What Happens to La’el Collins Now?
In the case of La’el Collins, there are football interests, collective bargaining ramifications and public relations decisions worthy of scrutiny and discussion. But in doing so, we must not lose sight of the most important—and heinous—detail: a pregnant woman was shot and killed, and the baby, whom doctors delivered, died a week later; the killer is likely at large.
That said, my expertise after polling teams and agents, is on the football side of things, so that’s what I’ll discuss here. And I’ll start with an educated guess: La’el Collins will get drafted today in Chicago.
Before I explain, a recap: Collins, the former LSU offensive lineman, was invited to attend the draft and expected to go in the first round. On Friday, April 24, 29-year-old Brittney Mills, reportedly Collins’ ex-girlfriend, was shot to death in her Baton Rouge, La., home. The child, Brenton Mills, died one week later. Collins had arrived in Chicago for draft festivities this week but left the city in order to meet with police in Louisiana, who considered him a person of interest but not a suspect.
Collins’ representation, led by Deryk Gilmore of Priority Sports, petitioned for Collins to be removed from the draft and placed in this summer’s supplemental draft for special cases. That petition was denied on the grounds of a hard and fast CBA rule: “No player may elect to bypass a draft for which he is eligible to apply for selection in a supplemental draft.”
Then came this bombshell from the Collins camp: If drafted beyond round 3 (or not drafted at all), Collins would decline to sign, and would sit out the year and enter the 2016 draft. Ostensibly, the motivation would be to recoup the guaranteed cash he has lost by falling out of the first round.
For the first scenario, there is precedent. Bo Jackson, drafted in 1986 by Tampa Bay, played a season of pro baseball rather than join the Bucs, and because he refused to sign a contract the team lost his rights before the next draft. The Raiders chose Jackson in the seventh round of the ’87 draft. Today the cutoff is Week 10, and you get thrown back into the next year’s draft pool.
You can do that.
But what if you’re not drafted, and you want to sit out a season and gain entry to the next draft? There’s no precedent, and zero language in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement providing for such a scenario. Media reports subsequent to Collins’ declaration have yet to touch on this, instead treating his assumed admission to the 2016 draft as a ’15 UDFA as a given.
“It certainly is not automatic,” said one agent well-versed in the CBA. “There is obviously some language in the CBA that can lead to a rendering of an interpretation by the league on the issue. How valid an interpretation that is would have to be examined, and if a player thought it was not a correct interpretation he could bring a System Arbitration challenging it.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says the league’s stance is clear: “If he's not drafted today? He would be the same as any other player in this draft. 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.”
Again, there is no language in the CBA for this scenario, complicating his prospects of winning any kind of argument with the league. All of which makes his agency’s declaration so peculiar. Why wouldn’t you want to get drafted, so you could have the option of sitting out a year and re-entering the draft?
You can table this question for now as we wait for the NFLPA to weigh in. The most valuable interpretation will come from the union’s counsel, who did not respond to an email Friday night. For now, a bigger, burning question: Why isn’t La’el Collins screaming his innocence from the rooftops?
I can confirm that he and his attorney have spent the last several days on the phone with any team who will talk to him, explaining his side of things and his belief that the child was not his (no word on a paternity test so far). He also took a lie detector test organized by his reps Thursday, and passed, per Jason Cole.
That’s what we’re hearing through back channels, but why aren’t we hearing it from the man himself?
Consider the tragic case of Dennis Weathersby, the former Oregon State cornerback and projected first-round pick in the 2003 draft. The week of the draft, he was shot in the back in a drive-by shooting, and police concluded he and a companion were mistaken for someone else. The night before the draft, ESPN aired a piece on SportsCenter chronicling the bizarre turn of events, including an interview with Weathersby. Given expectations of a full recovery by doctors, the Bengals drafted him in the fourth round.
Different strokes for different crisis managers, perhaps. If Collins is so distraught he’s unable or unwilling to compose himself for cameras, that wouldn’t jibe with making the audacious “don’t draft me” declaration.
And despite all of this, I still think Collins will get drafted. At this point, I think most of the NFL has taken him off their draft boards. Collins’ ultimatum didn’t help his cause. But the majority of agents and team sources I spoke with believe Collins will continue to slide until one team—and all it takes is one—decides to call his bluff on the assumption that Collins will come around once the dust settles. Given the information available Friday night, I’ll be watching the seventh round very closely.
