Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Hey BGN! How y’alls doin’? How many of you care about the Titans draft pick? None of you! How many of you should care? None of you! But alas, for the eight people reading this article, doggone it, I’m gonna tell you who I’m picking and why.
I’ve got three main points to get to here, so I’ll take you through my thought process.
Tennessee is a funky team to draft for. They simultaneously are a dark horse contender for the Super Bowl and have a lot of very real, glaring holes that they need to fill. The Titans could either be 13-4 (geez it feels wrong typing that) or 8-9 and I would feel completely reasonable making a case for either one.
This is what makes drafting funky, because the Titans have GLARING holes on their roster at Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, and Offensive Tackle, but they’re also in a position where they need to take the best possible player to maximize their current Super Bowl window. It would’ve been ideal had I, the prestigious general manager of the Tennessee Titans and definitely not some random guy from the internet, been in a position where the best available player also coincided with my team’s current needs, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
During the drafting process, I was really hoping that one of two players would fall to pick 22: Greg Newsome II, or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah; both players who I believe have star potential were drafted with successive picks by the Cardinals and Raiders respectively. This left me with a few options that appeared to have upside, but none of which I felt overly confident about.
I have a weird thing with drafting players, and it goes like this: what does the player’s name sound like? In other words, can I realistically imagine hearing Kenny Albert shouting their name as they make big play after big play? Can I hear Cris Collinsworth wax poetic about them in a fashion that makes us all want to hurl a full wine bottle at the T.V? This is my method for figuring out which players in the draft are going to be stars and which ones are going to be busts.
For example, a name like Jamal Adams has zing to it. I can hear Kenny Albert shouting the name Justin Jefferson as he streaks down the field. Marlon Humphery, Marshon Lattimore, and Xavier Rhodes are names that Al Michaels can shout with glee as they pick off a pass.
Contrast that to a name like Gareon Conley or Eli Apple who I can’t hear anyone shout. Or Takkarist McKinley. Or Robert Nkemdiche. Or Hayden Hurst. No. I can’t hear any announcer shouting those names as they streak down the field, or get a strip-sack, or do whatever it is that they do. I’m telling you right now, Kwity Paye is gonna be a bust, mark my words. I think the only time that this method of mine has abjectly failed is with Jaire Alexander, who has turned out to be a very good player despite my inability to imagine his name being shouted on air.
This metric for determining success obviously isn’t perfect, given that its completely anecdotal and 100% conjecture, and I’m sure that every one of you can come up with a player that violates my criteria, but guess what, I’m the GM, and what I say goes until I inevitably get fired for not being good at my job.
Anyways, the reason I bring this up is to elaborate on how I narrowed down my pick. After Newsome and JOK were off the board, I felt I had the following options to realistically choose from:
- Zaven Collins, LB
- Caleb Farley, CB
- Teven Jenkins, OT
- Azeez Ojulari, DE
- Jayson Oweh, EDGE
- Samuel Cosmi, OT
Caleb Farley was selected two picks before me, so I didn’t have to worry about that. Teven Jenkins fails the name test. Sure he might’ve been good in college and tested well at his pro day, but I don’t want a dude named Teven on my O-Line. Especially not one who looks like someone who your Mom thinks your sister should take to prom.
Cosmi has a fantastic name, but I don’t think he’s better than Jenkins, so if I’m not taking Jenkins, I can’t logically take Cosmi.
So that leaves me with Two EDGEs in Ojulari and Oweh and a LB in Collins. All three of these guys have quality names, so that ain’t an issue anymore. Despite the pathetic lack of any pass rush juice on the Titans DL, I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on either of them. I like Oweh more than Ojulari, but neither of them inspire me with confidence that they can be the type of guy that can have multiple 10+ sack seasons.
This brings me to Zaven Collins. First off, the name. That name. Holy goodness that’s a name that I can hear Kenny Albert shout.
“3rd and goal at the 6. Wentz… takes the snap, looks to his left, blitz coming, WATCH OUT! HERE HE COMES! The ball comes loose! Recovered by Denico Autry who runs it back to the 16-yard line! ZAVEN COLLINS! Blasting through the Colts O-Line! What a play!”
Um, Yes, please. Sign me up. Zaven Collins, baby. That’s a name that demands respect. I mean look at this man. He’s got grit. He’s got gumption. He’s got a face that says “I will gut you like a sheep if you stand between me and the man with the oblong brown ball”. And lest you be confused - that’s no smile in that picture - that’s a warning.
As if that detailed analysis wasn’t enough to convince you, let’s look at how well the dude actually plays the game of football. As it pertains to his actual football skills, Mr. Collins doesn’t project to be a slouch. He was a first-team all-state defender at Hominy High School in Oklahoma, leading his team to a Class A state title his senior season. Redshirted his first year at Tulsa, he stepped in as a starter the next year for 10 games and wound up with Freshman All-American honors (85 tackles, 9.5 for loss, with 1.5 sacks, one interception, and three pass breakups in 12 appearances). He was a second-team All-American Athletic Conference selection as a sophomore, starting every game and posting some epic stats: 106 tackles, 9.5 for loss, with two sacks and three pass breakups. He was unreal his junior year, winning both the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards as the nation’s best defender, as well as first-team Associated Press All-American and AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. This past season he also played pretty bonkers, with 53 tackles, 11.5 for loss (a team-high), four sacks, four interceptions (two pick-6’s, with one being that crazy 96-yd walk-off game-winner against Tulane in OT), two pass breakups, and a blocked kick in eight starts.
