As we count down the days until the Vikings' opener against the Packers on September 13th, InsideTheVikings will be previewing every single player on the roster. The amount of days remaining corresponds with the jersey number of the player being examined on that day. Today is June 29th, and there are 76 days until kickoff for the 2020 regular season. That means today's player preview looks at an athletic offensive lineman who is running out of time to carve out a role in the NFL.
Countdown to Vikings-Packers on September 13th: 76 Days
Player Preview: Aviante Collins (No. 76, Offensive Tackle)
- College: TCU
- Drafted: 2017 UDFA
- NFL experience: Three years (but just five games and fewer than 100 total snaps)
- Age: 27 (Birthday was in April)
- Size: 6'4", 292
- 2019 PFF Grade: 54.5
- Notable 2019 stats: Two games, one start
In theory, Aviante Collins is a perfect fit for the Vikings' offensive scheme. The former TCU tackle possesses an extremely rare combination of athleticism and strength, having run a 4.81-second 40 (98th percentile among OTs) with 34 bench press reps (96th percentile) at the 2017 combine. The problem is that Collins is entering his fourth season with the Vikings and has yet to turn those physical traits into any sort of production or playing time in the NFL.
Collins has shown flashes of potential at times, which is why he's still in Minnesota three-plus years after being signed as an undrafted free agent. But from an overall perspective, his career with the Vikings has been marred by injuries and inconsistent play. If he puts it all together in 2020, Collins could factor into the equation at either tackle or guard. If not? His time with the Vikings will almost certainly come to an end.
A native of Houston, Collins starred in football and shot put in high school. He was a three-star recruit at offensive tackle and chose TCU over Houston and Arizona State. After redshirting in his first year on campus, Collins played 49 games (36 starts) over the next four years for the Horned Frogs. At the 2017 combine, his 4.81 40 became the third-fastest time ever by an offensive lineman.
Collins was picked up by the Vikings as a UDFA following the 2017 draft and managed to make the initial 53-man roster out of training camp. He saw his first action on the offensive line during the Vikings' regular season finale against the Bears, playing 28 snaps (many of them as a sixth OL or blocking tight end). Collins took full advantage of that opportunity, earning an outstanding 81.7 PFF grade and impressing the Vikings' coaching staff. That performance – in which Collins demonstrated some serious nastiness as a run-blocker – has likely played a big role in the Vikings keeping him around over the past couple years despite multiple injuries.
Two weeks later, Collins played ten snaps in the Minneapolis Miracle game against the Saints. The Vikings had high hopes for him entering the 2018 season, and he once again showed flashes of potential during training camp while making the 53-man roster. Unfortunately, Collins suffered a torn biceps early in September that cost him virtually the entire 2018 season. He then dealt with a leg injury during last year's training camp that affected the start of his season.
Collins spent most of 2019 on the practice squad, but made his first career start against the Bears in the meaningless Week 17 game. However, his second chance at extended NFL regular season action didn't go as well as the first, as Collins posted an unimpressive 54.5 PFF grade in that contest.
In 2020, it's now or never for the 27-year-old Collins. He'll be a free agent next offseason and is facing competition from a number of young offensive linemen that the Vikings have added over the past couple years. If he can't make the 53-man roster, it seems unlikely that Minnesota would keep him around on the practice squad for another year over younger options.
Still, don't give up on Collins just yet. Although listed as a tackle, his size and length suggests he's better suited to play guard in the NFL. And the Vikings are going to have open competition at both guard spots, where Collins could be battling against players like Pat Elflein, Dru Samia, Dakota Dozier, Oli Udoh and Kyle Hinton. He could also compete with Rashod Hill, Udoh, and others to make the team as a backup tackle.
Collins' athleticism, positional versatility, and run-blocking upside make him an intriguing player to watch in training camp and the preseason this year.
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