Nico Collins: Kenny Golladay 2.0?
It truly is amazing how deep the wide receiver position is in the 2021 Draft class. We could be talking about this wideout class in the same vein as the highly touted 2014 Draft class. Wouldn’t that be something? Let’s dive into a receiver who has, at times, felt like the “Forgotten Man” of this WR class. Nico Collins, Michigan Wolverine, center stage.
(Photo Credit: E. Bronson/Michigan Photography)
Nico Collins played two seasons of varsity football while attending Clay-Chalkville High School (Pinson, Alabama). Collins lined up as a wide receiver and put up respectable stat lines. In his Junior season, Nico was able to register 60 receptions for 1,103 yards and 16 touchdowns. Finding the endzone on more than one-quarter of your touches is impressive. His production dipped in his Senior season, accumulating 865 yards on 43 receptions while finding the endzone 9 times. Collins was still able to find pay-dirt on one-fifth of his touches that season. His production got the attention of the biggest schools in College Football.
According to the 247Sports Composite, Collins was a four-star recruit, ranking fifth overall in the entire state of Alabama, 23rd ranked WR in the nation, and 138th overall nationally. Sixteen schools pursued the 6’5”, 195-pound prospect, including Alabama, Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, and LSU, just to name a few. Collins wanted to be “different” and committed to play for the Michigan Wolverines. Keep in mind, six of the top ten Alabama recruits stayed home and suited up for the Crimson Tide. Michigan brought in excellent WR talent that year, highlighted by Donovan Peoples-Jones (#1 WR), Tarik Black (#15 WR), and Nico Collins. Believe it or not, Collins was ranked one spot higher than fellow recruit, CeeDee Lamb.
When reviewing his high school tape, Collins’s athleticism and size shine through. Nico shredded opposing defenses with his speed and physicality, often taking short routes to the house, winning jump balls, and beating the secondary deep. He also showed great blocking technique. Collins was clearly a multi-dimensional talent.
Nico Collins registered statistics across three collegiate seasons (2017-2019). As a true Freshman, Collins only appeared in two games, accumulating three receptions for a mere 27 yards. Michigan had an abysmal aerial attack in 2017. Only one receiver reached 30 receptions and the highest individual receiving output, for the entire season, was 307 yards. Yikes. Peoples-Jones caught the ball 22 times (0 TDs). Tarik Black grabbed 11 balls (1 TD). 2017 was just a taste of NCAA action for Collins.
His sophomore season was a different story. Across 13 appearances, Nico Collins would lead the Wolverines in receiving yards (632) while recording the 2nd most receptions (38) and receiving TDs (6) on the team. Out of seven players who grabbed 10 balls or more, his 16.6 YPR would lead his team and rank 5th in the Big Ten Conference. A BIG leap in Year Two. To cap off a stellar 2018 season, Collins was Michigan’s Most Improved Offensive Player.
Nico Collins took another step forward in his Junior campaign. In 12 games, his 37-729-7 stat line would rank, team-wise, 2nd in receptions, 2nd in receiving yards, and 1st in receiving TDs. A colossal 19.7 YPR would not only lead the Wolverines once again but would rank 2nd in the Big Ten. Collins would absolutely torch the Indiana Hoosiers on a late-November Game Day. He hung a 6-165-3 stat line. Lit the entire state of Indiana on fire.
(Photo Credit: Reese's Senior Bowl)
Like many other athletes, Collins ultimately opted out of the 2020 season. In late 2020, Todd McShay projected Nico to be selected 18th overall in his first NFL mock draft. That may be a surprise to many of you. Collins seems a bit like a forgotten man after opting out of his senior season. After many revisions, McShay has since pushed Collins out of the first round. Nico Collins reminded the football world of his talent at the 2021 Senior Bowl, making multiple acrobatic and physical catches.
Nonetheless, here are his career statistics as a Michigan Wolverine:
Receiving Yards: 1,388
Receiving TDs: 13
On NFL.com, Collins is listed at 6’4” and 215 pounds. He received a 6.28 prospect grade, on the border between two grade descriptions. The 6.1-6.2 grade is a “good backup who could become [a] starter” while the 6.3-6.4 grade is a player who “will be [a] starter within [the] first two seasons”. NFL Analyst, Lance Zierlein, has given Collins an interesting NFL Comparison. It’s frankly underwhelming. It’s N’Keal Harry. Ehh.
When watching Nico’s NCAA tape, I wrote down some notes. I thought his space creation from defenders was better than some analysts portrayed. Certainly not like the negligible space N’Keal Harry attempts to create. His speed allows him to sport great YAC as well as test secondaries deep and all over the field. For a receiver of his size, Collins has no issue coming back to the ball. Nico shields defenders with his sizeable frame and makes contested catches routinely. He’s somewhat a jack-of-all-trades. His route running warrants improvement, as his change-of-direction is not the crispest.
I think the N’Keal Harry Comparison could be a bit richer, but I see a lot of Kenny Golladay in Nico Collins. I think Golladay is Collins’s ceiling, but their play styles and metrics have striking similarities.
Nico Collins: 6’4”, 215 pounds, 32.5” (Arms), Expected to run ~4.5 or less (40-yard dash)
Kenny Golladay: 6’4”, 218 pounds, 32” (Arms), 4.5 (40-yard dash)
Nico Collins can certainly be a team’s “X receiver”. He sports metrics that could satisfy this team-need. Despite adding Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, the New England Patriots could certainly use an “X receiver”. It also seems like the Patriots are exploring N’Keal Harry trades. He could fit in well in New England. The Baltimore Ravens need a big-bodied receiver. Collins fits the bill. The Kansas City Chiefs need some more height in their aerial attack. I could see Mahomes enjoying the addition of Collins and not simply relying on Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to move the chains. After losing Kenny Golladay in free agency, the Detroit Lions could fill his role with a Golladay clone. These are just a few teams that could use a player like Collins. It will be interesting to see where the 22-year-old lands. I see Nico going off the board sometime on Day Two.
Nico Collins has a pretty spotless bill of health. He’s had his occasional bumps and bruises, but there are no injury concerns here.
(Photo Credit: PFN)
Nico Collins has the potential to be a massive contributor at the NFL level. With his well-rounded skill set, we could see Collins moving the chains, beating secondaries deep, or winning jump balls in the endzone on the world’s biggest stage. Collins has a rookie ADP of roughly ~26-28 (WR12). That lands in the late third-round of rookie drafts (10 teams), early third-round (12 teams), and late second-round (14 teams or more). If Collins played in 2020, I think we could have seen him in the top ten at the position and a higher rookie ADP. At his rookie draft price, I’m buying. Since being featured in the Michigan offense, he consistently trended upwards. 2020, most likely, would not have been an exception. Senior Bowl reminded us that Collins has not skipped a beat. In our Fantasy Scouts start-up, Collins was selected at 18.07 (177th overall). I’d take that dart throw any day of the week. He’s ready to contribute in any capacity. Excited to see where he lands. Less than six weeks. Buckle up.