Arizona Cardinals select Zaven Collins in 2021 NFL Draft: Grading the pick

The Arizona Cardinals took Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins at No. 16 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has a lot of upside but was it the right pick?

The Arizona Cardinals are entering year three of the Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray era and the hopes are high after the gains they made in 2020. After going 5-10-1 in 2019, Kingsbury and Murray both showed improvement this past season as they went 8-8.

Then in the offseason, they made some solid moves as they picked up J.J. Watt, A.J. Green, and James Conner. None of those moves were exactly game-changers, especially with Watt and Green nearing the end of their respective careers, but it did give them some veteran leadership — while building depth.

Now in the  2021 NFL Draft, they looked to continue to build their roster as they aim to finally secure a winning record this coming season. With that goal in mind, they found themselves on the clock at No. 16 overall where they took Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins.

It’s been no secret that Collins, a versatile defender, has had the attention of the Arizona brass throughout the offseason. He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 260-pounds and has a solid mix of coverage skills and tacking. He can also get after the quarterback, evidenced by his four sacks in 2020.

Still, there’s one thing that’s head-scratching about this pick. Collins comes in with the caveat that he can play all over the field, but they just added someone like that in 2020 when they took Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson.

Simmons struggled at first as the Cards moved him around but started to find his niche when he was allowed to play linebacker — and just linebacker.

Collins feels like he could have some of the same growing pains. On top of that, first-round linebackers are a crapshoot and this is two seasons in a row Arizona has used their top pick on the position.

Overall, this feels like a mistake as there were many other holes they could have filled.

Grade: C