CHICAGO — The New York Giants made an aggressive play—a smart play—to open up the second round of the 2015 NFL draft when they climbed up the board to land Alabama strong safety Landon Collins.
With the Tennessee Titans on the clock at No. 33 for the first pick of Friday, the Giants traded their second-, fourth- and seventh-round picks this year to make the move up from No. 40. In doing so, the G-Men secured the top strong safety in the draft, while also filling a major need on the depth chart.
I love the trade here because it reflects a team that wants to grab an immediate upgrade, a player high on their board. Don't wait around. If he is the "guy," then deal away the picks and bring him in. That's the best way to attack the start of the second round. Use the time after the end of the first round to identify your top targets and then go make a move when the clock starts ticking on Friday night.
And it's easy to make that type of move when Collins—a player I think has first-round ability—is still waiting for a phone call.
"Good move by the Giants," an NFC scout told me on Friday night. "They went to get a guy they can drop down in the box with good ball skills and better range than you think."
At 6'0", 228 pounds, Collins has a thick frame to play in the front. He is a player scouts say "has some thump to him," as a run-defender. The 'Bama product will find the ball and can play off the numbers in the deep half of the field. Plus, he has the speed (4.53 40 at the combine) to run with tight ends or check a back in coverage.
So why did Collins slip to Round 2? Without that pure middle-of-the-field range and natural coverage ability to consistently roll down over a slot receiver, Collins' overall grade took a little hit. NFL teams are always searching for that free-safety-type talent, that angel in the deep middle who can take away the seam, the post and the deep 9 route outside of the numbers.
That's the ticket in today's game to playing single-high safety defenses like we saw this past season from the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. Line up in man coverage and funnel or push those receivers inside to the safety help.
Collins isn't going to be that guy for the Giants, but let's not forget about his versatility as an underneath defender in both the base and sub-package schemes. This is a guy who can play strong safety, slide down in the nickel package and showcase his blitzing ability off the edge.
The Giants can get a little creative here to play the matchups on Sunday and put Collins in a position where he can impact the game plan. Just think of having him aligned inside as a nickel or dime defender where the Giants can cater to his skill set. Let him go find the ball.
I really liked watching tape on Collins back at Alabama because he showed up when his team needed him to make a play—and that includes special teams. This is a safety who will be a major contributor in the kicking game while also playing a key role in the defensive game plan.
And that's a beautiful thing because it will help in Collins' development to the pro level. He will have to play in space, use his hands and match NFL speed on special teams.
But this also goes back to New York's ability to put together a trade package and actually make the move to climb the board. This trade allowed the Giants to get a legit "value" pick that filled a need at the safety position while also giving New York a prospect who should come in and compete immediately for playing time.
Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.