacity. That will extend to special teams as well, where Collins has the tools to be an outstanding coverage player.