The best linebacker in the draft is Isaiah Simmons, and it seems like a team is going to get a steal if he falls past five. He can improve a defense from day one with his athleticism and ability to play all over the field. Simmons is excellent in pass coverage, getting to the quarterback, and helping out in the run game. Asking to make an NFL comparison is tough, as this could be what the future of the linebacker position looks like. Simmons lined up at multiple positions at Clemson, and is going to be a game-changing linebacker who plays all three downs at the next level. It took some time at the college level for Simmons to figure out his best position. He even played a bit on the offensive side, which shows the athletic upside he had coming into Clemson.
Isaiah Simmons really broke out stats wise in his Junior year, where he had over 100 tackles, eight sacks, and three interceptions. He also had two forced five fumbles over the last two years. Simmons was moved around quite a bit on the defensive side, playing safety early on his career, he transitioned into linebacker in 2019. He played well in coverage and the pass rush potential is shown. Simmons was the 2019 ACC Defensive Player of the Yea and won the Dick Butkus award as well. He had 17 tackles for loss, which was 4th in the ACC, and was 8th in total tackles, but second in solo tackles.
He has a huge radius, and his tackling range is shown at 0:30, as he clips the quarterback on a crucial third down red zone play. His instincts are on display throughout the entire video, and at 2:02 we see him not get faked out by an option run, and once again showcase the tackling ability. At 2:58 we get into his coverage game, where he drops back into zone and I generally like him more in man, but he has a nose for the ball.
- Run Defense
- Open Field Tackling
- Hard Hitter
- Pass Rush
- Change Directions
- Explosive Change Of Direction
- High IQ
- Ability To Play Multiple Positions
- High Motor
Isaiah Simmons has a ton of pros, and is a top eight pick heading into this draft. He is an elite defensive prospect, and the most versatile in the draft. Simmons is excellent in run defense, even though his high praise is in the pass rush and in coverage. Simmons is an excellent tackler in open space, closing down, and in the backfield. I love his ability to pursue ball carriers and his athleticism really adds to this. Watching Simmons time everything to perfection, and knowing when to drop off and attack is incredible.
The IQ has been on show throughout his career. His high motor and physicality take him to another level. Getting to his coverage skills, he can line up against receivers, tight ends, and running backs. It is hard to think of anyone who does this with such fluidity. Because of his athleticism, his pass rushing ability is also something to note. He generated eight sacks in his final season at Clemson, and has a chance to be a double-digit sack guy at the next level.
- Going Through Blockers More
Looking for any sort of negatives in Simmons game is tough to do. I would like to see him go through blockers a bit more at times, but his speed and athleticism made it easy to get around defenders at the college level. This is more about showcasing that strength in running through people, where he has that ability and can diversify things a bit.
There is no true NFL comparison for in terms of guys from back in or are already established. However, I believe Roquan Smith is a similar athlete to Simmons and his role can be similar. An athletic playmaker who can pass rush, play run defense, and plays well in pass coverage. But, I really believe Simmons is about to be a prototype for the future. With opposing NFL offenses being the way they are, Simmons is the great fit starting to combat the strengths.
I don’t believe there is a bad fit for Simmons. New York is the team I believe should take Simmons, although they desperately need an offensive lineman too. Any team that drafts Simmons is going to have a playmaking linebacker fit right in. Simmons can play in a 4-3 or 3-4. You name it. Carolina will be looking to up their defense, and the same goes for Arizona. There is really no chance he slips past eight or nine.
Skill Ratings + Breakdown
IQ – 10
Simmons is just an out of this world type of defensive player. His IQ is just the start of that. Being asked to line up all over the field and being tasked with different roles in the defense is going to help him at the next level. His instincts for knowing where the ball is going is also at an elite level.
Physical – 9
Pairing his IQ with his physical attributes is why we are talking about him as a future Pro Bowler. He moves extremely well, and his explosiveness is what I love most. Whether he is going sideline to sideline, or attacking a ball carrier in the backfield, he closes down extremely well. This also helps him out in pass coverage.
Pass Coverage – 10
Simmons in man-to-man coverage is really something to watch. We do not see many linebackers play the way he does against three positions in coverage. 2019 was also an improvement in zone coverage, and that is something he can build upon at the next level.
Tackling – 9
The big frame that Simmons has makes him an excellent tackler. He is strong and flexible, which makes it tough to get out of his grasp. Simmons has no trouble in the open field and will also lay the lumber on you as well.
Run Defense – 8
Simmons has a great read on the run game. Because of his high IQ and athleticism, he can shoot gaps and has a great read on east-west style rushing attacks. He attacks the ball with confidence, and while he is going to help in the pass defense, do not overlook his ability to stop the run.
Strength – 8
The biggest thing for me is that he doesn’t sacrifice any sort of athleticism and speed with his size and strength. Simmons can get through blocks with ease, and also is a big hitter. Throughout 2019 we saw him blow up ball carriers and there is always a chance of a loose ball after Simmons comes in contact.