Image Credit: Clemson Athletics
With the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons.
Simmons played multiple positions throughout his college career, including linebacker and safety. Simmons finished 2019 with 102 tackles (16 tackles for loss), 8 sacks and 3 interceptions. The school’s sixth Unanimous All-American, Simmons was the Dick Butkus Award winner, given annually to the nation’s best linebacker.
It’s tough to pinpoint or hold Isaiah Simmons down to one position, as he played across the defense at Clemson. Listed as a linebacker in 2019, Simmons saw snaps all over, including safety and nickel cornerback. In each of those positions, he succeeded.
A physical and athletic freak of nature, Simmons’ range and tackling radius – thanks to his long wingspan – makes him a defensive coordinator’s dream and an offensive coordinator’s nightmare. Simmons needs some work in zone coverage, especially when it comes to anticipation, but his versatility and talent in man coverage makes him a unicorn of sorts.
The challenge for Simmons is not his talent; rather, it’s the creativity of NFL defensive coordinators. Simmons benefited from Brent Venables, who employed him as a chess piece. At the next level, Simmons is likely a linebacker.
Simmons compares nicely to Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers. Like Simmons, James has employed multiple positions in the NFL, though most of his work has come at safety.
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What the Analysts Say
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.” –Lance Zierlein, NFL Network
An athletic freak of nature with unparalleled versatility and a sky-high ceiling, Simmons is a special prospect who differs from essentially every other top linebacker prospect to enter the draft in recent years. –Jacob Infante, DraftWire