Who Should Draft Clemson's Isaiah Simmons?

Alex Whisnant

With the NFL Draft a month away, one prospect has continued to make a name for himself and skyrocket up big boards: former Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons. 

The one dilemma that has plagued the teams at the top of the first round has been where Simmons will play. The "linebacker" played over 100 snaps at four different positions, including cornerback, at Clemson in 2019 as ESPN's Field Yates noted. 

As for teams that could potentially draft the generational talent, two teams in the top-10 seem to stand out above the rest: the New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers. 

The Giants did sign two linebackers in free agency, Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell, but only Martinez has significant starting experience in the league, so the Giants could still use Simmons' assistance at the linebacker spot. 

Before free agency, Danny Kelly of The Ringer projected Simmons to New York with this attached scouting report. 

"At 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds with incredibly long arms, Simmons is a uniquely built and extraordinary athlete―he’s a former state champion long jumper with explosive hops, turbo acceleration, and high-end speed―allowing him to range sideline to sideline, blitz, or cover in the back end with equal aplomb. The Tigers star is a ferocious tackler who enthusiastically fills gaps seeking contact. He’s instinctive; he trusts his eyes and always seems to know where the ball is going. He can flip his hips and run with receivers, and knows how to turn back and look for the ball in coverage. He’s one of the few defenders who made the 2019 LSU offense sweat. The junior playmaker filled up just about every category on the stat sheet this year, racking up 104 tackles―16.5 going for a loss―with 8.0 sacks, three picks, eight pass deflections, and two forced fumbles. He has All-Pro potential early in his career."

The majority of draft experts have the Giants selecting an offensive lineman with the fourth overall pick, but if general manager Dave Gettleman wants to make another splash like he did last year with the selection of starting quarterback Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall, Simmons would make the most sense at No. 4. 

The Panthers sit an interesting position at No. 7 overall in the draft. The quarterback was going to be a position of need until Carolina signed former New Orleans Saint Teddy Bridgewater and XFL standout P.J. Walker. Now the Panthers could very well shift their focus to linebacker as the main position of need, especially with the retirement of the legendary Luke Kuechly. One expert had the Panthers as the most likely team to take Simmons in the first round. Additionally, BetOnline has the over/under at Simmons' draft position set 6.5, further cementing the fact that Carolina should be in an excellent position as David Hale of ESPN tweeted earlier Tuesday. 

Pro Football Focus also sees Carolina as the place Simmons would fit best.

"The Panthers are in a spot where they could sorely use someone with Simmons’ skill set. Luke Kuechly‘s retirement leaves a gaping hole in the middle of their defense. Their primary slot cornerbacks (Javien Elliott and Ross Cockrell) and free safety (Tre Boston) are free agents. Eric Reid struggled last season with a coverage grade of 34.4 in 1,094 defensive snaps. Simmons could theoretically fill any of these roles, but his best role is a combination of them. Like Derwin James and Jamal Adams, limiting Simmons to just one position is doing him a disservice."

One thing is for sure: wherever Simmons goes, he is sure to make a profound impact from the moment he steps on the field on Week 1. 

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