With Alabama running back Najee Harris, and Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley still on the board, the Arizona Cardinals went a completely different route and drafted Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins with their 16th pick.
Collins finished with 236 tackles and 7.5 sacks in three seasons with the Golden Hurricane. He also had a career-high four interceptions in 2020 to go along with a career-high four sacks and two forced fumbles.
While the Arizona Cardinals are already loaded at linebacker with Isaiah Simmons, Devon Kennard, De’Vondre Campbell and Jordan Hicks, here are three ways the first round pick will help the Cardinals going forward:
HE CAN PASS RUSH
The Cardinals seem to be all in on building a defense that will get to the quarterback quickly. Last season, Arizona ranked fourth in sacks with 48, only trailing the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, only two linebackers finished with three or fewer sacks – Campbell and Kennard. With Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt rushing from the defensive line, Collins can sneak in from the inside linebacker position to add some extra pressure.
HE CAN TACKLE
Collins finished with a career-high 97 tackles in 2019, which would have been fourth best for the Cardinals in 2020, and second best among linebackers behind Campbell. This will help Arizona’s run defense, which struggled more than anything last season.
In 2020, the Cardinals were ranked 22nd against the run, allowing 125.5 yards per game. Collins has proven he is good at stopping the run, as he finished with 25 tackles for loss in three seasons at Tulsa.
HE WILL BE A GOOD SUBSTITUTION
While it is unlikely he will be a starter going into the 2021 season, Collins could fit in well as a rotational player. With Simmons having the skills to play anywhere on the field, Collins could sneak in at linebacker when Simmons drops back as a safety, or plays man against a tight end.
Even though the Cardinals could have found a better pick with their selection, there is still use for Collins this season. General manager Steve Keim said Collins will play the MIKE linebacker position if he beats out Hicks.