The previous two drafts have seen a pair of exceptional wide receiver classes. Not only were there excellent receivers at the top of the class, but remarkable depth throughout the draft.
The New York Giants had largely bypassed those two draft classes but might not be able to avoid drafting a receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Giants clearly need a true “number one” receiver who can man the “X” position on the line of scrimmage on a play-in, play-out basis.
However there are potential scenarios in which the top four pass catchers don’t make it out of the top-10 and to the Giants at 11th overall — or that the Giants would see greater value (or need) at another position. If that happens, eyes will then turn to the second day of the draft.
Michigan receiver Nico Collins was a four-star recruit in 2017, earning offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Miami, and of course Michigan. He obviously ultimately chose Jim Harbaugh and Michigan over more sunny environs.
What made him such a strong recruit in 2017, and such an intriguing prospect in 2021?
Prospect: Nico Collins (WR, Michigan)
Games Watched: vs. Wisconsin (2019), vs. Michigan State (2019), vs. Alabama (2019), vs. Ohio State (2019)
Games Played (starts): 27
Yards (YPC): 1,388 (17.8 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 13
Games Played (starts): 12
Yards (YPC): 729 (19.7)
Total Touchdowns: 7
Best: Size, play strength, competitive toughness, ball skills, long speed
Worst: Short-area agility, skill polish
Projection: An eventual starting “X” receiver in a vertical offense
Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins possesses very good height and thickness, to go with good long speed, for the wide receiver position at the NFL level. Collins is listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and looks every bit of it on the field.
Collins lines up on both the left and right side of the Michigan offense, typically as the “X” receiver on the line of scrimmage. He does line up at the slot on occasion, but his primary role is as the Wolverines’ “X” receiver. Collins has a good release off of the line of scrimmage, wasting no time getting into his route against off or zone coverage. He makes good use of his size, as well as using good foot and handwork, to clear press-man coverage. Collins is able to use his hands to clear jams while using a slight hesitation before getting into his route to disrupt cornerbacks’ timing and create separation early in his route.
Collins runs a reasonably varied route tree, running mesh concepts, slant routes, curls, and vertical routes.
Collins shows good speed down the field, lengthening his stride and taking advantage of his long legs. He has a thick upper and lower body as well as long arms, giving him an impressive catch radius on deep passes. Collins also shows good ball skills, tracking, locating, and adjusting to the ball in the air.
He is a very physical player, seemingly eager for contact. Collins looks to dominate the catch point in contested situations, positioning his big frame to box out defenders and using his play strength to wrestle for the ball if necessary.
Collins is also a very willing blocker, delivering punishing blocks to defensive backs, which he routinely sustains for as long as necessary. He shows good technique when blocking, playing with good pad level, a wide base, and good hand placement for maximum leverage.
Collins is an unrefined receiver, who’s route running lacks the polish compared to some other prospects. He doesn’t do much to sell his routes, rarely varying his tempo after his release nor pressing his stems vertically before working back to the ball. He also has a tendency to round his routes off, making it easier for defensive backs to close on the catch point. And while Collins has strong hands, he can occasionally suffer from concentration drops.
Athletically, Collins has only average explosiveness, needing time to build up to his top speed. Likewise, his size limits his short area quickness. Rather than being able to sink his hips, plant a foot in the ground, and cut, Collins needs to throttle down before changing direction on the move.
Overall Grade: 7.5 - Collins should be a solid Day 2 selection. He has the ability to contribute in multiple ways early in his career, with the potential to be a solid starter if he reaches his potential.
Nico Collins projects as a starting “X” receiver in a vertical offense, at least eventually.
Collins will likely need a year or two of coaching and refinement to reach his full potential as a wide receiver. That being said, a team will likely be able to get production out of him early in his career with a limited offensive package if they emphasize his strengths. He should have success early in his career as a deep threat, in the end zone, or in short yardage situations.
Less glamorous, but still important, Collins is a pro-ready blocker. He’ll have the ability to contribute immediately in the running game, as well as on jet motion or screen plays.
Collins should be able to contribute in just about any offensive scheme, but coaches will need to recognize his physical limitations as well as his lack of polish coming out of college. While he can execute mesh concepts and run come-back routes, he shouldn’t be asked to do many routes which demand sharp breaks or double moves.
Collins’ best football is ahead of him and he has the traits to be much better than what he showed in college with more consistent quarterbacking.