The Patriots selected Southern Miss defensive end Jamie Collins with the 52nd overall pick, adding an athletic and versatile player who can play a number of spots in their defense.
Collins started out as a quarterback, then moved to safety, before finally ending up in a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker role. His moves between the various positions speak to how well-rounded of a football player he is.
The easiest projection at this point on Collins is to project him as a designated pass-rusher. His athleticism and explosion is off the charts, as evidenced by his top performer finishes in five of seven events at the combine. He should make an instant impact on clear passing downs for the Patriots.
His presence could also reduce the Patriots' need to bring in a veteran such as John Abraham, who still seemed like a possible fit.
Collins steps into competition at multiple roster spots. Most directly he'll challenge Jermaine Cunningham at defensive end, along with newcomers Jason Vega and Armond Armstead.
In the long term, Collins could potentially replace Rob Ninkovich as the base defensive end and form a long-term bookend with Chandler Jones. Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe even thinks he could be a coverage solution at middle linebacker.
Collins, IMO, gives them coverage for both Spikes and Ninkovich, who are both in contract years. Very versatile— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) April 26, 2013
Bill Belichick will be able to find multiple things to do with a player as athletic and experienced in multiple positions as Collins. He may still be somewhat raw, and without an easy positional projection, but his measurables are freak-like, and he could grow into a major playmaker on the frontline of the Patriots defense.
After spending a second-round pick on him, the Patriots are likely counting on it.