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What Zyon McCollum does for the Buccaneers

The Bucs secured an elite athlete to develop in the secondary

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Buccaneers orchestrated a significant Day 3 trade Saturday, moving into the fifth round to select cornerback Zyon McCollum out of Sam Houston State at 157th overall.

McCollum was widely considered a late-Day 2/early Day 3 value by many prominent analysts, such as The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, so this is a steal at face value. While he cut his teeth as a small school prospect, McCollum made waves by absolutely crushing his athletic testing at the Scouting Combine.

Zyon McCollum Athletic Testing

By several metrics, McCollum is one of the most dynamic physical specimens to ever play cornerback at the pro level.

Measuring at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, McCollum ran incredibly well by hitting 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash (96th percentile per MockDraftable), 1.52 seconds in the 10-yard split (75th percentile), and 3.94 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle (94th percentile). His agility and jumping tests were fantastic as well, including a 6.48-second 3-cone (98th percentile) and 11’ broad jump (94th percentile).

McCollum is a classic height-weight-speed type of prospect, as the team will bet on his outstanding athletic tools to be successful when paired with hopeful improvements to his technique and approach.

McCollum differentiates himself from a lot of similar projects by having strong production in college. It did come against unremarkable competition more often than not, which no doubt played a part in his slide down the board, but McCollum still racked up an impressive number of pass breakups (54), interceptions (13) and forced fumbles (6) in 52 career starts over five seasons.

The Bucs have been searching for a corner who can create more ball production in the form of turnovers, so McCollum’s potential in that department is a welcome quality.

NCAA Football: Division I FCS Championship-South Dakota at Sam Houston
Zyon McCollum (22) celebrates with his teammates.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The general consensus seems to be that McCollum was a very good, but not dominant player at the FCS level. In circumstances like that, teams are going to be skeptical of a player’s ability to achieve a high level of play in the NFL. Issues seem to stem primarily from McCollum’s aggressive tendencies, as he’s proven susceptible to handsy coverage, pump fakes, and reckless tackling.

He’s got the alpha mentality, but he’ll need to develop more control at the next level or he will be dissected by more crafty receivers and quarterbacks who know how to manipulate coverage.

That said, he has a lot of positives to build on. Every movement he makes is smooth and sudden, which allows him to stay with any kind of receiver in any situation as long as he reads his keys right. He showcases good intelligence with strong route reads and an understanding of his opponent’s tendencies, and his intangibles are universally hailed (two-time team captain with a locker room presence).

With his superior speed and measurables, McCollum has experience as a gunner on special teams, and that’s likely where he’ll see the field early in his career. The Bucs have seen struggles in this area, especially last year, so he should make a positive impact there right away.

Ultimately, McCollum presents himself as a high-upside backup in the short term. He’ll likely slide in as a kick team gunner and CB5 behind Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean-Murphy Bunting and Ross Cockrell. He should be on the active 53 from the get-go.

MockDraftable compares McCollum’s profile favorably to Stephon Gilmore as a prospect (71.5% match), and I honestly don’t hate that. Now, the key phrase here is “as a prospect”. It’s important to remember the difference in situations.

Gilmore received higher level coaching and consequently displayed flashes of elite-level technique, and he competed against the best competition in the SEC. They’re favorably similar in athletic profile and that they’re both well-built for zone coverage with some press sprinkled in.

So, the optimistic ceiling after getting a year or two to develop is early career Gilmore – before he transformed into an absolute monster. The more realistic expectation might be something along the lines of Josh Robinson – a solid but occasionally inconsistent spot starter. Time will tell but this is a great roll of the dice in Round 5.

Let us know what you think, Bucs Nation!