Texans draft Nico Collins: 2021 Fantasy Football impact, Dynasty outlook, scouting report, advanced stats

Texans draft Nico Collins: 2021 Fantasy Football impact, Dynasty outlook, scouting report, advanced stats

The Houston Texans selected Michigan receiver Nico Collins with their third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Collins was named the Alabama Sports Writers Association 2016 All-State first team in his senior year coming out of Clay-Chalkville High School in suburban Birmingham. He received 20 offers, including those from powerhouse schools like Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Florida — but he chose Michigan. “Mainly, if you’re recruited to Alabama, you go to Alabama,” Collins said, via AL.com. “But I saw it as an opportunity to be different, and I feel that’s what I did. I feel like it was best for me.”

After a collegiate career that included inconsistent quarterback play and passing game disarray from a coaching standpoint, it’s fair to wonder if Collins regrets that decision. 

Regardless, the former big-time prospect has the frame and tools that translate to the next level. The last Michigan receiver prospect who suffered from poor QB play and a bad pass game was forgotten and lasted all the way until the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. If you ask the Browns how they feel now about selecting Donovan Peoples-Jones so late into Day 3, a rookie who made an immediate impact in Cleveland after Odell Beckham landed on IR, they might tell you it was their best value pick in the entire class. Collins and Peoples-Jones are different types of prospects, but the right NFL team, with an offensive system that fits Nico’s skill set, could be getting a major value this April. 

Collins opted out of the 2020 season.

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Collins from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.

2021 Fantasy impact

Typically, we wouldn’t expect a late third-round NFL draft pick to return much Fantasy value in Year 1. However, that hasn’t always been the case in recent drafts, and the Texans’ wide receiver depth chart is wide open. The Texans return Brandin Cooks as their de facto No. 1 option. They also return oft-injured veterans Randall Cobb and Keke Coutee. The latter two aren’t much of a threat to Collins long term and it’s not inconceivable he can jump them in targets in Year 1. Houston is still looking for a true “X” receiver to replace DeAndre Hopkins on the boundary and Collins profiles as that kind of prospect, but he’s raw and unlikely to get there in Year 1. 

Of course, the elephant in the room is who will Collins be catching passes from. With Deshaun Watson at QB, his value is a lot different than it would be with 2021 rookie draft pick Davis Mills or free agent acquisition Tyrod Taylor. If Houston’s passing game is as inept as it could be without Watson, Collins will have next to no value in year one even if he can earn starter snaps. He’s more of a big-play receiver than someone to target in PPR leagues.

Dynasty outlook

The Dynasty community loves Collins’ upside with a 6-foot-4 frame, and that love is growing after Collins showed up 15 pounds lighter at the Senior Bowl and had a strong week against some of the top corners. I recently participated in a mock rookie draft where Collins went off the board at the end of Round 3 — that’s the highest I’ve seen him go so far. He won’t go there in every rookie draft, but he’ll typically be drafted.

Scouting report

Strengths

  • Massive frame and he uses it well to box out defenders in contested-catch situations.
  • One of the longest athletes at WR — a 7-foot-9 wingspan — and it shows up in his game.
  • Untapped potential due to poor QB play and an inefficient passing game at Michigan.
  • Great in contested-catch situations on 50/50 balls.
  • Can stack CBs and win vertically down the field despite being a “build-up” speed athlete.
  • Strong hands when jammed up in press coverage.
  • Excellent body control in the air and when extending away from his frame to make difficult catches.
  • Very physical as a receiver and uses his physicality well.
  • Very strong hands at the catch point and a natural hands catcher.
  • Despite not being the most fluid athlete, he’s effective on slants and curls/comebacks.
  • Projects as an immediate red zone threat.

Concerns

  • Lack of straight-line speed.
  • Not an explosive athlete off the line of scrimmage or overall — doesn’t create separation with his athleticism.
  • Not a very fluid or flexible athlete, relative to the position.
  • His footwork off the line of scrimmage needs work and often leaves him behind the eight ball in routes.
  • Not an overly productive collegiate receiver.
  • Opted out of the 2020 season.
  • Seems like a poor fit for a West Coast, quick-hitting offense based on his skill set.

Stats breakdown

*Collins opted out of the 2020 season.

2019  12 37 729 7 19.7 0
2019 v top 25 6 19 314 1 16.5 0
2018 v top 25 5 20 363 2 18.2 0
Career 27 78 1,388 13 17.8 0

Advanced stats to know

  • 19.7 yards per reception in 2019 in the 92nd percentile (per Player Profiler)
  • 9.8% drop rate (per Pro Football Focus)
  • 52% contested catch rate (per PFF)
  • Catch radius is in the 94th percentile among all WRs (per Player Profiler)
  • Breakout age (19.5) in the 80th percentile (per Player Profiler)

NFL comparison

Collins is a difficult player to find an NFL comp for because he profiles somewhere between Laquon Treadwell and Michael Thomas (Saints), but he’s closer to Treadwell on that scale. His lack of explosion and flexibility off the line of scrimmage could hold him back from creating separation and finding success at the NFL level, but his freakish catch radius, strong hands and physicality make him a nice fit in the red zone and in vertically-oriented offenses. I’ll settle on comping Collins to a poor man’s Mike Williams (Chargers).

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