The NFL’s best outside linebackers, No. 1: Jamie Collins

Quite simply, Collins is one of the most versatile front-seven defenders in football. To wit: The NFL Network’s Willie McGinest (slight homer alert here) recently named Collins one of the game’s top 3–4 linebackers, even though the Patriots don’t really play a 3–4. And he’s on this list, despite the Patriots not truly being a 4–3 team either. Bill Belichick’s defense spends most of its time—upwards of 75%—in two-linebacker, nickel looks. Collins’s ability to play just about anywhere, though, is a key both to that 4–2 setup and New England’s ability to match up with opposing offenses. The 2013 second-round pick finished last season with 89 tackles, six pass breakups, 5.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception. He also played 100% of the Patriots’ snaps, save for the games he missed due to a viral illness. The Patriots shipped out Chandler Jones this off-season, in theory, to help them lock up Collins long-term. He’s worth the investment.

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