2020 NFL Draft: Isaiah Simmons fits mold of modern day linebacker

When looking at top prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft, remember the name, Isaiah Simmons. The Clemson linebacker may be the best of the lot come next spring.

[sv slug=”andrewdicecco”]

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons has already entrenched himself as perhaps the best prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. As one of the premier defenders in the country last year, he amassed a team-leading 97 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 7 pass breakups, and an interception. That effort resulted in a National Championship for the Tigers. If he can replicate that success in 2019, the versatile playmaker could put himself in prime position to be the first linebacker off the board come draft day.

Well before he blossomed on the best team in college football, Simmons was a two-way star for coach Chris McCartney at Olathe North High School. In fact, the Kansas native was named a first-team all-state defensive back and wide receiver following his senior campaign. In his first season playing wide receiver, Simmons total 29 receptions for 994 yards and 13 touchdowns.

A three-star recruit coming out of Olathe North, Simmons fielded offers from Clemson, Louisville, Michigan, Missouri, and Nebraska. After much deliberation, the promising prospect decided on Clemson, officially committing to the program in February 2016.

Clemson Bound

Simmons burst onto the scene in 2017, totaling 258 snaps on defense. He racked up 49 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, one sack, 5 pass breakups and a forced fumble from his safety spot. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound specimen impressed with his sideline-to-sideline range and appeared fluid in coverage.

Last season, Simmons transitioned from safety to the starting nickel/SAM linebacker position. and adding nearly 20 pounds to his lean frame. The results were instantaneous as Simmons took the ACC by storm. He establishing himself as an elite player on a defense full of talented athletes and future NFL stars. Simmons also delivered on the game’s biggest stage, registering nine tackles in the title game against Alabama.

Tabbed as a 2019 Preseason All-American by Phil Steele (first-team) and Athlon (second-team), expectations are soaring for the redshirt junior. USA TODAY ranked the ACC standout as the top linebacker in the country. His name has also appeared on the prestigious Bednarik Award watch list earlier this week.

While expectations are high, they are certainly warranted. Simmons is a rare three-down linebacker that can react to the run, effectively blitz, flow sideline-to-sideline and drop back in coverage. In addition, his football intelligence is off the charts, making him a prime candidate for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Simmons fits the mold of the modern-day NFL linebacker. A position that prioritizes athleticism, versatility and coverage acumen.

2020 NFL Draft Prospect

In what’s become a progressive trend across college football and the NFL, more and more teams are utilizing hybrid defenders. In the college game, some schools call these positions “Buck”, “Rover”, “Joker” or “Star.” Though the names may change, the concept remains the same. Hybrid defenders give teams more flexibility. They get more speed on the field to combat the spread offenses that have become prevalent in today’s game.

In an offensive driven game, defensive coordinators are often forced to think outside of the box. To counter the spread-formation, the big nickel package is being utilized at a higher frequency at both the college and professional level.

In the big nickel, teams typically replace a cornerback with a third safety. That defender can matchup up with slot receivers and athletic tight ends. They can also play in the box to defend the run or slow dynamic pass-catching backs in the screen game.

Whether it’s been Mark Barron, Deone Bucannon or more recently, Shaq Thompson, teams are beginning to put a premium on this type of player. These are ones deemed too big to play safety, yet “too small” to play linebacker. In fact, Barron, Bucannon, and Thompson were all first-round picks and have experienced varying degrees of success in the league.

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Simmons projects as an upgraded version of those players. His rare length, lateral agility and coverage prowess could feasibly make him a human cheat code when it comes to defending some of the NFL’s elite.

When the defending National Champions open their season on August 29, their star defender will embark on his pursuit of the elusive Bednarik Award. He’ll also continue to check all the boxes for evaluators, in his effort to prove that he is the best prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles