NFL Draft: The Scouts' View of Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons

Mason Kern

The moves the Arizona Cardinals have made in the first two weeks of the league year have had the goal of reducing the necessity of focusing on one position for their No. 8 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Mock drafts in many places have the Cardinals eyeing a tackle with that early choice to slot opposite left tackle D.J. Humphries. However, there are other positions of need on the roster.

The Cardinals supplemented their linebacker corps with the additions of Devon Kennard from the Detroit Lions and De'Vondre Campbell from the Atlanta Falcons. Yet, if they wanted a young option for the future there are some options available.

Our scout-in-residence Marc Lillibridge named Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton as the Cardinals choice at No. 8 with his mock draft a few days ago.

A search of other mock drafts, of course, mentions other possibilities. Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons' name has come up on numerous occasions.Most important is that Simmons' versatility can be used all over the field.

In Bridge’s Breakdown above, see his analysis of Simmons. What follows is the scouting report from nfl.com by Lance Zierlein.

ISAIAH SIMMONS    6-4    238    Clemson    40 time: 4.39

Arms: 33 3/8    Hands 9 5/8    Vertical jump: 39.0

Broad jump: 132.0

NFL comparison: Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Simmons is an Olathe, Kansas, native who watched his older brother, Victor Jr., suit up for the home-state Jayhawks. While Victor got a shot at an NFL job due to his athleticism, his younger brother has a chance to be a star at the next level. Simmons started down that road as a sophomore, leading the Tigers in tackles in their national championship season (89 total stops, nine for loss, one interception returned for a touchdown, seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles). He started 14 of 15 games at linebacker just one year after playing in 14 games as a backup safety (45 tackles, three for loss, one sack). His play during the Tigers' national title season got him on the national radar, and his play as a junior (102 tackles, 16 for loss, eight sacks, three interceptions, nine pass breakups in 15 starts) earned him the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. He was also a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski and Lott IMPACT Trophies, as well as a first-team Associated Press All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-conference selection. Simmons was all-state on offense and defense as a senior at Olathe High School, as well as the state champ in the long jump his junior and senior years.

Overview

Ascending hybrid talent with rare length, speed and versatility to create mismatches for the offense, depending upon alignment. He has a bachelor's at three positions (slot corner, safety, linebacker) but could earn a master's degree in complex workload with a more focused and defined job description than "jack-of-all-trades." He can handle zone or man coverage from a variety of spots on the field, which gives defensive coordinators a chance to disguise blitz packages and exotic post-snap looks. He'll miss run fits and can be misdirected due to a lack of instincts near the line, but his playmaking range outweighs those concerns for now. His unique potential to spy and shrink the field against dual-threat quarterbacks could push him way up the draft board.

Strengths

  • Rare versatility and matchup potential around the field
  • Allows coordinators freedom in game-planning
  • Explosive run-and-jump athlete
  • Second gear makes sideline-to-sideline range elite
  • When it spills wide, runners have no chance
  • Loose core should allow him to slither around blocks
  • Coil and strike-stopping power as open-field tackler
  • Superior finisher with length and agility for expansive tackle range
  • Unlocks exotic blitz packages and disguised coverages
  • Long speed to check seam-runners and wheel routes
  • Pain to try and throw over from zone
  • Can cover ground and close the gap in coverage
  • Aggressive to slap and dislodge throws
  • Could be antidote for zone-read and spy-needy quarterbacks

Weaknesses

  • Instincts near the line of scrimmage are a work in progress
  • Delayed read and respond as inside linebacker
  • Hasn't figured out angles and timing as downhill linebacker yet
  • Needs to fill out and learn to punch and play off blocks
  • Has issues getting unglued from blocking tight ends
  • Will lose contain duties from time to time
  • Doesn't have early speed burst from transitions in man
  • Confusion with coverage duties against North Carolina
  • Leggy short-area footwork in change of direction
Comments

GM Report

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