EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** A bold move to start the second round of the NFL draft delivered to the Giants a player who will fill a void in the back of their defense.
The Giants selected Alabama safety Landon Collins after acquiring the first pick in the second round, the 33rd overall, in a trade with the Tennessee Titans. Collins, 6-0 and 228 pounds, was widely considered one of the best safeties in the draft and a potential first-round selection. The fact that he wasn't could prove beneficial to the Giants.
Collins was in Chicago yesterday for the beginning of the draft. When he wasn't among the first 32 players chosen, he left the Windy City and returned to his family's home in New Orleans.
"I have a chip on my shoulder to prove I was a first-round candidate," Collins said, "Definitely, I'm very motivated. Yesterday was a disappointment for me missing out on the first round, but other than that, I'll use it as a stepping stone and use it as motivation to showcase that I'm ready and ready to play and ready to step on the field and do what I've been doing since I was playing at four years old."
That's exactly the determination and resolve the Giants want to see in Collins.
"(It) couldn't be a better situation for us, I'm sure, about how motivated this young man is," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He will compete for a starting job. He is a smart guy. He has contributed at Alabama in many different ways, as a leader and as a guy in the secondary making the calls. We are excited about the pick."
"He's very accomplished at a very high level of competition, the highest level of competition," general manager Jerry Reese said. "He's been very productive there. He's smart. We interviewed him. This is what I think is going to motivate him. I think a lot of people had him projected to go in the first row, so I think we're going to get a very, very motivated player coming in here to prove some people (wrong) that didn't take him in the first row. They missed out on a good player."
To acquire Collins, the Giants sent the Titans their second-round selection (No. 40 overall), as well as their fourth-round pick (No. 108) and the second of their two seventh-round choices (No. 245).
The deal first began to take shape when the Giants' braintrust met after the conclusion of the first round. The Giants hadn't expected Collins to be available on the second day of the draft.
"Throughout the week he was – you kind of think in your mind (in the) second round who is going to be around and you discount certain guys," said vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross. "You just put them away. He was one of those guys that we thought would be gone, so we weren't really thinking he would be around the second go around."
"There were a couple of guys sticking out last night as we looked at the board before we left," Reese said. "We had a group of players right there together that we liked and we always try to combine value with need and so we made some calls list night and some calls today and it worked out for us.
"We thought it was in our interest to be aggressive to go after the safety in light of our safety situation, to get a very good player who can compete for that job."
In three seasons at Alabama, Collins played in 41 games with 23 starts (he started all 14 games last season). He totaled 190 tackles (120 solo) and five interceptions (including one he returned 89 yards). His 103 tackles last season set a school record for safeties. Collins, a member of the Crimson Tide's 2012 national championship team, was equally skilled at stopping the run in the box and covering receivers deep down the center of the field.
"Landon is the consummate football player," Ross said. "This guy is smart. He is tough. He is physical. He has carried himself like a pro since the day he got to Alabama. One of the best interviews at the Combine that we have had. This guy is going to bring an attitude and maturity, not only to our defensive backfield but to the whole defense. This guy will be a leader for us. He was that for Alabama and we think he can do the same thing for us."
"He's just a versatile safety," Reese said. "If you look at Alabama, you see them use him in all kinds of ways. He's very smart, very productive, big, tough and can run.
"What really stood out to me was that they used him all over the place. They asked him to do a lot and that was very attractive to me because he lines up all over the place. They asked him to make calls, make checks and they used him in a variety of ways and that was very attractive to see a guy with so much versatility and how they use him. I liked that about him."
The Giants certainly needed safety help. The top three players at the position last season are no longer with the team. Antrel Rolle signed with Chicago, Stevie Brown just joined the Houston Texans and Quintin Demps remains a free agent. The safeties currently on the roster, including Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe, draft choices the previous two years, have totaled one NFL start at the position (by recently-acquired Josh Gordy).
"I was anxious (this selection) that it would be a defensive player," Coughlin said. "It turned out to be that way."
Collins and the Giants are eager to capitalize on their fortuitous partnership.
"Once I touch the field, I'm a different animal," Collins said. "That's what they're going to get. That motor is in my blood and in my body."
And now it's in the Giants' secondary.
Photos of Alabama Safety Landon Collins