Nearly two weeks into free agency, the Seattle Seahawks have yet to make any significant additions to bolster their pass rush across from defensive end Frank Clark.
While plenty of talent remains available on the open market, including veteran defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, it’s looking more and more likely the Seahawks will turn to the draft to shore up this deficiency, as this year’s draft class has been billed as one of the strongest ever for defensive linemen and EDGE rushers.
With a visit already lined up to meet with the Seahawks at the VMAC, could late-blooming TCU defensive end L.J. Collier be under consideration as a legitimate second day option for the team in April’s NFL Draft?
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 283 pounds, Collier possesses excellent size for a base 5-tech defensive end and plays an aggressive brand of football off the edge. He packs great punch with his hands at the point of attack and after delivering a powerful initial strike, he takes advantage of his 34-inch arms to create separation and disengage from blocks.
Maximizing on his strength, Collier recorded 6.0 sacks in 2018 and offers surprising pass rushing ability, utilizing effective bull rushes to drive opposing blockers towards the quarterback and collapse the pocket. He offers a well-developed repertoire of counter moves working off his initial rush, including an effective swim move that he deploys frequently.
Despite some weaknesses in the athleticism department, Collier plays with a relentless motor every snap and isn’t easy to push around in the trenches as a run defender. He consistently keeps contain while setting the edge and regularly tackles ball carriers who cut back towards his direction, as he finished last season with 11.5 tackles.
While he primarily played defensive end for the Horned Frogs, Collier also reduced inside as a 3-tech defensive tackle occasionally and could offer similar versatility at the next level due to his stout build.
NFL teams value athleticism off the edge and while Collier showed explosion by finishing third among defensive linemen in the broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, many of his other workouts ranked near the bottom at his position group. Most notably, he ran a slow 4.91-second 40-yard dash and posted undesirable times in the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill.
The lack of athleticism shown in Indianapolis can also be witnessed on film, as Collier doesn’t have much burst off the snap and struggles changing direction, which makes it difficult for him to make tackles in space and track down mobile quarterbacks. He’s also not much of a pass rushing threat off the edge, as he doesn’t have the quickness or flexibility to bend around the corner and his secondary rush can sputter from time-to-time.
Any team thinking about drafting Collier will also have to take note on his lack of overall experience. Before finally breaking into the starting lineup as a senior, he didn’t start a single game during his first three years at TCU, contributing 39 tackles and 9.0 sacks as a rotational reserve.
Where He Fits in Seattle
Since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived in 2010, the Seahawks have always targeted athletic defensive linemen, focusing on agility and quickness above everything else. In fact, the team hasn’t selected a single player on the defensive front who ran slower than a 4.53-second 20-yard shuttle during their tenure.
Based on Collier’s underwhelming performance at the combine, he doesn’t meet many of Seattle’s athletic thresholds, but the team’s interest in him makes sense based on his strengths. He’s not a flashy pass rusher like Clark, but he can consistently create pressure as a power rusher and he’s stout against the run, an area the Seahawks struggled with at times last season.
Coming off a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, Collier’s overall stock has risen enough that he’s being discussed as a potential second round pick. If the Seahawks are willing to buck prior trends from an athleticism standpoint and value him as a football player, he could be on their short list with one of their first selections next month.