Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons is the best linebacker prospect in the draft and will be selected with a top 10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He led the Tigers with 104 tackles last season while also tallying seven sacks, three interceptions, and a forced fumble. He has the size, strength, speed and versatility that pro teams drool over.
He started off as a safety in 2017 before transitioning to linebacker the following season. After shining as an elite prospect in 2018, he returned for one more year of school and was named the nation’s best linebacker. If you have a player with a sub-4.4 40 yard dash that excels in pass coverage and can be an asset stuffing the run and rushing the quarterback, you have something special.
Simmons unlocks a world of possibilities for defensive coordinators. He gives coaches the flexibility to be as creative as they want with him because of his unique skill set. Having to work around his 6’4” frame through the air will be a nightmare for quarterbacks — especially because he is ridiculously explosive vertically. But he’s also a solid 238 pounds, which makes him an asset in the trenches as well.
One of the knocks against Simmons is his lack of instincts at the line of scrimmage. He can be a little slow to read situations when playing on the inside, but he’s also only played two seasons as a linebacker. Whatever team selects him will have to decide whether it wants to focus on becoming an expert at one position or let him continue to fly around all over the field. He might just need more reps as a traditional linebacker.
Here’s what scouts had to say about Simmons.
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.” — NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein
Simmons has explosive qualities and will be an asset vs. the run and pass alike. He’s a game changing player who should be coveted as a true 3-down linebacker/hybrid defender who can be the pivotal chess piece in a weekly defensive game plan. — The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs
Just about limitless on the football field but his reps as an inside backer on run downs reveal the room for growth as a processor when defending inside run. He isn’t deficient but he could stand to get stronger and add functional strength to make him even that much more dynamic. — The Draft Network’s Joe Marino
Mock Draft Results
Mel Kiper, ESPN: New York Giants
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Carolina Panthers
Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports: Arizona Cardinals
Doug Farrar, Touchdown Wire: New York Giants
Rookie year impact
One player Simmons constantly finds himself compared to is Darius Leonard, who was one of the most impactful defensive rookies we’ve seen in years. Leonard led the NFL in tackles (163) in his first NFL season and has tallied 284 with 12 sacks, seven interceptions, and six forced fumbles through two years. Simmons has that same kind of potential and could set a team with solid defensive personnel over the top thanks to his ability to make a difference in almost any situation.
NFL.com rated Simmons as one of the prospects who is most ready for the pros and projects him to be a Pro Bowl talent. If he has that kind of ceiling in year one, then he can become a superstar in time. The more time he develops as a linebacker skills, the more dangerous he will become. He could very well become the most formidable player in the league at his position at some point.