New Pro Football Network Senior NFL Analyst Williamson has experience scouting in both the collegiate and National Football League ranks, and he recently released his top 25 Safety Rankings. One of the members of that list was the Safety that Washington made the highest paid in NFL history last offseason, Landon Collins. Where does Landon Collins rank on Williamson’s list of top players at the Safety position heading into 2020?
What did Williamson say about Collins?
Landon Collins ranked 20th in Williamson’s list of the top 25 safeties. Williamson kept it short and sweet when discussing Collins, saying, “Collins is the purest old school, in the box, strong safety in this top 25 NFL safeties list. He is a real thumper in the run game and plays much more like a linebacker than a deep patrolling safety-for better or worse.”
If you watched Collins at all last season, you likely have a similar opinion. He was one of the top run defending safeties in the NFL and finished 19th in the NFL in total tackles, second among safeties. Collins is by no means a liability in coverage as long as he’s put in the correct position schematically. He shouldn’t ever be asked to play single high and should instead stick to covering running backs and underneath routes, but he’s instinctual with decent ball skills. It’s down the field where he can start to get burned.
Should Collins have been higher or lower?
Williamson rated Collins fairly, and it’s hard to argue with his ranking. I believe Collins belongs anywhere from 15-22 as he’s arguably one of the top run defending safeties in the NFL. His scheme dependent coverage abilities make it hard to rank him much higher. As long as Washington continues to deploy him near the line of scrimmage, he’ll continue to be an above-average safety.
Perhaps the most intriguing name on the list above Collins is Patrick Chung, who is not traditionally viewed among the top players at the safety position. Chung has demonstrated his versatility over multiple years in New England, and that versatility deserves respect. However, it is hard to ignore Chung’s struggles when he briefly left New England in 2013 and suited up for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Outside of Chung, it is hard to make a convincing case that Collins should be ranked above any of the names above him. Equally, none of the names below Collins stand out as names he should not be placed above.
What must Collins do to rank higher in 2021?
In 2016, there was a legitimate argument for Collins as the best safety in the NFL. He set career highs with 125 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, and 13 pass deflections. Collins was in the conversation for defensive player of the year and made an impact in all facets of the game.
If Collins can produce numbers close to that in Washington, he’ll likely find himself back in the top 10 conversation. He’s in a solid scheme to do it, and it seems as the new Washington defensive coaching staff knows exactly how they want to use Collins. In 2019, Collins was still effective in terms of tackles and forced two fumbles. However, it has now been over two years since Collins intercepted a pass.
In new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s cover-1 scheme, Collins snaps will be almost entirely by the line of scrimmage. Expect him to be utilized more often as a pass rusher and impacting the passer in different ways.
Collins starts to get out of place when asked to carry receivers down the field. He allowed a completion percentage of 70 and a total of five touchdowns when dropping back into coverage last season. Therefore, keeping him around the line of scrimmage will increase his impact against the run, as a pass rusher, and in coverage. However, he will need to improve on his 16 missed tackles in 2019, which meant he averaged more than one missed tackle per 10 attempted tackles (12%).
Could any other Washington safeties make the list in 2021?
The short answer is simply no. At least it’s heavily unlikely. Entering the 2020 season, the safety across from Collins is still in question. It needs to be someone who excels as a single high safety, and Washington has two safeties that fit the mold on their roster.
Both Sean Davis and Troy Apke fit perfectly in Del Rio’s Cover-1. They both have elite single-high athletic ability and are in the perfect system for them to display their physical gifts. With that being said, neither has shown play anywhere near good enough to make the top 25, and it would take a massive improvement this season for that to change.