On the eve of one of the biggest days of his life, former LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins’ draft situation is shrouded in uncertainty.
Collins, expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick Thursday night, left Chicago on Wednesday to return to Baton Rouge and plans to meet with police regarding the shooting death of a pregnant woman, a source confirmed with The Advocate.
It’s unclear, though, when Collins will meet with police. As of Wednesday evening, neither Collins nor his attorney had contacted detectives to schedule an interview, said Lt. Jonny Dunnam, a Baton Rouge police spokesman.
Police said Collins is not a suspect in the death of 29-year-old Brittney Mills, who was fatally shot Friday night in the doorway of her apartment on Ship Drive. Detectives want to interview Collins, along with “numerous other people,” as part of an investigation, Dunnam said.
Collins was originally scheduled to meet with police after the draft, but ESPN reported Wednesday that the former Redemptorist High School star — one of 27 players expected to be at the draft — planned to leave Chicago to meet with authorities in Baton Rouge.
A source confirmed that Collins left Chicago on Wednesday and plans to meet with police. He could return for the draft’s first round Thursday night, but that seems in jeopardy since he had not met with police as of 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Collins’ attorney, Jim Boren, declined comment Wednesday. Those close to Collins also declined comment.
Meanwhile, Collins’ prospects for the 2015 draft could take a tumble in light of the ordeal.
Rob Rang, an NFL draft expert for CBSSports.com, said two officials, each from a different NFL team, told him Wednesday that Collins’ link — no matter how small — to the death will affect the lineman’s selection.
“One guy dropped him a little,” Rang said Wednesday. “Other guy (said) it’s fluid. Said it will affect him.”
How much is uncertain.
Longtime NFL reporter Peter King wrote in a column Wednesday that one team thinking about drafting Collins in the first round “is now rethinking whether Collins will even be on its board on Thursday night.”
“This team’s thinking goes: How can you draft a guy who’s being sought in connection with the death of a woman, even if police are saying now he isn’t a suspect?” King wrote. “He needs to be exonerated by Thursday.”
Mike Mayock, an NFL Network draft analyst, says Collins is completely off many team boards unless cleared officially.
Collins, an All-Southeastern Conference lineman who started as LSU’s left tackle the past two seasons, is ranked as the third-best offensive tackle in this year’s draft, according to CBSSports.com. He’s projected by some as high as a top-15 pick — a lofty selection that should come with a signing bonus of at least $4 million.
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said he’s talked to every NFL team about Collins’ character and hopes his draft stock won’t be affected.
“La’el is one of the finest kids I’ve been around. I think the NFL feels the same way. We’re looking forward to him having a long NFL career,” Cameron said Wednesday at the Tiger Athletic Foundation Tour from L’Auberge Casino.
“What’s going to happen is going to happen,” Cameron said when asked about Collins dropping in the draft. “The bottom line is he’s going to step on an NFL football field, he’s going to have a chance to be a day one starter and he’s going to be able to make of his career what he wants of it.”
The extent of Collins’ relationship with Mills is unknown.
Police are aware that Collins and Mills were associates. Mills’ unborn child was saved after her shooting. NFL.com on Wednesday reported that Collins had originally agreed to submit to a paternity test on Monday after the draft.
Boren said Tuesday that a private investigative company recently was hired to determine Collins’ whereabouts on Friday — when Mills was shot — and Boren said he believes the resulting alibi will rule out Collins as a possible suspect in Mills’ death.
Collins isn’t the first player in this draft class to be linked to scandal.
Early Monday morning, Missouri pass rusher Shane Ray, once thought to be a top 10 pick, was pulled over and cited for possession of marijuana. Last month, Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory, another potential first-rounder, admitted that he’d tested positive for marijuana during the NFL combine.
LSU cornerback Jalen Collins, as well, has been linked to failed drug tests, according to a report last week from NFL Network.
Scott Rabalais contributed to this report. Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @DellengerAdv.