We just finished up the NFL Combine, and out of every one I watched, Isaiah Simmons is my biggest winner from the event. The Swiss Army knife from Clemson managed to take snaps as an outside linebacker, slot cornerback, a safety, and even a few as an outside cornerback too. Even though he was already pretty much a Top 10 lock; he blew his testing out the water. He ran a 4.39 40 yard dash, jumped 11 feet in the board jump and has a 39 inch vertical. Now Simmons is my 2nd overall prospect in my latest NFL Draft Big Board. The problem is, he is just too talented.
Now I obviously say that tongue in cheek, because there are some people that think the fact he played half the positions on defense, (one of the best defenses in the nation) he lacks a true position. Last year Simmons recorded snaps at outside linebacker, safety, slot cornerback and even lined up against wide receiver on the outside. He tested in the 99th percentile as a safety and an outside linebacker in the NFL Combine and ran faster than all but four wide receivers in this combine. The definition of a Swiss Army knife.
He makes plays all over the field, just like someone like Denard Robinson or Tyreek Hill, except for the defense. We praise when a QB is mobile, or when a running back can line up as a receiver out the backfield, so why is it such a problem for a linebacker to be so athletic that he can line up as a cornerback and guard big receivers/tight ends? When you have a player that can line up anywhere on the field, you have the ability to mask your coverages and plays. Is this a safety lining up in the box, or is this just a linebacker playing the pass? Against Ohio State we saw Simmons line up close to the line of scrimmage, looking like a possible blitz man, but really was in control of a deep third in Cover 3. Perfect example of basically being able to just do whatever the hell you want with him on the field. If you can think it up, he will be able to do it.
Simmons has a true position, and it’s not linebacker or safety. It’s as a defensive weapon. A phrase more commonly known for offensive players, but I think it is time we starting using it on defense too. When you have a player like him on your defense, you’ll never have to worry about an offensive mismatch ever again. I think it’s nonsense to knock a player for being able to excel at multiple positions on the field. Not only that, I think if you’re a defensive coordinator, you’d have to be very closed minded in order to pass up on a player like Simmons. Someone like Jabrill Peppers, or Su’a Cravens, who struggled to find a true position in college and the NFL, are way different than Isaiah Simmons. He excels at multiple positions. More importantly, his football I.Q. is off the charts. He knows where the ball is going, even when the ball carrier is providing false information on the play. It is honestly as simple as using him to be a QB spy, allowing him to attack whoever has the ball. If you can’t figure out a way to make Isaiah Simmons work for your defense, maybe your defense is the real issue.
Players like Isaiah are the ones that transform the game itself, and watching football evolve is one of my favorite things about it. Simmons is the perfect defensive counter to a quarterback like Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, which is going to be the new wave of quarterbacks. His 4.39 speed makes him one of the only players that could keep mobile QBs like them contained. What Tyrann Mathieu brought to the game evolved into Derwin James, who is five inches taller and 25 Lbs heavier. Now we are seeing it evolve again as a 6’3, 250 Lbs freak linebacker who also has the coverage ability of a defensive back. He is new, and that makes people uncomfortable, but the team that takes the chance on him will be the ones staying ahead of the curve.