Arizona Cardinals may go linebacker in first round yet again
By Jim Koch
The Arizona Cardinals were thrilled back in April of 2020 when Isaiah Simmons was still available during the NFL Draft’s first round. General manager Steve Keim stood pat with the seventh-overall pick, and watched as the Clemson University prospect fell squarely into the franchise’s arms. Could the Cards turn around and take another inside linebacker with their top selection this year?
There’s a very good chance that Zaven Collins, a highly-ranked defender out of the University of Tulsa, will be there for Arizona when the 16th-overall choice rolls around. Adding Collins to the mix would give the team two sensational young inside linebackers in the middle of their defense. A pair of potential superstars who the Cardinals could utilize for the next several seasons.
Collins is fresh off of an outstanding campaign in 2020 that landed him various honors. Included among the accolades was the Chuck Bednarik award, which is handed out to the nation’s best defensive player. Collins was magnificent, racking up 54 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions (two pick-sixes) and two passes defensed in just eight games for the Golden Hurricane.
The 6’4, 260 pound Collins turned in excellent performances the previous two seasons for Tulsa as well. In 2018, the Oklahoma native totaled 85 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a pick and three pass breakups in 12 appearances. A year later, in 2019, Collins registered 97 tackles, two sacks and three more passes defensed in 12 contests for the school.
Arizona had two veteran starters at the inside linebacker position last fall. Jordan Hicks, a free agent pickup from the Philadelphia Eagles, has two campaigns remaining on a four-year, $34 million contract he signed back in 2019. De’Vondre Campbell, who was inked to a one-year deal last year, will be hitting the open market this coming week.
Campbell is not expected to return to the desert, which would leave an open spot on the Cards roster for the Tulsa rookie. The 21-year old Collins is a tackling machine, who can also excel in pass coverage. It would not be surprising to see the Cardinals pull the trigger on the talented linebacker come April 29th.