I like to think of him as a better version of Leighton Vander Esche, with a ceiling of being a dude like Luke Kuechly. Realistically, I think he’ll end up like a Matt Milano, which is fantastic. He’s incredibly athletic, and yes, sometimes that gets him into trouble with over-pursuit, but it’s easier to tame a tiger than it is to paint stripes on a kitten. I’ve also heard that there are some issues with his play recognition and diagnosis, which I think is just silly. That’s what coaching is for. It’s called development, learning the game, and transitioning from college to the pros. The dude can cover, he can tackle, he can blitz, he can play SAM, MIKE, and WILL, and the guy just. makes. plays. There are tons of backers in the pros that can’t do those things (cough cough Nate Gerry cough cough); you can’t coach someone to be an athlete or to have instincts, you can, however, coach someone to diagnose what the offense is doing.
As it pertains to the Titans, now we’ve got a stud in the middle of our defense. What does that mean, well let’s look at the top three defenses each of the past four seasons:
- 2020: Rams (Troy Reeder), Washington (Jon Bostic), Steelers (Devin Bush)
- 2019: Patriots (Dont’a Hightower), 49ers (Fred Warner), Bills (Matt Milano)
- 2018: Ravens (C.J Mosely), Bills (Milano), Bears (Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan)
- 2017: Vikings (Eric Kendrics, Anthony Barr), Jaguars (Telvin Smith, Myles Jack), Broncos (Brandon Marshall)
My point here is this: Outside of the 2020 Rams (Who have the best DT and CB in the game on their roster), WFT (Who employ the best DL in the game), and the 2017 Broncos (Who were a darn good squad all around), each of these teams employs a stud or multiple studs in the middle of their defense. Do the Titans have needs to fill elsewhere on their roster? Yup. But there’s a bona fide stud for the taking in Zaven Collins, and doggone it, he’s gonna be the centerpiece to a squad that’s gonna become a top-five unit within the next three years.
There. That was fun, wasn’t it? Now vote and agree with me so I can pick for the Philly Birds next year.
Do you approve of this pick?
This poll is closed
2021 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Jaguars (Phoenix X Minimus): QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets (eagles.north.of.the.border): QB Zach Wilson
3) 49ers (I Need a Username): QB Trey Lance
4) Falcons (chewy wellington): OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals (Dr_Horrible): WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins (20Safety_Hazard): TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions (drc242): WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers (wildcatlh): QB Justin Fields
9) Broncos (ItownBallers22): CB Patrick Surtain II
10) Cowboys (Kephas): OT Rashawn Slater
11) Giants (Billmington): WR Jaylen Waddle
12) Eagles (ablesser88): CB Jaycee Horn
13) Chargers (Georgia_eagle): LB Micah Parsons
14) Vikings (Philliesandthebees): OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
15) Patriots (SakPrescott): QB Mac Jones
16) Cardinals (Carson Wentzs ACL): CB Greg Newsome II
17) Raiders (dshelton5): LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
18) Dolphins (J. Wil): DE Kwity Paye
19) Football Team (Negadelphia Norm): LB Nick Bolton
20) Bears (Happy24): CB Caleb Farley
21) Colts (Fly Like An Eagle): OT Christian Darrisaw
22) Titans (Friendly Neighborhood Philly Fan): LB Zaven Collins
23) Jets (Asap Stocky):
24) Steelers (Gregnado):
25) Jaguars (“Snax”):
26) Browns (gerouxman1956):
27) Ravens (Brendanekstrom):
28) Saints (grantspectations):
29) Packers (Philly_Philly):
30) Bills (doublefry):
31) Chiefs (Leo Bedio):
32) Buccaneers (phuckdallas):
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2021 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Tennessee Titans draft at No. 22?
This poll is closed
LB Zaven Collins
CB Greg Newsome II
WR Rashod Bateman
WR Kadarius Toney
WR Elijah Moore
DT Christian Barmore
DE Jaelan Phillips
DE Gregory Rousseau
DE Azeez Ojulari
OT Samuel Cosmi
OT Jalen Mayfield
1) Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets: QB Zach Wilson:
3) 49ers: QB Justin Fields
4) Falcons: OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins: TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions: WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers: OT Rashawn Slater
9) Broncos: QB Trey Lance
10) Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II
11) Giants: LB Micah Parsons
12) Eagles: WR Jaylen Waddle
13) Chargers: CB Jaycee Horn
14) Vikings: OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
15) Patriots: QB Mac Jones
16) Cardinals: CB Caleb Farley
17) Raiders: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
18) Dolphins: RB Najee Harris
19) Football Team: OT Christian Darrisaw
20) Bears: OT Teven Jenkins
21) Colts: DE Kwity Paye