According to ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper, former Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins has some work to do at this week’s NFL combine if he wants to be a first-round pick.
Collins, who opted to enter the draft after three seasons at NU, didn’t have the week-to-week production of a first-round draft pick this season, Kiper said, so he’ll have to go to the combine and present himself as a “freak athlete” to potentially cement being picked in the first round. Otherwise, he could drop to the second or even the third round.
“He needs to show he’s a first-round caliber talent,” Kiper said on a conference call.
Collins put himself in position to declare early for the draft after a strong sophomore season in which he had 14 tackles for loss. Collins benefited, to some degree, from the presence of former defensive end Randy Gregory, a second round pick in last year’s draft.
This season, Collins finished with 29 tackles and seven tackles for loss, but he also had two former walk-ons — Jack Gangwish and Ross Dzuris — playing defensive end on either side of him, a new defensive scheme to learn and a new defensive line coach.
Collins will work out Saturday at the combine along with former Husker defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who also declared after his junior year, although Valentine also graduated with his degree.
Kiper said Valentine has a third- or fourth-round grade, which hasn’t changed recently. Limited by injuries, Valentine only logged a handful of tackles this season.