Draft daze: Collins snubbed by NFL, but you have to question why

05/09/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

How do you go from being an expected first round draft pick to not being selected at all? Get questioned by the police in relation to a murder would be the answer. At least it is in the case of La'el Collins, the former LSU offensive lineman who was projected as a first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, but instead went undrafted before being signed by the Dallas Cowboys this week.
If you aren't familiar with the story, Collins was an All-American offensive lineman who had started 39 games for LSU over the past 3 seasons. He won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC's offensive lineman of the year for the 2014 season. He has size and he can move. He's versatile. He only missed 1 game in his 3 seasons as a starter. He was predicted as high as being picked 18th overall in the NFL draft. Then Collins pregnant ex-girlfriend was shot and killed. When word broke out just before the draft that authorities wanted to question Collins in relation to the murder, teams avoided Collins like the plague.
With recent history in the NFL involving high profile players involved in off field incidents involving domestic violence, substance abuse, and driving under the influence in the spotlight for most of last season, teams stepped back from drafting Collins. Not a few teams. Not just avoiding drafting him the first round. But all of the teams. Every single one of the teams in the NFL through all 8 rounds of the draft. Nobody picked Collins because according to sources teams didn't feel "comfortable" taking him because they didn't want to deal with the perceived backlash that could come with it.

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But Collins was never named as a suspect. He cooperated with authorities. He passed a polygraph test. He was never implicated. As a matter of fact, a paternity test had proven that he wasn't even the father of the child his ex-girlfriend was carrying. When word got out that Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan had a dinner meeting with Collins, he was criticized by some in the media. When Dallas decided to sign Collins, it was much of the same. Things like "that's what you'd expect from Jerry Jones" and that "the Cowboys have never had a problem employing criminals".
Except Collins wasn't a criminal. He didn't do anything wrong. He was just questioned in a murder case because of his previous relationship with the victim. But he was pretty much punished for the sins of others. Collins had never had a run in with the law during his time at LSU. Tigers head coach Les Miles spoke out in the media to praise Collins and tried to get the NFL to get him into the supplemental draft. But since the NFL had the "criminal" stigma attached to some of it's players, Collins went undrafted.
Think about that. This is a guy who worked his whole college career to get the opportunity he was supposed to have. He could have left college a year earlier and been drafted, but he decided to come back for his senior year. Here's La'el Collins, looking forward to all of that work paying off by being selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Looking forward to sharing that excitement with his mother, who raised him as a single mom and who worked hard to give her son the opportunity to be great. And that was taken away. Why? Not because of anything La'el Collins did. But because of the off field problems that plagued the NFL created by players that Collins had nothing to do with. Jameis Winston, who was guilty of his share of off the field incidents and who definitely had character flaws in the eyes of both the media and NFL scouts, was taken in the first round. Yet La'el Collins wasn't drafted at all.
In the United States we are all considered innocent until proven guilty of a crime. I guess that's not the case though when it comes to today's NFL.

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