The Falcons on Friday night continued to focus on defense while selecting LSU cornerback Jalen Collins in the second round of the NFL draft to please new coach Dan Quinn with a player who is big for his position.
At 6-feet-1 1/2 and 203 pounds, Collins has safety size —such as what Quinn embraced as the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, with corners such as Richard Sherman (6-3, 195), Brandon Browner (6-4, 221) and Cary Williams (6-1, 190).
The idea will be for Collins to keep receivers in front of him and leave questions about multiple positive tests for marijuana at LSU behind him.
“I’m a big corner that likes to hit people. I like to jam people up,” Collins said in a Friday evening teleconference. “Coming from the SEC and LSU, physical is all I know.”
The Falcons turned to offense in the third round, drafting Indiana running back Tevin Coleman to backfill the position after earlier in the offseason releasing Stephen Jackson and losing Jaquizz Rodgers to the Bears through free agency.
Collins immediately becomes the biggest corner on a Falcons roster that includes Desmond Trufant (6-0, 190), Robert Alford (5-10, 186), Phillip Adams (5-11, 195) and Ricardo Allen (5-9, 186).
“We love guys who have length in the secondary,” Quinn said. “Good players come in all different sizes. It just happens that his strengths are playing at the line of scrimmage so he can play in press [coverage].
“He’s going to be best utilized at the line. When a guy’s that long and strong and is a good tackler, it would be better to play way more on than off.”
In three seasons at LSU (after taking a redshirt in 2011 as a freshman), Collins started 10 of 39 games in a talented secondary, and was noted more for his physicality than his ball skills.
As a senior, he rang up 38 combined tackles and assists, broke up a team-high nine passes and had one interception while starting seven times and playing in all 13 games.
NFL Media’s Mike Mayock ranked Collins the No. 2 corner in the draft while some other precincts ranked him lower, all the way down to No. 6.
Reports surfaced last week that Collins failed several drug tests while in college. He acknowledged three such mistakes.
“That’s in the past. I was making bad decisions and hanging with the wrong people,” Collins said Friday. “What I told the Falcons, what I’ve been telling everybody, is that’s behind me.
“I’ve been making smarter decisions all this past year, trying to become a better person and a better football player.”
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team is confident in the Olive Branch, Miss., native after doing extra due diligence on him.
“We’re very mindful of making sure that people fit in, and he’s a good fit for this organization,” he explained. “In the further research we did with him and our contact at LSU … we feel very confident that he’s going to be in the right place here, and be with the right people and heading in the right direction in everything.”
Medical officials discovered an incomplete Jones fracture in Collins’ right foot at the NFL combine in February, and he had it surgically repaired after running the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds at the combine. He expects to participate in the Falcons’ rookie minicamp.
“We got it fixed, and it’s been going great, healing,” Collins explained. “I’m at a 100 percent right now, ready to roll.”
Two times in as many days, the Falcons selected defenders thrilled to be heading to Atlanta.
Former Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, the team’s first-round choice Thursday night, is from Adairsville and said he had hoped to wear red and black.
Collins said, “It’s just a blessing to be drafted by my favorite team; I am so happy right now. When I started watching pro football, (former quarterback) Michael Vick was one of my favorite players … and I just stuck with the team. I’ve been a Dirty Bird ever since.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.