If there was any doubt how highly the Las Vegas Raiders think of Dabo Swinney’s Clemson football program, the franchise made it crystal clear Saturday afternoon selecting offensive lineman John Simpson in the fourth round (109th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The selection makes five Clemson Tigers to receive a call from the Las Vegas Raiders since last year’s draft. In 2019, the Raiders took Clelin Ferrell (first round, 4th overall) Trayvon Mullen (second round, 40th overall) and Hunter Renfrow (fifth round, 149th overall). They followed up this year’s draft by taking Tanner Muse (third round, 100th overall) and John Simpson (fourth round, 109th overall).
Simpson said he had a positive conversation with Raider General Manager Mike Mayock roughly a week ago which made John feel comfortable he would be drafted, he just didn’t know it would be with Las Vegas. Rejoining his former teammates is quite the added bonus for the 6-4, 330 pound native of North Charleston, S.C.
During his phone call with the Clemson guard, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden told Simpson he was fired up to have him join the franchise. Mayock, too, expressed his excitement about the physicality Simpson will bring to the table.
“We really wanted to get John Simpson. He was actually on our board for yesterday and depending on how the board went, we would have taken him in the third round. But we felt like he was going to go quickly so we were able to use that fifth-round pick to move up and get him. He’s a competitive, tough and smart kid and we are thrilled with the way day three of the draft went,” Mayock said.
"We feel like we got better in free agency and I know we feel like we got better in the draft," Mayock said in his post-draft conference call . "Nobody is going know how much or if at all until we get out on the field and compete. That's the thing I love about it."
Simpson is ready to get to work and rejoin some familiar faces out west—a region where the Clemson Tigers have enjoyed a wealthy dose of success in the post season the last several years.
“To know that I’m going to the Raiders and joining my teammates is huge. All of those guys are like brothers to me and it’s a bond that you can't break,” Simpson said.
The offensive guard said he has already tweaked his training regime to include ladder drills, change-of-direction- drills and work in the sand pit to improve his footwork and burst out of the stance. He candidly acknowledged his slow start as an area of weakness to improve upon as he advances to the league.
Simpson downplayed his veteran experience and exposure in championship games as an advantage in making the adjustment to the NFL.
“For me it comes down to preparation and your attention to detail. At the next level, everyone is just as good as you, if not better, so you just have to be prepare,” he said. “Right now I’m just going to go in there and compete. I don’t really know what role I will serve but whatever it is, I’m going to do it and do it at my best.”