Can Clemson's Isaiah Simmons Fit in the Lions' Scheme?

Logan Lamorandier

With a plethora of NFL talent on both sides of the field Monday night, the College Football Playoff national championship game boosted the draft stock of more than a few players.

And maybe none more than Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.

Voted as the nation's best linebacker in 2019, Simmons can play almost anywhere on the field.

Per Pro Football Focus, of his 738 snaps played in '19 before the CFP national championship, Simmons lined up at the following spots:

Defensive line - 106‬ snaps

Box - 239‬ snaps

Slot - 256‬ snaps

Wide cornerback - Seven snaps

Deep safety - 130‬ snaps

The extraordinary aspect about Simmons is that not only does he line up all over the field, but he plays each facet of the game very well and no matter the alignment.

2019 PFF grades (before CFP championship):

Run-defense: 87.2

Pass-rush: 80.4

In-coverage: 84.2

Now, Lions head coach Matt Patricia has a very specific type of player he looks for in his defense. Typically, Patricia wants size, length and versatility. 

Simmons checks all those boxes for the strong safety role, or hang defender in Patricia's hybrid scheme. 

Patricia's base defense is a 3-3-5, with the third safety essentially a starter.

Simmons, who is listed at 230 pounds, isn't an exact scheme fit as a middle linebacker and solely because of his weight.

Maybe the Lions feel that Simmons could bulk up a bit and be a more prototypical linebacker in their gap-control defense. 

Then again, why would they want to pigeonhole such a versatile player?

For comparison's sake, Lions safety Tavon Wilson spent the majority of his time around the line of scrimmage this past season. 

In all likelihood, Simmons would be utilized in a similar role with blitz packages that are designed specifically for him. 

Most importantly, though, he would be able to help cover today's ultra-athletic tight ends.

With Simmons not having a true position, it could deter some of the more rigid-minded teams. 

The word "tweener" often carries a negative connotation. 

The thing is, a bigger player usually sacrifices some athleticism -- not the case with Simmons, however. 

He can move like a defensive back that is 30 pounds lighter. That's what makes him a special player.

Coming into Clemson, there were reports Simmons ran a 4.31 40-yard dash. 

It was hard to believe, until a recent video showed him keeping up with his teammate Travis Etienne -- the widely-considered fastest running back in the 2020 draft class.

It begs the question: Is a safety or even an off-ball linebacker worth a top-three draft selection? 

Most years, it is not. Simmons appears to be a unique case, though.

It's important to note that if the Lions do consider Simmons more of a safety, they just traded away fellow safety and former team captain Quandre Diggs, and drafted two safeties over the last two years in the third round. 

Would they be willing to invest so much draft capital at the position yet again? 

So maybe, it goes against the grain to grab Simmons with the third pick due to his position or lack thereof. 

In a perfect world, the Lions' No. 3 overall pick would garner some serious trade interest, and they could scoop up another pick while also nabbing Simmons a few spots later. 

That just makes too much sense, though. 

On top of that, who knows how long Simmons would even last -- if he's passed up at No. 3 overall.

In my opinion, if you can't find a role for this talented of a player in a scheme, then the scheme is flawed.

Simmons can do it all, and the Lions have a position that fits his skill set. 

And they should be giving him a long and hard look, if he is on the board when they are picking in April.


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