After some maneuvering, the Seattle Seahawks made their first selection of the 2019 NFL Draft at pick 29, selecting Texas Christian EDGE L.J. Collier, who visited the Seahawks during the pre-draft process. Following Frank Clark’s departure earlier in the week, EDGE was an even more obvious need, and Seattle’s seemingly addressed that need on the first day of the draft.
Since Collier’s top-30 visit was reported, I’ve been strongly pushing back against the idea he would be a target for the Seahawks. His agility numbers were dreadful—23rd percentile three cone and a 12th percentile short shuttle—and those tests matter to Seattle along the defensive line. Of the Seahawks’ four athletic thresholds at EDGE, Collier cleared just one: Broad jump. It’s a curious selection by Seattle for that reason, and didn’t get any less curious when Pete Carroll detailed his role on Thursday night (as a 5-tech).
Where Collier Wins
A 6-foot-2, 283-pound EDGE, Collier wins with strength, power and superior size. Importantly, he knows it, too:
Collier has the length to land his strike first and if he gets underneath the opposing lineman, it’s over:
L.J. Collier -- definitely not going to win with speed or bend but has a great speed-to-power bull-rush, hump move, and a few pull-rip/pull-chop type moves to get past offensive linemen pic.twitter.com/psJMyQbJlV— Danny Kelly (@DannyBKelly) March 21, 2019
Where Collier Loses
With a pass rush plan predicated on landing the first strike, Collier is easily wiped out of the play if he’s slow off the line—which isn’t unusual. He’s a prospect who can appear awkward in his body and without a plan; when he struggles to get off the ball at the next level, he could be a non-factor all too often.
Year One Role
With Clark in Kansas City, Collier will have a chance to grab a starting defensive end spot from day one. If he fails to do so—which shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as he is quite a raw prospect—he’ll see the field as a part of the rotation, spelling the starters on early downs and playing inside on passing downs.
Best Case Scenario
It’s an obvious one, but the best case scenario is Collier lives up to the lofty comparison made on NFL Network following the selection: Michael Bennett. Currently, he lacks the short-area quickness and penetrative ability Bennett has, but he does possess great power and size—and ranked highly in pressures, something the team values highly.
L.J. Collier had 54 total pressures last season, ranking 9th out of 231 qualifying Power 5 edge defenders. #Seahawks— PFF SEA Seahawks (@PFF_Seahawks) April 26, 2019
He’s far from the finished product and as we saw with Clark, the Seahawks can develop pass rushers nicely. If Collier gives Seattle 8-10 seasons as an every down lineman, capable of holding up outside in base and reducing inside, surrounded by speed rushers on passing downs, that’s a win.
Worst Case Scenario
In many ways, Collier is duplicative of last year’s third round selection, Rasheem Green. They both entered the draft with an element of risk; both were intriguing with outside-in ability; and both required a fair amount of projection to feel good about. In that line of thinking, the worst case scenario is Collier stunts Green’s growth and takes away snaps from another intriguing young pass rusher, and busts in the process, leaving the Seahawks with two sunk picks.
Though Collier is far from the finished product, currently, it’s a bitterly disappointing selection. Granted I was, and remain, very high on Green as a prospect, but to enter a draft rich with blue chip defensive linemen, and leave with one who isn’t safe—and isn’t even in their established mold at the position—feels strange.