LSU: Breaking Down Where La'el Collins Landed on 1st 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

Carter BryantContributor IMay 14, 2014

LSU: Breaking Down Where La'el Collins Landed on 1st 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

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    LSU left tackle La'el Collins
    LSU left tackle La'el CollinsUSA TODAY Sports

    LSU led all schools with nine draft picks in the 2014 NFL draft. But in all likelihood, the Tigers will not repeat their same success next season.

    Les Miles will rely heavily on freshmen and true sophomores next season who will not be draft eligible for 2015, which is good news for the future of the program. With that said, LSU will have some talented players who will be playing their final season in Baton Rouge this year.

    Left tackle La'el Collins made a surprising decision to come back for his senior season. Collins is taking a major risk by returning to the Tigers. Past offensive tackles such as Ciron Black and Chris Faulk made similar decisions, and neither were drafted.

    Nevertheless, Collins is a different player than the offensive tackles before him. Here is a quick look at his 2015 draft stock.

Current Rankings

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    It is a difficult task to name the top prospects for next year's NFL draft, but all mocks and big boards look bright for La'el Collins. Here is what some of the media are saying about Collins right now. 

     

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller: No. 5 offensive tackle

    247Sports.com's Kipp Adams: No. 27 overall pick in two-round mock draft

    USA Today’s Brent Sobleski: No. 23 overall pick in one-round mock draft

    ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough: Top 10 SEC West prospect 

    The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre: No. 19 overall pick in one-round mock draft 

    Bleacher Report’s Michael Schottey: No. 23 overall pick in one-round mock draft

    NFLDraftScout.com: No. 30 overall prospect, No. 5 offensive tackle

Collins' Career

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    LSU left guard Vadal Alexander (center) blocks alongside left tackle La'el Collins (right).
    LSU left guard Vadal Alexander (center) blocks alongside left tackle La'el Collins (right).USA TODAY Sports

    La'el Collins has had a great, but not All-American, career in Baton Rouge. Yet that can change in his senior season.  

    Collins came to LSU as the No. 2 offensive tackle prep prospect in the country. He played sparingly, with no starts, as a freshman behind an experienced offensive line in LSU's last SEC championship year in 2011. 

    Collins started all 12 games at left guard as a sophomore. He said he learned valuable tidbits of offensive line play by playing alongside Josh Dworaczyk, who made the move from left guard to left tackle as a senior.

    Collins made the same move as Dworaczyk last season; however, unlike his predecessor, Collins was the starter for all but one game. He was named second-team All-SEC by the coaches.    

    There is no reason for Collins to not be a first-team All-SEC performer in 2014. The Tigers return three other starters up front, including left guard Vadal Alexander. The chemistry between the two should be magnificent, so expect both to be in contention for an AP All-American team.  

Spring Summary

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    Photo Credit: Geaux247

    The beauty of LSU's offensive line is its depth. The Tigers return an experienced group, but talented backups such as Jonah Austin, Josh Boutte and K.J. Malone pushed them in practice to get better this spring.

    Collins and his fellow starters also got to work against a talented defensive front. LSU speed-rushers Danielle Hunter and M.J. Patterson forced the Tigers' offensive tackles to get out of their stances quickly in pass protection.   

    But the best news of the spring for first-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes was there were no injuries. The Tigers would be best fit to have all of their big uglies, especially Collins, healthy for the season opener against Wisconsin. 

Likely Draft Position

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    LSU left tackle La'el Collins (No. 70) embraces injured quarterback Zach Mettenberger after LSU's victory against Arkansas last season.
    LSU left tackle La'el Collins (No. 70) embraces injured quarterback Zach Mettenberger after LSU's victory against Arkansas last season.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Barring injury, La'el Collins should be drafted no later than the third round of next year's draft.  

    Nine offensive tackles were selected in the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL draft. General managers understand the importance of protecting quarterbacks in a passing league.

    There is a chance Collins' stock could drop. He has shown vulnerability against some of the SEC's best defensive lines. Scouts will want to see more dominance from him when facing NFL-caliber defensive linemen.

    Collins could also project as a guard at the next level, according to Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com. Guards are not as valuable as tackles in the NFL, which means Collins could slide. 

    Seasoned veteran Zach Mettenberger is no longer the LSU quarterback, so the burden on the offensive line becomes even bigger as Les Miles breaks in a new signal-caller. With that said, the experienced unit, led by Collins, should have a spectacular season regardless.

    Collins should be an All-SEC performer and on the fringe of being invited to Radio City Music Hall (if the event is still held there) for the 2015 NFL draft. 

     

    *All stats and rankings provided by 247Sports.comLSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com and quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.