NFL Draft: Isaiah Simmons among ACC prospects cementing draft stock

After some fantastic Week 3 performances, let's break down the best players and look ahead to next week.

The third week of the college football season has come and gone. It’s clear that the ACC is not the power conference it once was. Outside of the Clemson Tigers, the conference doesn’t have many teams that are very good. 

If we’re being honest, it wasn’t the most exciting football, as we didn’t see any of the Top-25 teams in the country face each other. Similarly, outside of Virginia’s 31-24 victory over the Florida State Seminoles, the quality of the games featuring teams from the ACC was atrocious. The Clemson Tigers completely overwhelmed Syracuse, Virginia Tech barely squeaked out a win against Furman, and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets took an embarrassing loss from The Citadel.

However, we did see some potential NFL draft prospects from the ACC have standout performances, which should have their draft stock on the rise. For example, Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons had a great performance against Syracuse, which should cement his status as the best draft-eligible linebacker in college football. 

Week 3: ACC Draft Stars

Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker, Clemson

Heading into the 2019 college football season, there was a two-player race for who would be the top draft-eligible linebacker. Those players were Alabama’s Dylan Moses and Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. Unfortunately, Moses went down with an injury that will cost him the remainder of the season. However, Simmons has played at an elite level and through three weeks, he sits atop of the leaderboard as the premier linebacker heading into the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Simmons accounted for 11 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks in Clemson’s showdown with the Syracuse Orangemen. His performance earned him ACC Player of the Week for his position.

Simmons is a true jack-of-all-trades, as he can blitz, cover, tackle, and make plays at a high level. Provided that Simmons continues to play at this level and has a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, it would be no surprise to hear his name called as a top ten selection in the 2020 NFL draft.

To get a deeper look at Simmons, I would suggest taking a glance at Pro Football Network writer Felix Davila’s article Isaiah Simmons: 2020 NFL Draft’s promising hybrid superstar.

Marvin Wilson, Defensive Tackle, Florida State

Marvin Wilson has been an absolute monster early in the 2019 season. His Week 3 performance against the Virginia Cavaliers can easily be described as dominant. Now, if you take a look at the box score, you will ask yourself, “What is Neal thinking? Wilson only registered two tackles.”

Wilson’s performance gave him notable recognition in other media outlets. Through three weeks of the season, Wilson leads all interior defenders with 16 quarterback pressures. In last week’s game against Virginia, he had a jaw-dropping seven pressures.

Entering the season, NFL scouts wanted to see consistency from Wilson, including here at PFN. He has delivered. He is clearly the best defensive linemen prospect in the ACC. If Wilson’s play continues at the level he is currently performing, his NFL draft stock will soar and likely make him a top-25 selection. With his frame, athleticism, and work ethic, he’s in line to continue dominating competition each week.

Amari Rodgers, Wide Receiver, Clemson

Explosive Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers tore his ACL in 2018; however, his return in 2019 has been quite impressive. Most notably, his Week 3 performance against Syracuse was electrifying.

Rodgers hauled in 4 catches for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Orangemen. Most impressive was a bubble-screen that he easily turned into an 87-yard touchdown. 

In today’s NFL, where dynamic receivers like Baltimore Ravens Marquise Brown and Cincinnati Bengals John Ross are exploding onto the scene, Rodgers has an NFL future. With the 2020 NFL draft being pegged as one of the deepest groups of wide receivers in history, it would be wise for Rodgers to return for another season with Trevor Lawrence, which will further polish his game and elevate his draft stock.

Week 4: Key Draft Prospect Matchup

Levonta Taylor, Defensive back, Florida State (5’10”, 190 pounds, Senior) vs. Dez Fitzpatrick, Wide receiver, Louisville (6’4″, 204 pounds, Junior)

Dez Fitzpatrick entered the 2019 season with a good deal of hype. However, he has failed to deliver early. Thus far, Fitzpatrick has caught 4 passes for 42 yards and 1 touchdown reception. To say this is underwhelming would be an understatement. With that said, he does have the talent to turn it around quickly.

On the other hand, Levonta Taylor has had a solid start to the 2019 campaign. He is coming off a strong performance against the 21st ranked Virginia Cavaliers, which also earned him recognition in other media outlets. He’s been slotted at safety, giving him chances to shut down Fitzpatrick, particularly when he’s hitting the middle of the field. 

Taylor’s biggest strength is his fluidity and ability to cover; however, his biggest weakness is his size. That just happens to be Fitzpatrick’s greatest strength. Don’t forget about his size and physicality as well. It will be intriguing to see these players matchup, as they have quite a clash of skill sets.

Predicted Winner: Levonta Taylor, Cornerback, Florida State.

Taylor should continue dominating after his more frequent snaps at safety. It gives him a chance to negate Fitzpatrick’s attack of the middle and limit the Louisville passing attack.

2020 NFL Draft-ACC Big Board

Below, I have updated my “ACC-only” 2020 NFL draft big board. A few quick hits…

  • Florida State DT Marvin Wilson climbed the board after his dominating performance that has NFL scouts buzzing.
  • Other players that have seen their names rise on the board are Clemson offensive linemen John Simpson and North Carolina safety Myles Dorn, whom both are coming off of sensational performances.
  • There is one newcomer to the big board in Florida State cornerback Levonta Taylor, who had an impressive interception against Virginia.

Rank Player Position School Year
1 Travis Etienne RB Clemson JR
2 Isaiah Simmons LB Clemson JR
3 Tee Higgins WR Clemson JR
4 Marvin Wilson DT Florida State JR
5 A.J. Terrell CB Clemson JR
6 Bryce Hall CB Virginia SR
7 Alton Robinson Edge Syracuse SR
8 Shaq Quarterman LB Miami SR
9 Hamsah Nasirildeen Safety Florida State JR
10 Jonathan Garvin Edge Miami JR
11 Mekhi Becton OT Louisville JR
12 Cam Akers RB Florida State JR
13 Stanford Samuels III CB Florida State JR
14 Myles Dorn Safety UNC SR
15 Reggie Floyd Safety Virginia Tech SR
16 John Simpson OL Clemson SR
17 Michael Pinckney LB Miami SR
18 K’Von Wallace Safety Clemson SR
19 Larrell Murchison DT North Carolina State SR
20 A.J. Dillon RB Boston College SR
21 Essang Bassey CB Wake Forest SR
22 Trajan Bandy CB Miami JR
23 Charles Snowden LB Virginia JR
24 Tremayne Anchrum OL Clemson SR
25 Levonta Taylor CB Florida State SR

Neal Driscoll is a writer for PFN covering the NFL Draft. You can follow him on @NealDriscoll on Twitter.


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