Matt Waldman shares a sample evaluation of Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins, a mature runner who plays with high intensity.
7. Alex Collins, Arkansas (5-10, 217)
Of the three types of players in this tier, Collins is the first type in my eyes: A career contributor who won’t embarrass his team if he’s asked to hold down the starting job for a period of time. It’s a nice way of saying that he’s a back up with enough developmental upside to become a committee role player.
Collins’ footwork is his greatest asset. He’s a patient runner with good control of his stride length to change direction at the latest possible moment to set up backside cuts or creases as the play is designed. He has a good eye for reading defensive penetration and reacts with a variety of moves paired together to avoid defenders and earn yards.
Collins’ natural stride is short and choppy and it helps him side-step, cut, dip, and jump-cut because he’s always running in control. Part of that control is a low pad level that helps Collins drive through contact. Combine his excellent feet, sound pad level, and good initial burst, which helps him explode in and out of cuts, and he’s not easy to bring down, even if the number of broken tackles attributed to him doesn’t reflect it.
Collins runs with high intensity and a wiggle. Some part of his body is always moving just enough to avoid contact, work through glancing blows, or bait a defender in the wrong direction. He often spins through contact, and he has the strength to run through the wraps of defensive ends.
A mature runner who doesn’t bounce plays outside unless he has a good read of the situation and the field position is optimal to gamble, Collins has enough burst to beat linebackers through the second level of the defense. The limit on his acceleration comes at the next level, where he has difficulty maintaining his separation from defensive backs and lacks the speed to beat a safety with a good angle. He’s also not the athlete to gain the corner against a gap disciplined defense solely with his speed.
Collins style is maturity and attrition. He takes what the defense gives him and has enough skill and athletic ability to get a little more. He routinely turns losses into positive yardage, he’s not hesitant about hitting tight creases. He doesn’t have delusions of grandeur. At the same time, Collins has that slippery style that can make two men miss, bounce off a glancing blow and then push a pile five yards to convert a 3rd and 8. He’ll wear a team down with his intensity.
Like Kenneth Dixon, Collins carries the ball with either arm and keeps the ball tight when making changes of direction. Most of his targets as a receiver come on screen passes or short outlets where he’s facing the quarterback. He catches the ball with his hands, and if he drops the ball, it’s a matter of focus more than a true deficiency.
Although it’s a single target during his career, Collins ran a wheel route up the sideline against Florida a few years ago and caught the ball over his shoulder between a trailing corner in tight coverage and just before the safety worked across to deliver a hard shot. The potential to do more as a receiver is in Collins’ portfolio of work.
Collins has skills as a pass protector, and he should get good enough for a team to trust him. He makes good inside-out reads and diagnoses edge pressure. He understands how to square his body to the defender, and he’s quick enough to redirect his opponent. What’s missing in his game is a punch. He has the size to bend his knees, roll his hips, and punch through that movement so he can generate leverage on a defender, but it’s missing from his game. Collins also drops his head into contact, which makes it harder for him to control a defender after the initial collision. He does the same thing on cut blocks. He’ll make contact, but it’s not at an optimal angle because he’s telegraphing the movement and giving the defender room to avoid the worst of the collision.
Collins’ effort influences his fumble rate to the extent that his ball security is strong, but the extra effort to work through contact can induce fumbles. He’ll need to become more careful because his fumble rate of 1 per 43.3 carries is among the highest of this class. He fumbled five times in 2015
There are at least six players with more upside ranked behind Collins, but they also have more to prove. He’s the safest pick of the players in this tier because of what he does; he’s a well-rounded back with the athletic ability to give teams a little extra and without massive swings of downside.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Collins will probably be a fourth or fifth-round pick in the NFL Draft. I’d consider him in the late third or fourth round, but there will be leagues where he won’t get past the late second because they’re zealous about running backs.
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