IRVING, Texas– To say La'el Collins has bought in to the Cowboys' game plan would be a massive understatement, and he made that abundantly clear Thursday afternoon.
"This is going to be the best offensive line in NFL history. Mark my words," Collins said during his introductory press conference.
It's a bold statement, to be sure, but it's hard not to be impressed in surveying the Cowboy's surplus of talent on the offensive front. Before Collins' strange story dropped him off of NFL draft boards, he was projected to go in the top 15 of the NFL draft.
Now, factor that in with All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, drafted No. 9 overall in 2011, Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, drafted No. 31 overall in 2013 and All-Pro guard Zack Martin, drafted No. 16 overall in 2014. That doesn't even include experienced starters like Ronald Leary, Doug Free and Mackenzy Bernadeau -- not to mention Chaz Green, who the Cowboys just selected No. 91 overall last week.
It's easy to see where Collins' confidence comes from. It's the culmination of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's tenure, which started when he made Smith the first draft pick of his tenure four years ago.
"It was very deliberate. It didn't happen by accident – we felt like we had improve our team up front," Garrett said. "Offensive line and defensive line, that's where games are won. So we felt like we wanted to do this, and it was worth doing the way we were doing it."
It all leads to a question the Cowboys should be very happy to ask: where exactly will Collins play amid this collection of talent? He was an all-conference left tackle last season at LSU, and he has 25 total starts at left tackle to his name. He also started 13 games at left guard during his sophomore season, back in 2012.
"He's played both positions in college. He has the skill set to play both positions in the NFL," Garrett said.
The solution, then, according to the head coach, is pretty simple.
"We're going to play our five best offensive linemen. And we're going to figure out who those guys are." Garrett said. "He's going to have an opportunity to play both."
It's hard to imagine Collins unseating Smith on Tony Romo's left side, and he'd be hard pressed to beat out Martin – who earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors as a rookie. Collins' likely competitors will be left guard Ronald Leary, who is playing on a one-year contract, and right tackle Doug Free, who missed seven games due to injury last season.
Regardless of where he fits into it, it's a group Collins said he's excited to work with – which, again, might be an understatement.
"I just know the guys that were in that room last night are going to pull the best out of me," he said. "I felt like I can't sell myself short of that. I just look forward to being around those guys."