‘The Ringer’ Has a Different Idea for the Vikings at No. 14

Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys on the clock in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

By now, mock drafts have sent virtually everyone in between the range of 5th-20th best-ranked prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft to the Minnesota Vikings. It’s the nature of the beast in March and April, although there is a slight lull during free agency.

The most frequently mocked-names sent to Minnesota include Kwity Paye (DE, Michigan), Gregory Rousseau (DE, Miami), Jaelan Phillips (DE, Miami), Christian Darrisaw (OT, Virginia Tech), Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL, USC), and Rashawn Slater (OT, Northwestern).

All of those men fit the “positional need” for the team because both the offensive and defense trenches need some help. Thankfully, men like Slater and Paye would arguably blend the best-player-available mindset.

But The Ringer has different plans for Minnesota. Hosts of The Big Board Show, Danny Heifetz and Danny Kelly, conducted a full 1st-Round mock draft earlier this week. When the board hit #14, the Vikings were predicted to select Zaven Collins, a linebacker from Tulsa.

Well, that’s a first.

Collins could develop into one of the best players from the 2021 class, but draft soothsayers aren’t sold just yet. Pro Football Focus ranks Collins as its 35th-best prospect on the 2021 draft board. PFF’s Michael Renner said about Collins:

If you want a 6-foot-4, 260-pound linebacker who can still go sideline to sideline and cover in your defense, there aren’t going to be any options other than Collins. He earned a 91.1 overall grade this past season and was the best player every time he took the field.

The Sporting News gets close to agreeing with PFF. Its draft board wiggles Collins into the 30th slot in terms of best football players available.

The problem? 35 and 30 are nowhere near 14. The Vikings would be “reaching” or “settling” for a pick that they could conceivably trade back and still get their man. If general manager Rick Spielman indeed enjoys the college tape of Collins, well, he can trade back all the way to the bottom of the 1st Round while stockpiling a 2nd-Rounder via trade.

Whether Collins became a Vikings at #14 or later on, let’s peek at his scouting reports.

The Draft Network says about the Tulsa linebacker via Joe Marino:

Collins offers an exciting blend of size, length, power, football intelligence, and versatility that makes him a dynamic prospect for the NFL. Whether it’s defending the run, dropping into coverage, or rushing the passer, Collins has the requisite skill set required to execute and was arguably the most dynamic defensive playmaker in college football for the 2020 season. He demonstrated notable growth in 2020, becoming a complete defender and making high-impact, clutch plays seemingly every week. The Belichick disciples and teams that deploy that style of defense are likely salivating over Collins’ skill set and he projects as an impact defender in the NFL that can make plays in a variety of ways.

Ian Cummings from Pro Football Network offers his thoughts, too:

Looking at his physical profile, it’s clear why Zaven Collins is a first-round prospect. Collins is 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, with decent length for his size. He’s also a good athlete. He doesn’t have every athletic trait in the book, but Collins can mold his game around several qualities, most notably his explosiveness. Collins has excellent stop-and-start ability in short ranges. That explosiveness helps him in several phases on defense. In pass defense, the Tulsa linebacker has enough closing burst to cross gaps and enter passing windows. He’s also fluid with his backpedal.

There aren’t too many selections would that irk Vikings fans at #14 because the options are so limitless. But this one would — solely based on the notion that Collins can be plucked significantly later than the 14th hole of the draft.