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L.J. Collier eager to prove himself after rough rookie season

L.J. Collier was a first-round pick from whom the NFL didn't hear much at all in his rookie season.

That's statistically just the facts. After he was selected 29th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Settle Seahawks defensive end appeared in 11 games and recorded three tackles -- in total.

Collier isn't happy with how he played, and he doesn't want that meager stat line to serve as a reason for folks to cast him aside as a wasted pick. 2020 is about redemption for Collier.

"I am chomping at the bit to get out there because it's one of those things where you didn't have the year everybody wanted you to get, so they just kind of shift you off to the side as if you can't play," Collier said, via ESPN. "It's disrespectful and I feel very disrespected, but I'm the type of person there's no need for talking; just showing. Go out there and you run through a couple people, you run through people's faces, you make noise, and people, they'll remember who you are very quickly.

"I'm excited to get back out there and show people who I am. I don't really care about the first-round pick stuff. I'm a football player at the end of the day and I can play football at a high level just like everybody else can, and I'm out there to prove that, that I'm one of the best and I can do what I need to do. I can rush the passer, I can stop the run. I'm out there to prove that, that I'm one hell of a football player and I'm going to show that this year."

Based on Seattle's actions, it became clear fairly early in the 2019 season that Collier -- who suffered an ankle injury in camp -- was going to need time to develop before he could be relied on to produce at a first-round level. In need of defensive end help in the meantime, the Seahawks made a Sept. 1 trade to acquire Jadeveon Clowney. They've since let him walk in free agency, deciding not to spend the big money to keep him and instead hope their first-round pick ends up becoming a viable replacement.

That's the point of using a first-round pick on a player. They're supposed to become reliable starters, and for the Seahawks -- a team that has shown a tendency to not use its first round picks -- they need Collier to become that.

"I just realized that missing those reps...was a big thing, especially when you're new to the league," Collier said of the impact of his ankle injury. "So I needed preseason to knock off the rust and things like that. I came in against the Steelers [in Week 2] and hadn't practiced anything in a very long time, no pad work. So I was a step behind everybody, and when I did catch a stride, there was times where I didn't play and things like that. So it was very difficult, but I learned a lot last year about myself and about the league and I had great guys around me, great coaches. I learned a lot from them and [about] what I can bring to the game this year."

The Cleveland Browns spent five picks between the 2017 and 2018 drafts on Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, David Njoku, Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward. Three of those five are key players, one was an important piece in a blockbuster trade, and the other has two seasons left to prove he was worth the pick. The Seahawks, on the other hand, spent just two more first-round picks in total from 2010-2019. A potential swing and miss can hurt the Seahawks more than those teams using a first-rounder every year, or maybe even multiple first-rounders in a year, if we're strictly talking about draft pick value and return.

Fortunately for Seattle, they've consistently hit on later-round picks, most notably with the selections of Russell Wilson (third round, 2012) and Richard Sherman (fifth round, 2011). Bobby Wagner was a second-round pick. Tyler Lockett was a third-round pick. You get the point.

Collier still has time to prove he was worth it. But this is a production-based business. The clock is ticking.

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