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The offensive tackle in the class that "experts" compare to D.J. Fluker

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Looking at an offensive tackle that could possibly be the Chargers 1st round pick

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We know that San Diego needs a tackle. We also know that the Chargers want to run the ball. They also need to keep their quarterback upright. Well after day 1 of the Senior Bowl it appears that LSU's La'el Collins stole the show at offensive tackle. By all account he was the best offensive lineman of the day, and some said he was even the best player. Here's how Collins weighed in:

Player School Height Weight Arm Length Hand Size
La'el Collins LSU 6'4 5/8 308 33" 10 3/4"

That's a good weigh in for Collins, though I did hear some mention it was mostly upper body. But you don't judge a players performance off of a weigh in or 1 day of practice. Collins has 7 cut ups on draft breakdown that paint the picture of what type of player he is. I charted Mississippi State, Auburn, Florida and Ole Miss, and here's how that turned out.

Blown Block(R) Blown Block(P) On the Ground QB Hit Sack Drive Block Knockdown
7 1 6 1 1 9 12

1sack allowed in 4 games and only 1 QB hit. That's huge as a blind side protector. I've heard many compare Collins to D.J. Fluker. The comparison comes from the idea that Collins struggles in the passing game with speed rushers, and I couldn't disagree more. One of Collins biggest strengths was getting to his landmark in pass pro before the edge rusher could. He had no issues with speed rushers in my opinion. Was it always pretty? Nope. But did he get the job done rep after rep? Yes.

Where you can see the Fluker comparison is playing with a chip on his shoulder, playing to the whistle and finishing blocks, as evidenced by the 12 knockdowns.

That's the kind of lineman the Chargers, or any team, needs. Someone who's nasty and is a finisher. The above vine is an area that Collins excelled in where I would've never imagined based on what I've "heard" about him. Blocking at the 2nd level. Over and over in my notes it was either "swallows LB at 2nd level", "is so good at 2nd level", "effectively picks up LB and seals him." That's intriguing. In the Chargers running scheme you need to be athletic enough to execute blocks on the move. I only had him down for 1 whiff in 4 games when it came to blocking at the 2nd level. It's an underrated trait of Collins.

Winning at the point of attack

It's one thing not to make mistakes and just mirror the defender. It's another thing to dominate your opponent with strength at the point of attack. Collins did the latter. LSU ran the ball a ton and Collins was asked to down block(block the play side defensive tackle) quite a bit. Think this really helped him showcase some of his strength. There were times when he would pick up a knockdown block just with his initial punch. Collins has crazy power. When he locks on to defenders, he gets good leg drive, and clears them out of the hole.

He's at the top of the screen in this vine. Functional strength is necessary to win at the NFL. Collins has as much strength as you need to succeed at the position in the NFL.  Here's a look at Collins throwing a 260 pound man off of his feet as if he were a high schooler.

Why isn't Collins a top 10 player?

While Collins didn't struggle with speed to the edge, he did struggle with quickness off of the snap or losing to counters to his inside. When Collins lost, it was because he was lunging and off balance. Like Fluker, he wants to maul you and that leads him to being over aggressive at times.

Collins plays with high energy and good effort, but there were way too many occasions where he fell off of his blocks. I don't know whether this was a pad level issue or what, but it needs to be fixed. Just a second longer on some of the blocks and they go from blown blocks to drive blocks. The last critique I had was Collins was a little late to recognize some blitzes or stunts. I wouldn't go as far to say he was a liability, but it would be something to keep an eye out for moving forward. He did a good job of blocking whoever it was once he recognized the play, but in the NFL he might not have the time he was allotted in college.

Grade

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable 4.0

Player Trait Weight
Space Blocking 4 3.9
Speed Rush 4 3.7
Power Run 2.5 2.3
Power Rush 2.5 2.4
Strength 2 2
Technique 2 1.6
Change of Direction 2 1.7
Quickness 2 1.7
Size 2 1.9
Length 2 1.7

Collins grades out to an 8.24, or a high 1st round talent. As of today, I'm not sure there are 5 "better" players in this draft class. Couple that with the fact that Collins plays a premier position and his value sky rockets. There are issues with him lunging, losing to inside counters, and falling off blocks. But man, his power in the run game and his ability to get the job done and keep the quarterback clean make him awfully enticing in the 1st round.

How he fits as a Charger

I don't know how the position switch would go if the team re-signed King Dunlap, but Collins at right tackle next to Fluker would be disastrous for defenses in the run game. I'm not suggesting he needs to switch positions, but King Dunlap has earned the left tackle spot if he does stay in San Diego. Collins has an easier time getting to his spot in pass protection than Fluker, but right tackle is a whole new world, especially if you haven't played it. It's not like Madden where you can just switch players over and they'll be fine. That said, if Collins is indeed the best option on the board at 17, and there's a good chance he'll be the top option, San Diego needs to make the pick and figure out how to get him on the field. I'm a fan of Collins' game and really like what he could bring to the Chargers.