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NFL 25 at 25 | No 10 Giants S Landon Collins

New York Giants strong safety Landon Collins (21) warms up before the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 22, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)
Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire

NFL 25 at 25 is FanRag Sports’ rankings of the top 25 players in the NFL age 25 and younger, as voted on by 15 members of the FRS staff.

NFL 25 at 25 | No 10 Giants S Landon Collins

Finishing third in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, Collins is not only one of the NFL’s best safeties but has emerged as one of the top defensive playmakers in the league.

Expected to be a first-round selection in the 2015 NFL draft, Collins slipped to Day Two. The New York Giants entered the second day of the draft with the 40th pick overall and seven teams were scheduled to pick in front of them. Unwilling to wait and risk missing out on their man, the Giants parted with three draft picks to move up to pick No. 33 to draft their future star.

Collins’ slide in the draft came as a major surprise to his college head coach Nick Saban, who spoke to Sirius XM Radio on the matter:

“I can’t for the life of me think why he would slide in the draft. He’s a fine person. He has no character issues. He’s played on some really good defensive teams and has been a great leader so I don’t get it but I don’t know all that goes on there. Sometimes when you get all the information and it is what it is, and people ought to go with that rather than trying to read something into something that really isn’t there.”

As it turns out, the Giants got a steal.

In 2016, Collins took a major step forward as he functioned primarily as a strong safety after playing free safety as a rookie due to injuries on the roster. Playing in his natural position, Collins totaled 125 tackles, four sacks, 13 pass breakups and five interceptions en route to Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors. Pro Football Focus graded him as the third-best safety in the NFL.

At 23 years old, Collins is an all-around talent who helps the Giants defense in a variety of ways. Whether it involves deep zones, underneath zones, in the box, defending the run, blitzing or chasing down plays from distance, Collins demonstrates the ability to function in any role and make plays. His versatile skill set and mental processing abilities mesh with his physical and athletic components to make him one of the NFL’s best defensive backs.

Let’s look at a couple of examples from my recent film study on Collins.

Having speed and burst to cover ground and provide range while taking sound angles to the play are musts for great safeties. Collins showcases all of those elements on this rep as his works from outside the hash and across the field to finish the play inside the numbers. Collins also showcases his play strength by not allowing an inch after contact with Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who weights about 40 pounds more than his opponent. Collins wraps up and drives his feet through contact to bring down the Cowboys great. Collins is routinely an exceptional tackler.

Great NFL safeties must be able to hold their own in coverage against tight ends in space, and that’s what Collins does here. Anticipating the inside break, he transitions cleanly to undercut the route and extends his inside arm to break up the pass. The timing and “feel” for the deflection and coverage on this rep are textbook examples of how to defend a receiver.

Already in the top 10 of our 25 at 25 series, Collins will be eligible for our rankings two more times. The way his career is trending, he will make a strong push for the top five.

The Giants most certainly don’t miss the draft picks they gave away to move up and draft Collins. Saban was right about his former player.

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