The rebuilding process for the New England Patriots defense is almost complete. They’ve spent the last few years using draft picks to stock that side of the ball with talented young players. Some picks haven’t worked out like they hoped, but enough have lived up to their potential that the Patriots defense is quickly becoming one of the more talented in the league.
The newest member of that group is Jamie Collins, the first selection the Patriots made in this past draft. Collins, a second-round pick from the University of Southern Mississippi, is an outside linebacker who should fit nicely in the Patriots system.
Collins is a versatile playmaker who lined up at defensive back, defensive end and linebacker during his four years at Southern Miss. That versatility will make him valuable to the Patriots, a team that has lined players up out of position plenty of times during the tenure of head coach Bill Belichick.
Although the team thought highly enough of Collins to use a second-round pick to get him, its doubtful he will get any work with the No. 1 defense during training camp. The Patriots have built one of the more solid linebacker groups in the league over the last few years, and Dont’a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich are proven commodities returning to the lineup at the outside spots.
But Collins should be a contributor this year. His versatility alone makes him someone the team will save a roster spot for, he can provide depth at outside linebacker as well as make plays on special teams.
The Patriots value depth and versatility, and Collins will provide both in his rookie year. The starting lineup will be hard for him to crack, but if he plays well in training camp, the team will have a hard time keeping the talented first-year player on the sidelines in 2013.