Former Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the eighth overall selection on Thursday night during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
"This is one of the most unique players I've ever evaluated," Cardinals GM Steve Keim said on the Cardinals Draft Connection digital show following the pick. "There's very little this guy can't do. We vowed to fix this defense."
The 2019 All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner gives Clemson a top-10 pick for the second consecutive season.
"If you just listen to Dabo Swinney, he said he's just a beautiful football player," ESPN's Trey Wingo said during Thursday's televised draft. "He checks all the boxes. In fact, he checked some boxes that don't even exist for a kid who was only a three-star recruit out of high school."
Simmons won the Butkus Award in 2019, given annually to the nations top linebacker, and was the sixth unanimous All-American selection in Clemson history.
He is the third Clemson defensive player named Simmons to be a first-round selection, joining Wayne Simmons (1993) and Anthony Simmons (1998).
He led the team in tackles 2019, with 107. Simmons added 16 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, 10 pass breakups, and three interceptions. He was named first-team All-ACC.
He finished his career at Clemson with 253 tackles, 28.5 TFL, 10.5 sacks, four interceptions, five forced fumbles, and will go down as one the most versatile player in the program's history.
"I've gotten a chance to see Derwin James the last couple of years," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said. "And you'll see him used in different ways on a week by week basis, and I think we are going to see that with Isaiah Simmons. This guy can do so many things for a creative coordinator. He's an outstanding prospect."
He came to Clemson as a three-star safety prospect out of Olathe North High School in Olathe, Kansas, where he was first-team all-state on both sides of the ball as a senior.
After redshirting in 2016, Simmons played safety for the Tigers, before moving into the SAM linebacker role in 2018 as a redshirt sophomore.
The Cardinals are getting one of the drafts more versatile players, who can be used as a weapon at multiple positions on the field.
Clemson has posted back-to-back drafts with top-10 picks for the first time since 2014-15, when teams selected Sammy Watkins and Vic Beasley with the number four and number eight picks, respectively.
Strengths: Simmons possesses a combination of size and speed that is rarely seen. His 4.39 forty time at the Combine was faster than most receivers that chose to run. At 6'4" and 238 pounds, that kind of speed is almost unfair. He can play on the line of scrimmage, and he can cover. He thrives against the zone read and is the epitome of what coaches look for in a spy.
Weaknesses: Simmons still needs to develop better instincts when playing on the line of scrimmage. As an inside linebacker, he has been slow to read and respond at times, and he can have issues shedding blocks when matched up against bigger tight ends. He loses contain at times and still needs work on angles.