Michigan has its second Signing Day commitment from a blue chip recruit hailing from deep in SEC country. After five-star GA DT Aubrey Solomon pledged this morning, Pinson (AL) Clay-Chalkville WR Nico Collins closed out the class by choosing the Wolverines over Georgia.
While Collins didn't quite have as dramatic a recruitment as Solomon, his took similar twists and turns; he was long considered a Michigan lock until a late Georgia surge that the Wolverines managed to overcome. He's the 30th commit in the 2017 class and the fifth at wide receivier, joining Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, Oliver Martin, and Brad Hawkins.
4*, #24 WR,
4*, #17 WR,
4*, 82, #21 WR,
4*, 92, #29 WR,
4*, #23 WR,
After Rivals briefly had Collins in five-star territory, there's now a strong consensus on his ability; all four sites have in a relatively tight range in both the overall and position rankings, with Rivals still on the bullish end and 247 on the bearish.
Collins is a tall, burly receiver. He measured in a 6'5", 202 pounds at The Opening finals last July.
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Let's start with Scout's free evaluation, which fits with the general consensus on Collins:
EvaluationAn outside wide receiver who has shown the ability to make plays down the field or across the middle. A very dependable wideout who catches the ball well in traffic. Has ideal size and length. Is more of a deep threat. Likes to run deep routes and can get behind defenders. A long strider who covers a lot of ground. Not elite quickness. Solid blocker and a very tough wide receiver.
- Catching in Traffic
- Hands and Concentration
- Red Zone Weapon
Areas to Improve
- Elusiveness with Catch
Collins started drawing attention relatively early in his high school career with a big sophomore season on a talented Clay-Chalkville squad. He put up big-time numbers as a junior, too, before hitting the camp circuit, earning an invite to the Opening finals at the Atlanta regional:
There were expectations for the No. 16-ranked wide receiver Nico Collins on Sunday, and he met those, plus some. He has taken his game to the next level. He was once a considered just a tall, thin wide receiver who could win jump-ball situations. On this day, though, he was precise with his routes, he caught everything with his hands, and he did it all on a 200-plus pound frame.
At the same event, 247's Steve Wiltfong called Collins "the quintessential red-zone weapon."
Later in the spring, Rivals' Adam Friedman raved about Collins' performance at the NC Elite 7-on-7 tournament:
Rivals100 wide receiver Nico Collins could do almost anything he wanted to in the open field on Saturday. He is every bit the 6-foot-5 he is listed and is very strong despite his slender build. Collins was very sure-handed and was particularly effective on crossing routes.
This is particularly notable since I can't find another in-person scouting report on Rivals from Collins's senior year (spring/summer camps included), so this—in conjuction with a review of his junior film—seems to be what spurred Rivals to give Collins a fifth star in their June rankings update:
“Big wide receivers who can high point the ball and have great body control are a quarterback’s best friend and that’s Collins in a nutshell. He is tall, has room to fill out and he has reliable hands. He doesn’t get a ton of separation on film but he provides a nice window for the ball, adjusts to poorly thrown balls and is a red zone nightmare for defenders. He’s also a willing and physical blocker.” – Farrell
Scout was the only outlet to take note of Collins' play at the Opening finals. While that's often not a great sign, Rivals no longer has a presence at that event, and Scout's Chad Simmons liked what he saw:
Nico Collins is not a burner at close to 6-feet 6-inches tall and 202 pounds, but he showed a bounce in his step at The Opening Finals. He was moving well and he may have surprised some with how he moved at wide receiver. In the 7v7 sessions, he was working more underneath, but he did run some deep routes down the field as well. He really covers a lot of ground quickly with his long strides and he sneaks up on some defensive backs in coverage. What stood out most about Collins was his hands, and just how they have gotten better and more consistent. He has been known to fight the ball some, but last week, he really received the ball well, and caught just about anything that he could reach. On the next level, Collins will be one who is a red zone weapon and one who can move the chains.
247 may have had a different take; they only published recruiting- and combine-related stuff on Collins from the Opening, but dropped him 43 spots to #152 overall in the aftermath.
