Running back Alex Collins enjoyed a breakout season in Baltimore last year after being picked up just before the regular season opener by the Ravens to replace an injured Kenneth Dixon. After being called up to the active roster in lieu of an injured Danny Woodhead, Collins took the starting job and very literally ran with it, recording 973 yards and 6 touchdowns over 15 games.
His hard running style, refusal to go down, and unique celebrations made him an immediate fan favorite in Baltimore. Heading into 2018, he appears to be the unquestioned starter, and some expect him to make an even bigger leap with a full offseason of training under his belt.
Among those not optimistic about his chances of an encore performance is NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, who ranked Collins 26th among the league’s ball carriers heading into 2018:
It’s remarkable that Collins couldn’t make the Seahawks in training camp last season. He wound up being the best player on the Ravens’ offense, consistently running through arm tackles on the way to 1,160 yards from scrimmage. NFL history is littered with big runners who had one season of brilliance -- hello, Samkon Gado -- so Collins still must prove he has staying power.
His point that Collins needs to prove it again is fair - after all, 2017 was his only productive season. However, the reasoning seems a bit less well-taken considering players such as Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Kenyan Drake all ranked well ahead of him.
There’s something to be said for upside, and those players all have plenty of it. But in this case, Rosenthal seems to be projecting upside based as much on draft pedigree as actual game tape. Simply put, Collins has done more than them, and while I wouldn’t have any gripe with him being ranked between #10 and #20, #26 seems low relative to the rest of the list.
To be fair, Rosenthal concedes his optimism for some of the more surprising selections is based on a small sample size. Nonetheless, Collins carried an offense devoid of playmakers or creativity for 12 games in 2017.
We’ll see if he’s able to bring the same energy to Baltimore’s attack this year, but in the meantime, he’ll just have to continue preparing as if he isn’t guaranteed anything. After all, that’s how he earned the starting job in the first place.