Landon Collins Made the Perfect Complement to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at Alabama

Collins is now arguably the top safety in the 2015 NFL Draft class.

Alabama safety Landon Collins—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

Alabama safety Landon Collins—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

INDIANAPOLIS—Landon Collins and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might been teammates for three years at the University of Alabama, but they were only the starting safety tandem for half a season.

Part of the reason Collins didn't crack the starting lineup until halfway through the 2013 season was because of the high amount talent head coach Nick Saban collected in the Alabama secondary, needing an injury to Vinnie Sunseri to get a starting gig. But once Collins and Clinton-Dix were finally paired together for six games to end the campaign, it was magic.

Clinton-Dix went on to become a first round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers this past season and now Collins is arguably the top safety in this year's draft class and a potential Top 10 pick.

"Every day at practice I ball, every day," said Collins at the NFL Combine. "You can ask my coaching staff at Alabama, then I came out and brought it to the field. I played my heart out, and they're going to get the same thing when I get to the NFL. Being talked about the Top 10 is excellent. I'm humbled by it."

Collins was the perfect complement to Clinton-Dix: Landon, the prototypical strong safety, Ha Ha the free safety, but what made them so good was their flexibility.

Both players have the ability to step up into the box and roam the deep end of the field.

"He's a thumper," said former Packers safety and current Bleacher Report writer Matt Bowen of Collins. "He's a downhill player, but he can play in the deep half. He doesn't have the range I think that Clinton-Dix has in the middle of the field. He's got more flexibility. Clinton-Dix is a little bit more stiff."

Collins was a backup on Alabama's national championship team in 2012 as a freshman before emerging as a top-flight player in 2013, making 70 tackles, four for a loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles next to Clinton-Dix.

Then as a junior, Collins made a name for himself, leading the Crimson Tide with 103 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, three interceptions and a forced fumble, earning first-team All-American honors.

That 2014 season was a campaign that allowed Collins to declare for the NFL Draft as an underclassman, which provided its own set of challenges. Because he didn't exhaust his college eligibility, Clinton-Dix shared advice with his friend and former teammate in advance of the Combine, letting him know what to expect.

"Just know my stuff on the board," said Collins of what Clinton-Dix shared with him. "A lot of coaches are going to want to know about you on the board because they couldn't talk to me. I'm not a senior, so they couldn't talk to me earlier. I didn't go to the Senior Bowl and stuff like that. Knowing my formations and how to explain what I'm doing on the field."

Collins measured in at 6' 0" and 228 lbs., the heaviest of all defensive backs at the Combine.

Carrying so much weight on his frame raises concerns that he'll be able to hold up in coverage, but Collins also ran a respectable time of 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"The one question I have is on man-to-man technique," said Bowen. "I think that can improve, but he's a first-round player. We have to understand, first-round players, no one's perfect.

"Look at Clinton-Dix. Look at him Game 1 against Seattle compared to the NFC Championship game. I thought he was a different player. Look at how much more aggressive he was, his range. He had what, two picks in that NFC Championship game?"

Collins compares himself to Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and admires the way the late Sean Taylor used to play the game.

Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, however, has a different comparison.

"He reminds me a little bit of Deone Bucannon last year who went late to Arizona," said Mayock. "I love the way Arizona used him, which was kind of a strong safety in their base coverage, and then dime linebacker in their nickel and dime, big enough to take on a run but certainly quick and athletic enough to cover running backs and tight ends."

For Collins, it all comes down to being a playmaker.

"The coaching staff at Alabama, you had to be tough, you had to be tough down there," said Collins. "You had to be accountable. Every play that came your way, you just had to make a play."

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Comments (8)

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4thand1's picture

February 23, 2015 at 11:38 pm

Am I wrong or was Urlacher drafted as a safety? I know he played safety in college. Look how well that turned out for da bears.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2015 at 08:25 am

I still would like to see them move Richardson to ILB. At least as a Nickel/Dime LB.
I think he could be a really good Hybrid ILB/S.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2015 at 10:13 am

I was thinking Richardson was closer to 225.

Richardson is 6'2 where Collins is 6'0". The height would be nice against bigger TE's.

We don't know how good Richardson would be in coverage, but I think he would do well against TE's. To be fair we haven't seen if Collins can cover anyone either.

I'm not saying making Richardson a full time starter or anything. i just think they could find ways to use him in that role.

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4thand1's picture

February 24, 2015 at 11:24 am

Alabama players are working out nicely so far.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I wouldn't doubt if Thompson drafts someone from Alabama again this year. 2 years in a row he has drafted 2 very good players from there.

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ben's picture

February 24, 2015 at 06:29 pm

4thand1 says:
Alabama players are working out nicely so far.

not ANY Dbacks the last 6 years.

Dee MIllner (Top 10 dud)
Dre Kirkpatrick (1st round dud)
Mark Barron (Top 10 dud)
Kareem Jackson (1st round dud)
HaHa Dix (another 1st round dud)
Javier Arenas (2nd round dud)
Vinnie Sunseri (5th round dud)
Dequan Menzie (5th round dud)
Marquis Johnson (7th round dud)

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Which to, to add to your point, I doubt he has shown a lot in practices to, or else they likely would have tried it by now.

I just think he could do it. I don't have anything to back up my opinion. I just think he could.

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ben's picture

February 24, 2015 at 06:09 pm

This time last year, I watched every single defensive snap of Alabama's 2011-2013. (as I was laid up) I focused only on Hasean Dix to see how good this guy might be. The Packers needed a safety, I was a safety, safety is my favorite position, I was hoping for the best.

To say the least I was disappointed by his consistently average play. Even his interceptions were average, as average & as non-impressive as the picks he fell into this last season with the Packers. Again he's a horrible open-field tackler who takes costly angles in pursuit who can't cover over the top.

No matter how bad the Packer's were in need of a safety, Hasean was not worthy of a 1st round pick. Hasean Dix is the most overrated Packer since AJ Hawk & Atari Bigby.

But there was a player, number 26, who kept stealing my attention and who more consistently flashed with impressive plays. I didn't know who he was, how old he was, or how fast he was but I did know he would be a better football player than Hasean Dix.

It might take a year or 2 for you Homers to recognize, but HaHa, the jokes on you.

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