#71 La'el Collins
La’el Collins was born on July 26, 1993 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He played his collegiate career at LSU where he won the Jacobs Blocking award in 2014, which recognizes the top offensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Collins is a starting left guard in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, who signed him as an undrafted free agent after the completion of the 2015 NFL Draft.
La’el Collins attended high school at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Collins was named to the 3A All-State team as a sophomore, junior, and senior in high school.
During Collins’ senior year, he paved the way for running back Jeremy Hill and helped lead Redemptorist to the LHSAA Class 3A state quarterfinals, where they lost to Patterson who were led by running back Kenny Hillard. Collins, Hill, and Hillard would all go on to become teammates in college at LSU.
After his senior season, La’el Collins would go on to play in the Under Armour All-America Game and ended up being named All-America by Parade and USA Today.
Collins was considered one of the premier offensive tackles in the nation coming out of high school and was a unanimous five-star recruit by nearly every major recruiting source. Rivals.com ranked him second only behind Cyrus Kouandjio, while ESPN.com had him ranked third behind Kouandjio and Christian Westerman.
La’el Collins had scholarship offers from nearly every major college around the nation, including Auburn, Florida State, and Southern California, but was ultimately an early commitment to LSU.
La’el Collins was one of the top offensive lineman in school history at LSU. He played in 45 games with 38 starts during his career as a Tiger. Collins played a total of 2,533 offensive snaps and had 222 ½ knockdowns in his four-year collegiate career.
In 2011, as a freshman, La’el Collins was recognized as a freshman All-American by CBSSports.com after his first season in college. He ended up seeing action in seven games as a true freshman, but didn’t have any starts. He saw his first action against Northwestern State, where he posted three knockdowns in 21 snaps. Collins finished his freshman year playing 46 snaps on the offensive line and posted five knockdowns.
The following season in 2012, Collins started 13 games at left guard. He led the team in total snaps (836) and knockdowns (64 ½). He made his first career start against North Texas where he accumulated three knockdowns in 36 offensive snaps. Collins was named honorable mention All-SEC by the Associated Press and earned SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play against top-ranked Alabama, who they nearly upset.
As a junior in 2013, La’el Collins played 12 games at left tackle and earned second team All-SEC honors from the SEC Coaches. He played a total of 808 offensive snaps and accumulated 65 knockdowns. In his first career start at left tackle, he earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors in the season opener against TCU.
Collins decided to return for his senior season and started all 13 games at left tackle for the Tigers. He once again led the team in both offensive snaps (843) and knockdowns (88). La’el Collins earned second team All-America honors from USA Today and Associated Press, first-team All-SEC by the SEC Coaches and Associated Press, and was named the recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is presented to the top offensive lineman in the SEC as voted by the league’s coaches.
La’el Collins was only the sixth player in LSU history to win the Jacobs Blocking Trophy. He was also named permanent team captain and was the recipient of the Charles McClendon Award, which goes to the most outstanding player on the team.
2015 NFL Draft
La’el Collins was regarded as a surefire first-round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and slotted to be selected in the top 10 by many draft analysts.
Circumstances out of his control caused him to slip in the draft because it was announced that the Louisiana State police had scheduled a talk with Collins in regards to the shooting death of a woman he had a previous relationship with. It was a historic and unprecedented draft day slide, especially considering the fact that Collins wasn’t even considered a suspect in the crime.
La’el Collins ended up going undrafted after his agent threatened that Collins would sit out the entire 2015 season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft if any team drafted him after the third round.
Collins signed with the Dallas Cowboys on May 7, 2015 after going undrafted and was rewarded with a fully guaranteed three-year contract and a $21,000 signing bonus.
La’el Collins played in 12 games at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys in his first year in the NFL and ended up starting 11 of those games.
Collins opened the season as a reserve guard, but ended up seeing extensive action in his second game for the Dallas Cowboys as a part of a rotation with Ronald Leary, who was battling an injury.
La’el Collins was named the starter for the third game and ended up passing Leary on the depth chart, but he wasn’t officially named the starting left guard until the week 6 bye.
He continued to remain the starter at left guard throughout the season, until the final game of the season against the Washington Redskins when he was declared inactive with a high ankle sprain.
Like many first-year players in the NFL, La’el Collins made plenty of rookie mistakes, but he also made plenty of highlight-reel worthy plays. The most memorable play he made was against the Seattle Seahawks, where he pancaked two different Seahawk defenders on one running play.
