INDIANAPOLIS — With a focus on football and a belief that he’s the best offensive lineman in the 2015 NFL draft class, La’el Collins is ready to prove those things at the NFL combine.
“Everything we do at LSU prepares you for this, and that’s why I’m extremely confident,” the former Tigers tackle said Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I want to be the type of guy who takes coaching and wants to compete. Everywhere I went, I rose to the occasion and was able to get everything out of it.”
Should he get selected in the first round as expected, Collins would be the first LSU lineman taken in the first round since Alan Faneca in 1998.
“It definitely would mean a lot,” Collins said. “We’ve had a lot of guys go in the first round, but at the offensive line position, there haven’t been too many of them.”
Collins, who has experience at guard and tackle, said he prefers tackle because he’s “out on the island” and he loves a one-on-one matchup.
Collins played left tackle last year at LSU and said NFL teams have asked him about his thoughts playing up and down the line.
“They’ve asked me if I could slide to the right side and then in two years, go to the left. I feel very confident in what I do, so it wouldn’t be a problem,” Collins said. “They’ve asked me about playing guard, and I could play either spot, right or left side. I love the one-on-one matchups. Being out there, one-on-one with a guy and having my way with him.
“When you’re inside, you’re going up against pretty big guys, bigger guys, more stronger. But when you’re out there on the island, you’re going against fast guys with speed, and you have to be able to understand where you’re at on the field and the personnel you’re going against. Since I played both positions, I understand them very well.”
At the Senior Bowl, Collins showed he is a dominant run blocker who finishes through the whistle and plays with a mean streak. He’s athletic enough and strong enough to play tackle or guard, and that versatility will serve him well. He said he’s a confident player but also very coachable and can fit into any defensive system.
“I’m a guy who wants to be the best at the next level and is ready to compete,” Collins said. “That’s why I’m looking forward to being here doing all the drills, and a couple of weeks ago at the Senior Bowl.”
Collins started playing football in third grade as a defensive lineman. The Baton Rouge native said he didn’t even think about football as a possible career when his first scholarship letter arrived while he was a junior at Redemptorist.
“When I started playing football, I started playing defense and made the transition to playing offense in high school,” Collins said. “I’ve always had a mentality of a defensive lineman, and I was able to bring that over to the offense, but also bring intelligence over to play offensive line. For me to go out there with that mentality and just get after it is something I bring to the table.”
He stayed at home for college and said practicing against former LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, a first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2012, helped him prepare for the NFL. He also enjoyed his matchups with Florida defensive end Dante Fowler.
“He’s somebody who is an extremely good pass rusher, somebody who can cause problems,” Collins said of Fowler. “So being able to look at him and break down film on him, understanding his moves and what he likes to do and being able to compete against him is nice, against that caliber guy.”
As of Wednesday, Collins was scheduled to meet with 22 NFL teams in Indianapolis. He’s received advice from former LSU lineman Trai Turner, a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers last year.
“Trai has shared what it’s like to be in this position right here,” Collins said. “To be in front of scouts and GMs and let them get to know who you are as a player. Be extremely confident in what you do and get to know each other, and the rest will take care of itself.
“Just be you — there’s no magic to it — and show them what it is you have to offer.”