The 2015 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and one of the bigger stories of the weekend was the fate of LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins. Earlier this week, Baton Rouge police said that Collins was wanted for questioning in a murder investigation. According to police, he's not a suspect in the murder, but as the victim was a former girlfriend, the authorities were wanting to speak with him about it.
The entire chain of events, from a purely football perspective, caused Collins' draft stock to fall off the face of the earth. Once projected as a possible top ten pick, the entire seven-round draft went by this weekend without Collins' name being called because of the murkiness of his situation. Collins' agent attempted to get him pulled from the draft so that he could attempt to clear his name and enter this summer's Supplemental Draft, but the National Football League denied that request. Collins' agent also said that his client would not sign a contract with anyone that drafted him on the draft's third day, which comprises Rounds Four through Seven.
That last part is a bit strange, coming from his agent, as it probably kept Collins from having an opportunity to enter next year's draft anyway. Let me explain.
When a player is drafted, they have until Week 10 of the following NFL season to sign a contract with the team that drafted them. (I believe Week 10 is the deadline. . .at least, that's what it used to be.) If a team fails to sign their drafted player by that time, the team forfeits that player's draft rights and they are eligible to re-enter the next year's draft. The Vikings faced a similar situation over a decade ago with offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, who had a holdout that stretched to near that signing deadline. With the new rookie salary system, such a thing would really be unheard of now, but Collins' situation would have been different.
However, as Collins went undrafted, he can't refuse to sign a contract with a team that drafted him. . .and, as a result, is not eligible to enter the 2016 Draft and is your standard undrafted free agent, just like the scores of other college football players that were not drafted this weekend. Had his agent not made the declaration that Collins wouldn't sign a deal if a team drafted him on the draft's final day, a team probably would have taken a late-round flier on him. At that point, Collins could have refused to sign and had that team forfeit his rights so that he could enter the 2016 NFL Draft.
Collins' interview with the authorities in Baton Rouge is scheduled for Monday, and he has (apparently) said that if his name is cleared, he will sign with someone. (Because, as we just detailed, he really doesn't have a whole lot of choice at this point.) So, would the Minnesota Vikings potentially be interested in bringing him in?
Well, with nearly all of their selections this weekend, Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer stressed the importance of character and being able to trust the players that they had selected. Would the character issue be a concern with Collins? The answer to that is a definitive. . .maybe.
We know that he's not a suspect in the murder investigation, from what we can discern from the information that's been made public. However, this picture from a while back was making the rounds on the Twitters this weekend as well.
Les Miles tough love motivation: pic.twitter.com/cGHQqWlX— SDSNation (@SDSNation) December 28, 2012
That picture was posted by LSU head football coach Les Miles a couple of seasons ago. You'll note that Collins' name is on that list. I'm not sure if that's enough, by itself, to keep the Vikings from pursuing Collins, but I'm guessing the Vikings have done much more research into Collins than that. . .after all, he was a guy that was thought to potentially be in play for the Vikings at #11 overall.
If Collins is, in fact, cleared on Monday after he talks with authorities, you can bet that nearly every team in the National Football League will be in pursuit of Collins. The signing of Collins as an undrafted free agent would be like getting a free first-round pick, after all. I don't know if the Minnesota Vikings will be one of those teams, but given the number of teams that will be in pursuit, it would be surprising to see him in a different purple and gold uniform sometime next week, in my opinion.