Jalen Collins was a mistake.
He may be a great athlete, a potential NFL starter and a good guy who for some reason just keeps doing reckless things. But barring an unlikely chain of events that would include him actually playing another game for the Falcons, his legacy with the team will be that of a draft mistake – the only draft mistake the team has made since the hiring of Dan Quinn in 2015.
Drug suspensions in consecutive training camps? Not a stat that should be on anybody's resume.
The first Quinn/Thomas Dimitroff draft has had remarkable success. The seven-member class: edge rusher Vic Beasley (first round), Collins (second), running back Tevin Coleman (third), wide receiver Justin Hardy (fourth), defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (fifth), tackle Jake Rodgers (seventh) and defensive back Akeem King (seventh). Rodgers is the only one not on the current roster.
Collins played 11 games last year, including three in the playoffs. He had a forced fumble and recovery in the NFC championship game that ignited the victory over Green Bay.
"He made the play that got it started," Dwight Freeney said.
If the Falcons don’t make it back to the Super Bowl, it won’t be because Collins did something stupid and got popped for PEDs for the second time, thereby earning a 10-game suspension. While there’s no question that losing him cuts into the Falcons’ secondary depth, as much as the team might want to minimize his loss, they can survive Collins' loss. They have a solid starting secondary (Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen) and strong second and third/tiers (including Brian Poole, C.J. Goodwin, Damontae Kazee and Deji Olatoye).
But Collins’ future is less certain. He needed the Falcons more than they needed him.
The fact he was the 42nd player overall drafted despite multiple failed drug tests at LSU speaks to his potential as a player. (Among those taken later in the second round: Missouri defensive end Markus Golden, who already has 16½ sacks for Arizona.)
NFL teams don’t draft players with red flags unless that guy can play. But Collins either hasn’t grown up yet or he hasn't realized the seriousness of the situation. Maybe unemployment would change that. Maybe not. But if he plays another game for the Falcons, I would be surprised.
(UPDATE: Collins is allowed to be in training camp and participate in exhibition games but will be suspended when the regular season begins.)
(UPDATE 2: Collins spoke to media today. Here's a link Darryl Ledbetter's story. Here's an excerpt of Collins' comments: “So, I addressed the team and talked to DQ (Dan Quinn). Everybody knows what’s going on. I know I let a lot of people down. Everybody is really disappointed, including myself. This is something that I’ve been struggling with. I’m working on it, to put behind me and I’m ready to move forward.”
Previously on Jalen Collins
- 2015: Collins determined to make Falcons' pick look good
- 2016: Collins' hard road to success finally paying off
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