Some people thought LSU’s La’el Collins would get drafted not just in the first round, but in the Top 10. Instead, he fell all the way out of the NFL Draft.
The story is well-known at this point. A woman Collins used to date was shot and killed, and police needed to talk to him about it. They stressed that he was not being implicated or named as a suspect, but he still had to leave the draft in Chicago to meet with them because police matters come before the NFL—as they should. Collins tried to get out of the draft entirely so he could re-enter the Supplemental Draft, but the NFL wouldn’t let him. Teams, afraid of what might happen, all refused to draft him through the entire seven rounds.
And now, this is going to be a tragic story for Collins, no matter how it pans out.
If it turns out that Collins was in some way connected to the shooting, the NFL teams made the right choice in ignoring him in the draft. It’s then the tragic story of a murder in which a woman and a child were killed. It also shows how someone with immense talent threw it all away. Comparisons will be made, no doubt, to Aaron Hernandez.
If it turns out that Collins really had nothing to do with the shooting at all and is as innocent as anyone else in the draft, from Jameis Winston to Gerald Christian, then it’s still a tragic story, both in the sense that the shooting occurred and that it ruined an innocent man’s career. If Collins had gone in the Top 10, he would have been guaranteed millions of dollars. Now, he has a chance to get that type of payday, but he likely has to work his way up on smaller contracts and show what he can do.
NFL teams are already moving in on him, according to multiple outlets. His agent did say he has not yet had a single official visit, but it’s clear there is interest. He could potentially be the best undrafted free agent of all-time. If he’s cleared by the police, he’s probably going to get multiple offers. While they may not reach the level that he’d have gotten in the draft, he’s going to get paid.
Still, this is something that could haunt him forever. He’s always going to be tied to it. Draft weekend could have been the biggest weekend of his life, but it was instead chaos and confusion, and it may end up being the lowest point of his career.
Before that career had even started.
It’s important to keep the whole thing in perspective; when two people lost their lives, that’s bigger than the game and it’s bigger than anyone’s career. Certainly, the focus should be on the victims, their families, and finding those responsible for this type of senseless and horrific violence.
However, when more innocent people are drawn into the fray simply because of who they know, it takes things to a different level. Even without charges, this event had a profound impact on Collins and his future. Teams are wary of any red flags, and that’s as red as they get.
In some ways, it’s surprising that no one took Collins in the seventh round. Even if he was arrested and never played, that pick wouldn’t be a huge loss in a football sense, and having the rights to a Top 10 talent would be great if he was 100 percent cleared and someone else was arrested for the shooting. It’s impossible to know how things will play out at this point, but, no matter how the pieces fall, this is one of the strangest stories to come out of the draft.