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Aviante Collins: Where’s His Best Fit ?

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the guys in the mix for a starting/roster spot along the offense line is Aviante Collins, a second year man that the Vikings picked up last year as an undrafted free agent out of TCU.

So far he’s generally been seen to be having a good training camp, and had a pretty good night in Denver as well.

Looking For a Position

Last year, Collins got most of his reps at right tackle, where he played in college. He was also seen as athletic enough (4.81” 40) to see some action at left tackle as well. Collins had the upper body strength (34 benchbress reps), but was a little light for a tackle (295 lbs) and just didn’t have the lower body strength and girth to anchor very well against NFL defensive linemen. That created some footwork issues at times as he tried to over compensate, which left him off balance. Nevertheless he made the roster and saw some limited action as an extra tackle in jumbo packages late in the season. He did well in that role.

During the off-season, Collins added some weight - about 10 pounds of muscle – to help his lower body strength and anchoring ability.

That, along with a year of NFL coaching, seems to have helped his performance. Collins plays with a nasty streak, which coach Mike Zimmer mentioned he likes about him, and had some good blocks against Denver - playing both left tackle and (mostly) left guard with the second string.

The question with Collins is what is his best position? While he’s played mostly tackle, his arm length (33 3/8”) is not ideal for playing outside.

Mike Zimmer apparently was the one to suggest playing him inside at left guard to see how he does. It makes sense as Collins has the size and quickness to play inside, and his arm length isn’t much of an issue there.

There are at least a few other guys competing at left guard - Tom Compton, Danny Isidora, also Josh Andrews, so it’s unclear if that’s where he’s needed the most. But it may be his best position.

Looking at the Denver game, Collins did better in his reps at left tackle. He struggled more at left guard, where he hadn’t played before, getting beat at times by quickness as he acclimated to the position. But that happened less frequently as the game progressed, suggesting with more reps he may continue to improve. What he did best at left guard was get to the second level - going out to block linebackers on run plays, and also getting out to block on screen passes.

The question is that with so many competing at that position (left guard), how many reps will he get there? And will he improve enough to win the starting job?

Tom Compton seemed to have the inside track at the starting LG spot, but he looked outmatched with the first team against Denver, and although Mike Zimmer gave him some light praise (he’s not going to criticize individual player performance much in press conferences), I suspect they may be looking more seriously at LG alternatives, which I expect will include Danny Isidora, Josh Andrews, and Aviante Collins.

I suspect Collins’ roster spot is fairly safe at this point, as he can play any position except center along the offensive line. And maybe that’s the best spot for him - as a backup tackle or guard. But he may also turn out to be the best option at left guard if he continues to improve there with more reps.