Rookie Profile – Alex Collins, RB Arkansas

Bruce Matson

You can compare three down running backs to an endangered species. There are less than five feature backs in the league, and when you can get your hands on one you can’t risk letting them go. Like an endangered species, you have to do whatever you can to preserve the running back on your roster, because there’s a chance you might not see one again.

If a running back can operate efficiently in all phases of the game then they are likely going to get a shot at becoming the lead back for their team. Being able to pass-protect and catch passes out of the backfield are essential to getting opportunities during passing situations. Having size and power can create more opportunities for short yardage and goal line carries. Alex Collins, running back from Arkansas, has been considered a potential three-down back by many draft enthusiasts due to his sheer size and power. Sometimes, when you take a quick glimpse of a player, you can be misled and not fully understand the player’s abilities due to not having a large sample size of data. Collins may or may not be one of the next three-down feature backs, because there are a lot of factors we must consider going forward before we make our assessment.

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Collins was a four star recruit from Plantation High School, a few miles outside of Fort Lauderdale Florida, where he rushed for 2,915 yards and 38 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons. He was ranked first in the nation amongst running backs in the 2013 recruiting class by He was heavily recruited by Miami, Florida, Florida State and Wisconsin, but ultimately chose to go to the University of Arkansas. His mom ran off with his letter of intent during national signing day causing a mad scramble to get his father to sign the paper work. His mother wanted him to sign with the University of Miami instead of Arkansas so he could be closer to home.

Collins was productive from the get-go at Arkansas, rushing for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns during his freshman season. He was the first true freshman in SEC history to start his career with three straight games with over 100-yards rushing. His sophomore season was even more impressive as he posted 1,100 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. Due to an injury to teammate Jonathan Williams, Collins was handed the starting running back job. He didn’t disappoint as he finished the season rushing for 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns and placed third in the SEC in rushing behind Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry. He had ten games where he rushed for more than 100-yards, more than anyone in the SEC.  Collins was one of three running backs to have ever eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for three straight seasons, Georgia’s Hershel Walker and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden are the other two running backs to surpass that benchmark.

Let’s take a look at Collins’ Mock Draftable Chart, which provides a snapshot of his athletic metrics compared to other running back prospects.

At 5-foot-11 and 217 pounds, Collins has the frame to take a beating running in between the tackles. He should be able to handle a large volume of carries without fading. Anything below nine inches deems as a red flag for hand size, and Collins’ hands measures at 9 ¼’’ which means they are big enough to not hinder his ability to hang onto the football.

Collins is not an athletic specimen, ranking below average in every event he participated in at the combine. His 4.59 40-yard dash isn’t particularly impressive but it’s fast enough to get the job done at the NFL level. Being a speedster is encouraged but it isn’t a requisite for production as there have been a handful of successful running backs who ran in the 4.60 range for their 40-yard dash.  Ranking in the first percentile for his vertical (28 ½ inches), Collins achieved the feat of having one of the worst vertical jumps of all-time amongst running backs. His broad jump isn’t much better, he jumped a dismal 113 inches which puts him in the eighteenth percentile. He did not participate in the three cone drill during the combine so we don’t have that data.

One of my favorite resources is, they gather athletic and production metrics of players and they use the data to create a quick snap shot of a player’s profile. Let’s take a look at what they have on tap for Collins’ profile:

collins profiler

Collins has a 29.9 percent dominator rating, which represents the market share he owns within the offense. His breakout age is almost elite and it ranks within the eighty-sixth percentile amongst running backs. This is very encouraging because it demonstrates he has the potential to handle the transition from college to the NFL quickly.

Like his Mock Draftable Chart, Player Profiler has him illustrated as a below average athlete. His height adjusted speed score is dismal and it tells us that he’s not a size-speed freak. He’s not going to win by shaking defenders out of their shoes or blowing by linebackers in the second level. He will need efficient footwork and a decisive running style to be successful on the football field.

I watched a lot of film on Collins and I liked what I saw from him. Below is the game against Texas A&M where he rushed for 151 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. This was one of his best games from last season and most importantly it gives a good depiction of what he’s capable of doing as a runner.

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Collins doesn’t mind contact, and as a matter of fact, he seems to embrace it. He’s a very physical runner and he can resemble a bowling bowl at times when he’s plowing through defenders. I’m surprised he doesn’t already have the nickname of ‘sweet feet’ because his footwork is amazing. He’s efficient with every step he takes to get to and through the rushing lane. He does a good a job at weaving in and out of traffic around the line of scrimmage without losing speed.  Collins is very decisive and he’s quick to get downhill while running the football. He keeps his pad level low at the point of contact, which allows him to absorb hard hits from defenders – and it also bolsters his ability to fall forward at the end of his runs to pick up extra yardage. He uses patience and excellent field vision to set up his blockers and find creases in the defense.

He doesn’t have the speed to outrun defensive backs, and can’t accelerate quickly. With the lack of speed, he has trouble getting to the edge while running out side. He has a tendency to stutter step too much before hitting the hole. Due to his inability to accelerate, Collins experiences difficulty gathering enough inertia to break tackles. He lost nine of his 17 career fumbles which is an alarming rate.  He wasn’t used much in the passing game as he only caught 17 receptions during his entire career at Arkansas.


Collins is more than likely going to be drafted during the middle rounds of the draft. An NFL team with little competition at running back would be the best situation for him, so it’s easier for him to jump the depth chart, teams like the Cowboys, Giants, Dolphins and the Eagles fit that mold. His lack of athleticism might make it harder for him to grasp a starting role. Even though he’s not physically gifted, he has the ability to be a productive runner if given the opportunity.

His dynasty value is going to be very dependent on what team selects him. He’s more than likely going to be drafted in the second to third round of rookie drafts but he could creep into the first round if he’s selected by team like Dallas. Historically, he hasn’t been involved in the passing game and not being used as a receiver out of the backfield will affect his value in PPR leagues. I think he can be productive if given a full workload, but I think the right situation is going to be important for his success.


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