When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Maliek Collins in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, it was seen as a bit of a surprise. After all, Andrew Billings was on the board and many draft experts had him over the Collins. However, the Cowboys fell in love with Collins because he fits perfectly into their plans at defensive tackle position. He's an athletic freak who is versatile in the middle. Let's learn a little more about Collins by talking with Brian Towle at SB Nation blog Corn Nation.
BTB: What are some specific things you know about Maliek?
Towle: Maliek came to the Huskers from Center High School in Kansas City, where he was more seen as a regional recruit. Nebraska got him over teams like Kansas, Iowa State, Iowa, Missouri and Tulsa among others. He quickly became a guy that Nebraska and former defensive line coach Rich Kaczenski loved in that he would be able to take advantage of one-on-one matchups in the middle.
BTB: What is Maliek's biggest strength?
Towle: Mentioned above, he's at his best when he's able to do a 3-technique in the middle of the line. Under former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, Collins and the rest of the defensive tackles were instructed to keep quarterbacks in front of them, just making sure that the pass rushers & back seven of the defense could do their job.
BTB: What is something he will need to work on?
Towle: The two things that seemed to hurt Maliek this past season was 1) a new defensive line, defensive coordinator and head coach change with the dismissal of Pelini and new Head Coach Mike Riley, and 2) no help outside, meaning teams could double team Collins and not have to worry about others around him making them pay for the double team.
BTB: Who do you compare his game/football potential to?
Towle: At his highest ceiling, he could be a Anthony Spencer type of player. Now, that may make some folks who cheer for the Cowboys have fits, but he's (probably) not going to be a Ndamukong Suh type of player.
BTB: Do you think he will struggle with the transition to the NFL?
Towle: I think that he's ready to welcome a new staff, role and surroundings that he had somewhat grown tired of in Lincoln. Not saying that he was not interested in being a Cornhusker anymore, but when you've had so much change around you and the coaches that recruited you left, that can bother you. It certainly did with Collins.
BTB: Talk about Coach Marinelli and Coach Lee and what they will need to do to shape his game?
Towle: These guys will have to get Collins to play more consistently to be able to make it in the NFL. Collins played well at times, but when he wasn't invested in the game, he seemed to take some plays off this past year. Again, that could (and probably is) due to his coach relationship, but it's something that cost Maliek in the draft, and he'll have to work through that.
BTB: Will Maliek start in Dallas in his rookie season?
Towle: I have no doubt that if healthy, he'll get a start or several during his time with the Cowboys this year.
BTB: How close are him and Randy Gregory?
Towle: That's a good question. With the knowledge now that Gregory seemed to get "favorable" decisions with issues he had both at Nebraska (the same issues he'll be sitting for with Dallas), one has to wonder if that will affect their relationship when they get to Frisco or camp. I don't think it should, but it's something to keep an eye on. Collins and Gregory seemed to work out well when together at Nebraska, so if Rod Marinelli can tap into that and find out what made that happen, then good things will come from both.
BTB: There are some rumors that Maliek is out of shape, what do you have to say about this/his physique?
Towle: Eh... I can see where that came from. The S&C department in Lincoln got a big, big makeover when Mike Riley came to Lincoln. Former Football S&C head James Dobson seemed to work more with pure power movements. Mark Phillipp came into Lincoln and he, along with former Nebraska weight man guru Boyd Epley, brought in more speed drills along with Olympic types of lifting and flexibility workouts. The role of Defensive Linemen under Dobson wasn't a good one, as many a player seemed to get bad weight. Collins was in a changed role with that last year, but we'll see what the Dallas S&C staff thinks was best.
BTB: What are your expectations for Maliek for the 2016 season?
Towle: I fully expect him to be able to contribute as he did in Lincoln and become a trusted guy for Dallas to lean on.
BTB: What will be his role in his rookie season and what will be his role in three years?
Towle: Rookie season: Buy everyone at the Star Pecan Lodge. 3 years: Starter.
As Brian mentioned, Maliek will get the opportunity to play right from the get-go in the middle on early downs and spread throughout the line in different subpackages. He will definitely be a name to monitor in his rookie season. I want to thank Brian for taking the time to answer these questions. These interviews are huge for us, as there is no one better to answer these sets of questions than people that have followed the player's respective team for years. Thanks again, Brian! You can follow him on Twitter here.