The moment the draft ended three months ago, Cowboys fans have been on the edge of their seat waiting to see their team’s rookies take the field. With that being said, I want to give each fan my opinion on what they can expect from each of these rookies not only in 2016, but also for the long haul with this new series I am doing for Cowboys Blitz.
3rd Round Pick (67th Overall): Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
Once Cowboys fans let out all of their emotion and steam from the Jaylon Smith draft selection, it was time for their third round pick. There were multiple marquee defensive linemen still left on the board, which included players like Florida’s Jonathan Bullard, Baylor’s Andrew Billings, and Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun. Dallas did indeed select a defensive lineman, but at a position this team has security in at the three technique. The Maliek Collins pick may have seemed like a reach to many, but it is obvious that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli stood on the table for him, as he fits exactly what Marinelli wants in a one-gap penetrating three technique. That is why I understood the pick.
When you turn on the film, he will disappear throughout games, but his flashes show enormous pass rush potential from the three technique position. His lightning-quick first step does not even give the guard a chance to get his hands on him, as he is already in the backfield disrupting the play. He uses his hands well, disengaging from blocks when he needs to, and finishes nicely. However, the lack of consistent effort is the reason why these flashes were not as sustained as they could have been. Collins was one of the most athletic, disruptive interior pass rushers in all of college football last season, but it was only when he wanted to be. Taking plays off in the NFL will not cut it, and that is partly why he dropped to the 67th pick, but if there is any defensive line coach in the league that will get the best out of him, it is Rod Marinelli. I know he sees the talent and potential in Collins because if he did not, there would be a different third round pick on this roster. Collins landed in an ideal situation with the Cowboys, and Rod Marinelli landed his ideal three technique.
Throughout training camp, Maliek Collins has been recovering from a broken foot, but he has been activated just in time for the third preseason game this Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks. He will receive reps against another NFL team for the first time, and I am willing to bet that he will see a TON of snaps, especially since Tyrone Crawford will be sitting with a concussion. “We do not need another three technique! We have Tyrone Crawford! Why draft Collins?” There was that crowd when the 67th pick was announced, but with the injury history of Crawford, Collins will play a key role as a rotational three technique in 2016. In addition, he has the opportunity to assert himself into a larger role if Crawford is to miss time. The talent is all there with Collins, but can he put it all together?
2016 Prediction: Will play a key role as a rotational three technique.
Long-Term Prediction: Has the potential to be a high-volume interior pass rusher.