La'el Collins was not selected in the 2015 NFL draft. Now what?
Of greater importance is that Collins still must meet with Louisiana police, who have deemed him a person of interest—but not a suspect—in the shooting death of Collins's ex-girlfriend and her unborn child. The Baton Rouge police department will not conduct its interview with Collins until sometime next week, according to the NFL Network's Albert Breer.
In the meantime Collins's life and his career are in limbo. Collins's agent petitioned the league ahead of Thursday's first round to allow Collins to withdraw from the draft and enter the supplemental draft next year. The NFL denied that request.
Another report, this time from ESPN's Adam Schefter, then had Collins's camp stating that the LSU product would not sign with a team if he were taken in Round 4 or later, thereby giving him a backdoor opportunity to join the 2016 draft. There is precedent for that sort of move, with Bo Jackson serving as the most famous example. Jackson refused to play for Tampa Bay after being picked No. 1 in 1986, so he wound up an Oakland draft choice in 1987 after the Buccaneers' claim to his rights expired.
But with Collins going undrafted, his football options have become severely limited.
"If he’s not drafted [at all]? He would be the same as any other player in this draft," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The MMQB's Robert Klemko. "He becomes a free agent like any other undrafted player. You only go through one draft. If he’s drafted and sits out the year, he would go back into the 2016 draft."
Collins's agents may fight that stance, perhaps even attempting to enlist the NFLPA for help in doing so. There is no specific language in the CBA barring Collins from participating in the 2016 draft, as there was blocking him from supplemental-draft status. Regarding the latter, the CBA reads: "No player may elect to bypass a draft for which he is eligible to apply for selection in a supplemental draft."
Barring a change of heart from the league, though, it appears for now that the only avenue for Collins is to sign as a free agent. He is eligible to do so, as are all of 2015's other undrafted prospects, immediately.
He likely will not hear from any general managers until after that police interview occurs. Even then, the phone may not ring until Collins makes clear—if he has any interest in doing so—that he wants to join a roster now. Signing with any NFL team as a free agent would close the door with total certainty on Collins's chances at being a 2016 draft pick.
The '15 draft hopes for Collins unraveled in rapid fashion. He was considered a certain Round 1 selection, with teams as high as the top 10 interested in him. Collins even traveled to Chicago for draft-week festivities, though he did not speak with reporters.
There were conflicting reports about Collins's Day 3 draft hopes, but his agent's public stance against a Saturday selection may have decided the issue for any interested franchises. Should Collins's legal matter clear in the near future, teams would be lining up to sign him. After all, it's not every day that a potential top-10 talent hits the free-agent market prior to his rookie season.
Whether or not Collins would reciprocate any interest before fighting again for a 2016 draft spot is uncertain. As is just about everything to do with this situation at the moment.