Scouting Report: Could Alex Collins Return Home to South Florida as a Miami Dolphin?

No stone should go unturned. No film should go unwatched. No running back should go unconsidered. 

The Miami Dolphins need to improve the running back corps in any way possible. This will in all likelihood involve a long look at Arkansas’ Alex Collins. As one of the most productive running backs in the SEC, Collins drew attention from NFL scouts with his impressive quickness and durability. His powerful style made him perfect for the Razorbacks’ system.

Now, Collins will be examined by teams wondering if he can fit their system in the NFL. We know that the Dolphins will look at Collins as an option, but just how good could he be in the team’s system early in his career?

Background and Stats: 

Alex Collins was a highly recruited running back from South Florida. He attended South Plantation and was the Broward County Player of the Year as a junior. He chose to attend Arkansas after offers from major Florida schools including UM, UF, and FSU.

Collins was the SEC Freshman of the Year at Arkansas, running for over 1,000 yards in his first season of college football. Collins followed that up with two seasons that were even more productive, increasing to 1,100 yards, then to 1,577 in 2015. Last season was his best in terms of scoring, as he ran for 20 TDs. He had 16 during his first two seasons combined. 

Positives:

One of Collins’ best abilities is availability. Collins played in all 13 games in 2014 and 2015, and missed just one game during the 2013 season. His frame helps add to his durability, weighing in at almost 220 lbs. and standing at 5’10”.

When watching Collins’ tape, the first thing that strikes you is his quickness. He is able to hit the hole and almost instantaneously get up to speed. While he is not elite in terms of his top end speed, his quickness affords him the ability to break some long runs. This, combined with decisiveness when he hits the hole, allows Collins to burst through running lanes in a dangerous fashion.

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On this play, Collins’ ability to reach his top speed is apparent. He is 10 yards into the play, but it looks like he has been building up momentum for 25. This burst makes him a strong weapon inside.

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Here is another example of Alex Collins’ combined quickness and decisiveness. He does not dance in the backfield, and he manages to burst through the line and slice into the end zone. This appears frequently on his tape, as he has a great deal of success inside of the red zone on the goal line.

Alex Collins does not have a large arsenal of evasive moves, but he is able to cut very effectively.

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On this play, you can see Collins’ vision on full display. He knows where he needs to be to find space and manages to make his way to the open area. His quickness also helps coming out of his cut, allowing him to slow down well in order to really sell the cut and then jump back up to full speed. This move was the primary tool in his arsenal when breaking runs.

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The trifecta: quickness, vision, and a lethal cut. Alex Collins shows you on this play what made him such a special player in college. He hits the hole quickly, gets up to speed, and sees that there is open room on the other side of the field. He goes into his bag of tricks, pulls out the sharp cut, and manages to fool the defender to break the play open.

Negatives: 

Many of Collins’ negatives were touched on above. First, he is much quicker than he is fast. He was often unable to break long runs open by hitting a second gear, which he doesn’t necessarily possess despite his exceptional quickness. His first gear is very impressive, but his long-term speed is lacking.

Alex Collins also needs to work on his blocking. He whiffed on blocks in many cases, and at times he seemed confused as to where his assignment was. Often, his job was to leak out of the pocket as a check down, but even on instances in which he was kept inside it was difficult for him to block well. He throws his weigh around, but does not have any degree of technique or finesse in pass protection.

Collins also struggles on outside runs. If you noticed, all of the runs in the positives section are inside. When asked to bounce out, he has some trouble.

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Here, you can see what often happens to Collins outside. His physicality becomes less effective, and his decreased arsenal of evading moves is exploited.

Also, Alex Collins is not a very smooth runner. He doesn’t glide as some prospects do; Ezekiel Elliott simply slices through the defense with great smoothness. Collins can be a clunkier runner, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but could contribute to his struggles when asked to run outside of the tackles.

Ball security is a big issue for Alex Collins. During his three seasons, he fumbled the ball 16 times. That is a very high rate, and while fumbling is a correctable issue, it is still concerning when it occurs at that high of a rate.

Alex Collins also does not break many tackles. His quickness allows him to slide off of lazier hits, but he is not the style of running back that booms through defenders. He could work on this in the NFL, but he will have to lower his pad level and start fighting through hits with more consistency if he wants to become a true bruiser.

 

Fit in Miami:

Unfortunately, Alex Collins might not be the optimal player for Adam Gase’s offense. He would be a solid compliment to Ajayi, but the question that stands out is his pass catching ability.

During his three seasons at Arkansas, he caught just 27 passes. This number is incredibly low. It is unclear whether it was due to his system or the possibility that they knew he struggled in that area. Regardless, the lack of tape out of the backfield in the passing game is concerning.

Outside of that, Alex Collins also might not be a good fit due to his similarity to Jay Ajayi’s running style. Jay Ajayi got more aggressive in terms of his power when he arrived in Miami, and the team needs a speed back to replace Lamar Miller. So, there could be an overlap in the two players’ abilities.

While Alex Collins might not be the perfect scheme fit, he is a very solid player. I feel confident saying that apart from Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott, Alex Collins could be among the most productive runners in this class as a rookie. His skill set should translate well to quick success in the NFL, and scheme fit or not, he would bring talent to the Dolphins’ backfield.

The Skinny: 

By letting Lamar Miller walk, and losing out on C.J. Anderson, the Dolphins have all but ensured that they will be selecting a running back in the upcoming draft. Ezekiel Elliott in the first round is unrealistic, but the team could land another ball carrier in the third.

Chances are that Collins or C.J. Prosise could go in the late second round, but at least one of the two should be available in the third for the Dolphins. Given their lack of talent at the position, the team could infuse new players into their backfield with this pick.

Alex Collins is a much more physical player and might lack in some areas that Adam Gase likes his running backs to succeed in. However, if Prosise is unavailable, Alex Collins could be an instant contributor. He is one of the safer picks at the position to at least take on a complimentary role, if not more, as a young player.

The Miami Dolphins desperately need help at running back. While Alex Collins might not be the perfect scheme fit for the Dolphins, he is still a very talented football player. When your backfield is as barren as the Dolphins’ is, you cannot discriminate against talented players simply because of scheme.

Adam Gase preaches the importance of utilizing the talent of his players to improve the scheme, and not vice-versa. Regardless of whether or not it is in a Dolphins uniform, Alex Collins should be able to use his talents to be productive very early in his NFL career.

 

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