Where does Isaiah Simmons Project in DROY Race?
After the Arizona Cardinals produced quarterback Kyler Murray as last season's Offensive Rookie of the Year, the franchise has the potential of repeating the feat on the defensive side of the ball with linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
Drafted No. 8 overall in April's draft out of Clemson, Simmons will start out playing linebacker under Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Both head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Joseph stated their intentions to not overwhelm Simmons early on in his development by letting him focus on one position to start.
"He's a guy who can solve problems for us, and with his speed, he can be an eraser when bad plays happen," Joseph said. "With this kid's skillset, he can do a lot of things. Until we touch it, until we game-plan, I can't guarantee where he is going to be.
"If it's a job that we think he can do, we will put him out there. That's why he was drafted. I want Isaiah to be Isaiah."
In an offseason mired by changes as a result of COVID-19 and with a lack of in-person reps, that decision will likely prove fruitful down the road. While at Clemson, however, Simmons was a Swiss Army knife guy and virtually a "positionless" player who took reps at linebacker, edge rusher, nickel cornerback and safety, among others.
In NFL.com's analysis of 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates, Simmons checked in at No. 4 of eight overall choices.
"Simmons is a tremendous athletic specimen with rare versatility to go with impressive height, length and speed," NFL Media Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein wrote. "His ability to operate as a hybrid defender could allow Arizona to move him around the field as a matchup neutralizer. There's risk in asking him to do too much too soon — something the Cardinals appear to be aiming to avoid — but he has the potential to shine in a manner similar to (Indianapolis Colts linebacker) Darius Leonard."
No. 1 on the candidates list is Washington edge rusher Chase Young, followed by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen at No. 2 and Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray No. 3. The four listed below Simmons include Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah; Jacksonville Jaguars edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson; Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson; and Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Derrick Brown.
The Jaguars are the only franchise with two candidates listed.