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Alex Collins ready to power way into fantasy relevance

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Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Arkansas running back Alex Collins.

Alex Collins split carries with Jonathan Williams his first two years at Arkansas, but still managed to rack up over 1,000 rushing yards in each campaign. With Williams sidelined with an injury in 2015, Collins became the lead back and increased his statistical output to over 1,500 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. All told, he racked up 3,703 yards (with a 5.6 ypc average) and scored 36 touchdowns in three years in the SEC. Now as he makes the leap to the NFL, does Collins have what it takes to be a dominant featured back as a pro?

Full 2016 "Prospect a Day" list

Collins' NFL.com draft profile

Strengths

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:


     » Powerful runner who keeps legs churning
     » Low pad level with good balance
     » Uses footwork to set up cuts and runs well
     » Solid pass-catcher despite minimal production

Watching Collins, you're not going to get treated to a wealth of highlight-reel plays unless a gaping hole is established for him, but that's fine, because that's not the type of player he is. He's a patient, smart, powerful between-the-tackles bruiser. He isn't an elite tackle breaker, but keeps his legs churning and can drag tacklers for additional yardage or push the pile with gusto.

Collins excels at keeping his pad level low and maintaining his balance through the hole, allowing him to squeeze through arm tackles and consistently fall forward for additional yardage. His feet aren't as quick as the likes of Ezekiel Elliott or Kenneth Dixon, but Collins is adept and using his footwork to set up cuts through the line of scrimmage and moves at the second level. His tape against Missouri was rife with excellent footwork and moves through the line and second level.

While Collins doesn't have the reception totals that would indicate he's a talented pass-catcher (27 career receptions), he shows a knack for being able to track the ball and make catches in awkward positions. There were a few errant swing passes and wheel routes he was able to haul in on tape that would lead you to believe if given the opportunity he could pass the test in the passing game.

Weaknesses


     » Can be overly hesitant at the line
     » Often ducks his head when in the hole, limiting his vision
     » Slow feet, and lacks elite long speed
     » Limited athletic profile

While Collins consistently uses good footwork to set up cutbacks at the line, this also occasionally leads to some hesitance and inconsistent vision. There were numerous occasions where Collins would be chopping his feet behind the line and miss an opportunity before lowering his head and trying to plow for whatever he could get. Speaking of which, I'm not sure if this is as bad as it looked on tape (amateur scout here, no surprise), but Collins frequently dipped his head when hitting the hole or expecting contact. This would limit his vision and cause him to miss opportunities for cutbacks in space, forcing him to instead just plow ahead like a slow-moving train. It's a small knock, but something he can hopefully iron out as a pro.

Collins was climbing up draft boards until he put up a truly lackluster combine. As you can see from mockdraftable.com, Collins' athletic profile is severely underwhelming. This isn't to say it ruins who he is as a player, as Collins is still strong, fast and has solid burst/acceleration, but it does provide some concerns about how he'll stack up with the elite athletes in the NFL. Collins was held to a 2.2 yards per carry average each of the last two times he faced Alabama (which boasted the most talented defensive line in the country). Again, this isn't a fantasy death sentence, but it's worth noting in the grand scheme of Collins' fantasy future.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits


     » Dallas Cowboys
     » Washington
     » New York Jets
     » Indianapolis Colts

Dallas signed Alfred Morris to join Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar in a committee, so adding Collins to the competition for touches would be good for the team (but not the greatest for fantasy unless he earns the starting spot). Washington needs depth after letting Morris walk, and while Collins and Matt Jones are similar-ish players, they could compete well for the early-down work. Lance Zierlein compared Collins to Chris Ivory in his draft profile, so why not send Collins to New York to learn behind Matt Forte and provide some extra power to the backfield? Lastly, the Colts are desperately in need of a featured back to replace Frank Gore when (I mean, "if") he finally retires. Collins could learn a lot from Gore and give Rob Chudzinski a power-style back to keep defenses off of Andrew Luck.

Early fantasy draft projection

Collins seemed destined to be a late Day 2 pick earlier in the process, but is now more likely a Day 3 selection. While he doesn't have the explosion or athleticism to be a game-breaker on his own, he does all of the little things right to be successful at the next level and in fantasy. There are several backs I'd currently take ahead of Collins in dynasty rookie drafts, but for those in need of a solid contributor at the back end of the second round, the former Razorback could be a good fit. As for redraft, that will all depend on where Collins falls, but if it's in the right situation he could be worth a late-round flier just in case.

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-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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