La’el Collins is looking to improve in his second season in the NFL and a full off-season will help improve the chemistry between Collins and his fellow linemen Tyron Smith, and Travis Frederick.
I wouldn’t be surprised if La’el Collins ends up being voted into his first Pro Bowl based on his 2016 performance at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys.
La’el Collins signed a three-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $1,599,500 with a $21,000 signing bonus for the Dallas Cowboys after going undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft. Collins will make an average of $533,167 per season. He is entering the second year of his three-year deal and will make $526,750 in 2016 and $616,750 in 2017.
The Dallas Cowboys will have a tough decision to make in regards to which offensive lineman they will be able to re-sign. Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are also both looking to earn long-term contracts with the Cowboys and it will be interesting to see if the organization can re-sign all three.
Cowboys Draft: Looking at West Virginia WR David Sills
Although the Dallas Cowboys won't be on the clock in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, they essentially invested their first pick in Amari Cooper. However, wide receiver remains a need for the team, specially with Cole Beasley heading for free agency. Out of West Virginia, Wide Receiver David Sills is an interesting potential target for Dallas. A quarterback-turned-wide-receiver story, Sills is one of those guys who constantly shows up when you watch his football team play. That's what you want in a receiver.
Let's dive in.
During his time playing for the West Virginia Mountaineers, David Sills was a scoring machine. He scored 35 career touchdowns (15 in 2018, 18 in 2017) and caught over 980 yards in each of his two seasons as a starter. The Big 12 is known for its lack of good defensive backs, which will naturally raise skepticism when discussing how good Sills really is but it shouldn't.
Sills is 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds. His frame is constantly criticized but thanks to his size and his excellent ability to high point the football that shouldn't be an issue. He's one of the best in this draft class when it comes to 50-50 jump balls. He shines the most as a vertical threat, including over the middle of the field, which should be an interesting trait for the Dallas Cowboys. Throughout his career, he was almost indefensible when given the opportunity at deep over the shoulder passes.
Although he doesn't have the best acceleration, Sills' build-up speed can be lethal for opposing defensive backs. Paired with this is his skill to adjust for deep balls, slowing down when necessary to take on defenders.
What I personally like the most about Sills is his play in goal line situations. Whether it's playing inside on a slant or running a fade route, the Mountaineer wide receiver surely made a lot of opposing defenses suffer. Thanks to his background as a quarterback, his understanding of defensive coverages is pretty solid. He manages to find the defense's soft spots and get open constantly.
But why isn't he valued as a top prospect on this year's NFL Draft? Well, unfortunately, there are a few reasons for this.
First off, David Sills had some problems in the "drops" department. He has plenty of body catches that aren't necessary. When balls weren't on target, he often didn't make the play despite counting with a pretty good catch radius. He can greatly improve in his route running abilities and he was challenged by true press cornerbacks, struggling to release early.
For the Dallas Cowboys, Sills could be a solid contributor as a vertical threat and in the red-zone, where the offense struggled so much last season. With the class being quite loaded at wide receiver this year, Sills should be a realistic target even in the fourth round.
Cowboys Receive 4th-Round Compensatory Pick in 2019 NFL Draft
The Dallas Cowboys will receive an extra fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after the league awarded compensatory picks today.
The pick will be 136th overall, which is one spot below were Dallas drafted Dak Prescott in 2016.
And in other news... NFL awarded compensatory draft picks today - Patriots and Rams each received two third-round picks. The full list, per sources:
We have Anthony Hitchens to thank for this extra pick. The former Cowboys linebacker signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Chiefs last offseason which far surpassed any of the deal that Dallas made with their own free agent acquisitions.
Only free agents whose contracts expired, not those released in the offseason by their previous team, count towards the compensatory pick formula. Therefore, Allen Hurns' deal was not a mitigating factor.
As mentioned already, the fourth round of the NFL Draft recently gave Dallas its starting quarterback. Other notable fourth-round picks in the modern era have been Hitchens, Doug Free, Marion Barber, and Chris Canty.
Last year, Dallas drafted DE Dorance Armstrong and TE Dalton Schultz with fourth-round picks.
Already short their first and sixth-round picks this year from previous trades, the Cowboys are certainly happy to have this extra selection for April's draft.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker
One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.
Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.
But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.
What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.
It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.
Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.
Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.
A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.
However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.
They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.
The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.
Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.
Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.
There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.
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