Southern Miss didn't win a single game last season, but that's now ancient history for former Golden Eagles outside linebacker Jamie Collins.
After an impressive performance at last month's NFL Scouting Combine, Collins' draft stock is now on the rise as much as that of any other player in the 2013 NFL draft.
Collins was firmly planted in the second or third round before the combine, but that's not necessarily the case anymore. A top-notch athlete who is scheme versatile, Collins could now be considered as early as the late first or early second round.
At just over 6'3" and 250 pounds, Collins clocked a 4.64 in the 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 41.5 inches.
His length and athleticism translate seamlessly to the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 scheme. But as Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller suggests, Collins is effective in run support from a stand-up linebacker position.
Miller compares Collins to Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Manny Lawson, a player who has excelled both as a pass-rusher in the the 3-4 and as a strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 scheme.
The ability to play in multiple defenses can make all the difference on draft day.
Last year, Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin enjoyed a dramatic rise up draft boards in the time leading up to April. McClellin began the draft process as a Day 2 prospect before ultimately landing with the Chicago Bears at No. 19 overall.
McClellin showed an ability to play in space, which appealed to 3-4 teams around the league who viewed him as a pass-rushing linebacker. Teams like the Bears, who run a 4-3 scheme, saw McClellin as a natural defensive end.
Collins will likely play standing up regardless of what scheme he plays in, but there are clear similarities between he and McClellin in regard to versatility, and perhaps a late vault up NFL draft boards.
Throughout his four years at Southern Miss, Collins had 45 tackles for loss. In 2012 alone, he led Conference USA with 20 tackles for loss and added 10 sacks.
His ability to cover a lot of ground at the line of scrimmage was on display at the combine, as his 11'7" broad jump was nearly a foot longer than any other linebacker.
Rushing the passer is vital to all defensive schemes. Typically, 3-4 defenses are forced to turn college defensive ends into NFL linebackers, which can be a turbulent transition. Collins projects well to the rush linebacker position, having already played a similar role in college.
Late in Round 1, Collins would make some sense for the Atlanta Falcons at No. 30.
After the recent release of defensive end John Abraham, Scott Carasik suggests the Falcons could be on the verge of switching to the 3-4 defense. And while Atlanta has some necessary pieces in place for a potential scheme change, the Falcons have a glaring need for an athletic, pass-rushing linebacker.
Assuming Atlanta uses a mix of the 4-3 and the 3-4 in the immediate future, a versatile guy like Collins would help smooth the transition.
An impressive combine performance can skyrocket a prospect up a draft board, but elite athleticism means nothing if the guy isn't a good football player. And for Collins, the game film mirrors his athletic ability.
This year's draft lacks true 3-4 outside linebackers. Oregon's Dion Jordan and Georgia's Jarvis Jones lead the pack, but Collins may be the next in line.
Last year, the first round produced five pass-rushers that were considered as 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends. Bruce Irvin, Shea McClellin and Chandler Jones ended up as defensive ends, while Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry made the transition to outside linebacker.
Currently, Jordan looks like a surefire top-10 pick, but Jones is in a unique situation given the concerns about his durability. If there are two positions teams are willing to reach for in the first round, it's quarterbacks and pass-rushers.
Don't sleep on Collins as a potential first-round pick. His stock is on the rise, and he is one of the most natural 3-4 outside linebackers in this draft class.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
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