Four years ago, it looked as though La’el Collins would be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The rounds continued to pass by, though, and off-field concerns led the offensive tackle to go undrafted. The Dallas Cowboys scooped him up, and while they haven’t quite gotten first-round talent in return, Collins has proven himself as a key cog in their offensive line.
He’s played more than 3,000 snaps in his four seasons at the NFL level, with 2018 proving to be his best year yet. He graded out at 71.2, ranking 31st among 83 qualifying tackles. He’s found particular success in the run game — his 68.9 mark in that facet slotted him at 15th among qualifying tackles.
Collins is far from a polished product, however, surrendering 47 quarterback pressures, including eight sacks, in 2018. That was the fifth-most among tackles, but he did also play the ninth-most pass-blocking snaps.
Collins’ strong grades in both run- and pass-blocking stem from solid efforts against some of the league’s very best. In 33 matchups with Philadelphia Eagles interior defender Fletcher Cox — one of the few players to have notched a 90.0-plus grade in each of the past two seasons — Collins held his own. He didn’t record a “loss” to Cox in 22 run-blocking matchups and nine pass-blocking matchups. That earned him 70.0-plus grades in both of the Cowboys’ meetings with the Eagles in 2018.
He performed similarly against J.J. Watt, who hardly needs an introduction. Collins recorded a “loss” on just one of his 35 matchups with the Texans edge rusher.
He wasn’t perfect by any means, with rough performances against Ryan Kerrigan, Michael Bennett and Cameron Jordan, among others, but Collins’ payday is only more evidence to how valuable offensive linemen have become in today’s NFL.
And with Ezekiel Elliott still holding out, the Cowboys certainly want to keep their front intact for whoever is taking snaps out of the backfield.