The vogue trend in the NFL today at inside linebacker is to draft small, cat-quick ball magnets. The Tampa Bay Bucs, for example, just won a Super Bowl with the dynamic, diminutive ILB tandem of Lavonte David (6-1, 233, R2 2012) and Devin White (6-0, 237, R1 2019).
After drafting Zaven Collins (6-5, 265, R1 2021) to pair with Isaiah Simmons (6-4, 238, R1 2020) the Arizona Cardinals are attempting to employ a novel, more prodigious and titanic way to create a dominant force in the middle of their defense.
Zaven Collins 6-4, 265, is a throwback LB who plays downhill to ball and knocks snot out of RBs. What makes him special is he's surprisingly natural/instinctive in coverage, plus he's a fierce pass rusher. I think MIKE is his best spot, but might start at SAM.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) April 30, 2021
Cards got #1 MIKE LB in draft in Zaven Collins. LA, SEA, SF all love to run the ball and play action. W/ tandem of Simmons/Collins the Cards now have the ability to stuff and cover, with size, amazing length and speed. Championship teams are built from inside out.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) April 30, 2021
Moments after the pick was made, as you can see, I pondered whether the Cardinals would use Zaven Collins to fill the void at SAM.
Thank goodness, no.
Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury were refreshingly emphatic about their intentions to play Zaven Collins at MIKE, where the 2020 Lombardi Award winner, 2020 Chuck Bednarik Award winner, 2020 Bronko Nagurski Award winner, 2020 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and 2020 Unanimous All-American thrived at Tulsa, is not just as a thumper versus the run, he’s as a clutch (2 pick 6’s) playmaker in pass coverage.
What Keim’s and Kingbsury’s intentions indicate is that they are trying to learn from past mistakes —- and by now we all know what those mistakes were.
Credit and huge props to Pro Football Networks’ analyst Tony Pauline who pointed us in Collins’ direction a couple of weeks ago as a guest on the ROTB Podcast with Blake Murphy and Johnny Venerable. Pauline has now hit three Cardinals’ related rumors out of the park: (1) Murray to AZ with #1 pick (at 2019 Combine); (2) Cards’ souring on Hakeem Butler in 2019 and then attempting to trade him in 2020; (3) Cards focusing in on Zaven Collins with their #16 pick.
Did you notice how quickly the Cardinals turned in the card?
That’s about as quickly as Zaven Collins takes the romance out of the power off-tackle play. Hello, NFC West RBs!
Amazing to think that in consecutive years the Cardinals have fortified the middle of their defense by adding the 2019 Dick Butkus Award winner and Unanimous All-American in Clemson superstar Isaiah Simmons to the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Award (best defensive player in college football) in Zaven Collins.
Winners of the Nagurski Award include: Chase Young (2019), Bradley Chubb (2017), Aaron Donald (2013) and Luke Keuchly (2011).
Winners of the Dick Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker) include Devin White (2018), Roquan Smith (2017), Jaylon Smith (2015), Eric Kendricks (2014), C.J. Mosely (2013), Luke Keuchly (2011) and Von Miller (2010).
Credit and huge props to Gambo for identifying Zaven Collins as the “Gambo 5” leader in the clubhouse.
While I have no inside information from Cardinals’ sources, if i were to guess at a Round 2 Gambo-esque 5, here they are (assuming that Trevon Moehrig, Asante Samuel Jr., Elijah Moore, Javonte Williams and Terrace Marshall are taken earlier in the round):
- Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF (Cards loved his work at the Senior Bowl, physical and quick)
- Riche Grant, S/slot CB, UCF (next best cover safety to Moehrig, could fit VJ’s 4-2-5 schematic plans)
- Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse (big, physical CB who could help Cards zone and off-ball coverage defense become a team strength, which it hasn’t been in decades).
- Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue (lightning in a bottle, Cards need a speedy playmaker in the slot)
- Quinn Meinerz, G, Wisconsin-Whitewater (if Cards are intent on fortifying the middle on both sides of the ball, Meinerz, another Senior Bowl star, would be an exciting addition).
If Steve Keim can find a trade partner, one would imagine he would like to trade back and fill the 111 pick void between picks #49 and #160.
Are you happy with what you saw from the Cardinals on Day 1?
What are your hopes for Day 2 of the NFL Draft?
What’s your Round 2 Gambo 5?