ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has released his latest projections for the 2021 NFL Draft, and believes the Pittsburgh Steelers will select a linebacker in the first round.
With the No. 24-overall pick, Kiper is predicting the Steelers will draft Tulsa outside linebacker Zaven Collins.
Standing at 6-4, 260 lbs, Collins had a monster 2020 season for the Golden Hurricanes, tallying 53 total tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss, four sacks and four interceptions. He also recorded six pass breakups, a forced fumble and a safety.
Collins won the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards, and was named a consensus First-Team All-American for his outstanding junior season.
While Collins played outside linebacker in a 3-3-5 scheme at Tulsa, SteelersNow’s Nick Farabaugh sees him as fit in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 as an edge rusher, citing his frame and power.
Zaven Collins is one of the weirdest players I've seen at ILB. For the Steelers, I think Collins fit much better into their 3-4 scheme than a 4-3 team.— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 24, 2021
Collins has an EDGE frame and plays with great power. I just don't think he's great in space. You gotta creatively scheme him.
The Steelers will likely be looking to replace outside linebacker Bud Dupree this offseason, who is set to hit free agency. They did select Charlotte outside linebacker Alex Highsmith in the third round of last year’s draft, who was thrust into the starting lineup and made an impact following Dupree’s season-ending injury.
Pittsburgh could also consider pairing Collins alongside Devin Bush at inside linebacker, with his current partner Vince Williams entering the final year of his contract in 2021 at 32 years-old.
The 2021 NFL Draft officially gets under with the first round on April 29. The event is technically still set to be held in Cleveland. But given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, holding the draft in a non-virtual format seems highly unlikely.