In his senior season, Collins continued to build on the physical maturation that helped him break out as a recruit in the first place. Scout's Alabama analyst, John Garcia Jr., though Collins played quite well in a losing effort against a superior James Clemens squad:
In this particular game, against arguably the state of Alabama's top defense, Nico Collins was watched closely and doubled at times. Still, he managed to run good routes and separate enough for six catches for 78 yards in a tough loss. He is 6-foot-5 and uses that frame to earn position against smaller defensive backs but where the senior has improved over the last year or so is in his physicality after that point. As you see in one provided clip (above), he makes a catch and simply straight-arms a defender to the turf. Collins uses that ability as a very good blocker for his teammates when his number isn't called, somewhat of a rarity in today's young pass-catchers. The four-star is also a better runner after the catch than often given credit for.
Collins didn't play in the Army or UA All-American bowls, instead choosing to participate in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, where his route-running and ability to adjust to the ball impressed Garcia again; Garcia noted the only holes in Collins' game are "top-end speed and explosiveness."
Rivals, citing a "quiet All-Star season" and trouble separating from top-tier defensive backs, dropped Collins to #120 overall in their final rankings, though Rob Cassidy still made sure to note that he "still boasts amazing hands."
The lack of wiggle required to create space against better defensive backs is going to be a shortcoming Collins must overcome to succeed at Michigan. He has the physical tools to do so; not to go Fred Jackson or anything, but there's a strong "Amara Darboh but taller" vibe with him. ESPN's scouting report lays out in great detail the ways he can be a major contributor:
Has big, strong hands and the wide catch radius to haul in poorly thrown balls. Focus and concentration when in a crowd is very strong and he does a great job of adjusting to the ball when it is in the air at the last second. Does an excellent job of securing the ball in traffic. Wins more jump balls than most receivers not only because of his size, but timing as well. Is a serious weapon inside the red zone, especially at this level.
A significant jump ball weapon and redzone mismatch. Doesn't not need to beat DB's over the top to win vertically due to size, body control and range to elevate. He is so tall that his pad level can be high and it makes it difficult for him to juke and cut with ease which is why he is not a huge threat to make people miss after the catch. Strength and size advantage are what he thrives on especially in the red area, but in the open field he can be a load to tackle and will drag defenders in space.
It would be easy to label Collins a pure possession type, but he has more juice than that athletically. Runs well enough and his size is obviously appealing. He may not be a dazzling open field player that will create explosive plays, but he will win a lot of jump balls in clutch situations. Power five guy.
While Michigan has taken some very good receivers in the last two classes, none quite fit the "red zone terror" profile of Collins. That skill and his ability to make contested catches on passing downs will determine how quickly and how often he sees the field.
Collins chose Michigan over offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Miami (YTM), Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and others. That is quite the who's-who of Southern football powers to beat for a Southern prospect.
Pinson (AL) Clay-Chalkville has produced two other four-stars in the Rivals era (2002-present): 2009 Alabama signee Quinton Dial, who's now a DE for the 49ers, and current Alabama freshman WR T.J. Simmons, a top-100 recruit to Rivals in 2016. They've sent a decent group of three-stars to mostly Southern schools, with the MGoNotable exception of current Maryland QB Tyrone "Piggy" Pigrome.
According to his 247 profile, Collins recorded 43 catches for 865 yards (20.1 YPC) and nine touchdowns as a senior. That followed an even more productive junior campaign in which he had 60 receptions for 1103 yards (18.4 YPC) and 16 TDs.
FAKE 40 TIME
Collins didn't participate in the combine portion of the Opening, so all we have in terms of 40 times is a 4.50 estimate from Scout that gets five FAKEs out of five. As mentioned several times in the scouting section, Collins has decent speed but isn't a true burner, and that'd be a true burner electronic time for a high schooler.
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Collins doesn't have the head start that Peoples-Jones and Black got by enrolling early, he has a chance to at least see the field as a situational red zone target, and it won't be long before he's competing to start on the outside. Getting the finer points of route-running down will play a big role in determining his playing time; he'll need that to be able to create separation at this level. His upside is vast; he also may have the biggest bust potential of the WRs in this class.
The addition of Collins is also a boon to Michigan's secondary, as it allows the coaches to pluck Hawkins (or perhaps Martin) from the WR group and play him at safety.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It is finished.