LSU's Collins would give Lions 'great versatility'

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

The NFL draft is about two months away, so the mock draft season is in full swing.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has been among those projecting Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown to the Lions at No. 23 in the first round, but on a teleconference Thursday, he mentioned one offensive lineman who could be a fit, too.

"I think you look at the guy that's the most versatile would be La'el Collins from LSU," Kiper said. "He will probably be there; he can play left tackle, right tackle or guard. He gives you great versatility coming out of LSU."

In his mock draft from Feb. 11, Kiper had Collins going 29th to the Colts, but ranks him the 18th overall prospect on his big board. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Collins started at left guard for LSU in 2012 before moving to left tackle the past two seasons.

The Lions are looking to upgrade their offensive line after ranking 28th in rushing and allowing 45 sacks in 2014. Center Dominic Raiola won't return, and 2014 third-round pick Travis Swanson is his presumed replacement. The Lions have had a revolving door at right tackle the past two years, and left guard Rob Sims, 31, is set to become a free agent.

Plus, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said last week that left tackle Riley Reiff isn't "locked in" at his position, so there could be shuffling everywhere except right guard with Larry Warford.

Mayhew also said at the combine he likes versatile offensive linemen, something that paid off with Swanson playing a few games at right guard last year and Garrett Reynolds having ability to play guard and tackle.

"D.J. Humphries (from Florida) would be probably the best pure left tackle, a natural left tackle there at that point," Kiper said. "I don't think Andrus Peat will be there out of Stanford. But I do think Collins would be a guy who provides you the kind of versatility that you're talking about there. He can pretty much play four positions."

And while cutting Reggie Bush Wednesday might seem to make the Lions more interested in first-round running backs Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) or Todd Gurley (Georgia), Kiper said he thinks cornerback and defensive tackle are bigger needs.

"You can get those guys at pretty much any point in the draft you want. There's great depth this year at the running back position," he said.

Josh Katzenstein's NFL Mock Draft 1.0