Five Things I Got Right
We started the Countdown to the Draft column the week after the Super Bowl, giving me ample opportunity to be wrong. And boy, did I take advantage. I’m proud to say I got a few things right as well though.
Five things I got right:
April 23: I don’t believe the teams often linked to Alabama strong safety Landon Collins at the end of the first round are seriously considering drafting him. Said one GM: “You’re not going to pick a safety like that in the first round unless he’s Sean Taylor.”
Collins was a popular mock draftee of the Colts, who opted for Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett. Collins, who makes his money in the box, waited until the first pick of the second round, after the Packers selected Arizona State safety Damarious Randall at 30.
April 23: Trying to slot Washington cornerback Marcus Peters in the first round? You can cross off the clubs undergoing coaching transitions, as well as teams lacking strong veteran leadership in the defensive backfield. The stories of Peters’ verbal clashes with an assistant on first-year Washington coach Chris Petersen’s staff have potentially vulnerable NFL staffs disinterested.
Entrenched Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey chose Peters 18th overall. Good fit.
April 16: The popular notion that USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams would be the second overall pick for the Titans if not Mariota doesn’t jibe with a handful of decision makers I polled. For some, Dante Fowler, the defensive end out of Florida, is the clear choice as the top defensive player. Said one high-level evaluator: “I think Fowler is the top guy. Tremendous athlete. You see him impact his guy like DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller.”
The Titans went with Mariota, but Fowler was indeed the top defensive player chosen, by the Jaguars. Williams waited until the Jets at No. 6.
April 16: The Vikings aren’t as enamored with Teddy Bridgewater’s former teammate [DeVante Parker] as everyone thinks they should be. If they were to pass on him, the furthest he would slide would be No. 14, to the Dolphins.
The Vikings chose Trae Waynes, and Parker did slide, all the way to Miami. Nailed it.
April 2: To say Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson is moving up draft boards would be a misnomer. In truth, we’re just beginning to learn how teams have evaluated the well-seasoned redshirt senior. At this stage, he’s in the conversation for best corner available along with Trae Waynes and Marcus Peters.
Johnson kept climbing, all the way to Houston at No. 16, two spots ahead of Peters and five behind Waynes.
Five Things I Got Wrong
April 30: …the other sticking point of my mock draft is the notion that La’el Collins will merely slip out of the top 10 to 18 as a result of his ex-girlfriend’s murder. The crime was horrific, but Collins is not a suspect, and he’s telling teams that the child who survived the pregnancy is not his.
April 23: Perriman was productive enough to be considered a late-first rounder, then he ran in the 4.2s at his pro day. But, said one GM, “he never played faster than 4.45.” After asking around, I like Green-Beckham as the fourth receiver taken, after Amari Cooper, Kevin White and DeVante Parker.
Perriman was the fourth pick, to the Ravens at 26. Seven receivers, total, were drafted before Missouri castoff Green-Beckham was taken by the Titans with the 40th pick.
April 16: First running back off the board: Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or Georgia’s Todd Gurley? While the draftnik community is split, teams are leaning towards Gurley and what is seen as a higher ceiling… If one of the two is going to slip into the second round, bet on Gordon.
Gurley and Gordon went 10th and 15th overall, respectively.
April 26: For the Falcons, a length prerequisite would rule out short-armed Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley, but he has the speed and agility to play LEO. My best guess for the Falcons’ target with the eighth pick: Randy Gregory, if Atlanta is satisfied with his explanation for the positive test.
Atlanta liked Beasley enough to make him the 8th overall pick. Gregory waited until Pick No. 60 to Dallas.
Mock draft: Dante Fowler said in April that he would be stunned if Jaguars coach Gus Bradley passed on him at No. 3. But Gus and David Caldwell do just that, understanding there will be a capable edge rusher at 8 and gaining some capital in next year’s draft. Quinn gets his former Florida pupil, Fowler, who he sees as a defensive cornerstone to build around in his first draft as head coach.
That’s where my mock fell apart, when I had the Falcons trading up for the No. 3 pick to nab Fowler. Dumb.
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