28 Nov 2020

Home of the NFL Offseason

An Outside the Box Take on Isaiah Simmons

As we get closer to the combine, the more people tend to gravitate toward certain players. One of those players, especially for Giants fans, is Isaiah Simmons. The 6’3, 230lb athletic freak from Clemson. Blessed with length, speed, power, and fluidity, the former Clemson Tiger played significant and effective snaps at: OLB, ILB, both safety positions, and slot corner. Now, I’m a Jersey kid, and a big Giants fan, but not so much a Simmons fan. A player like Simmons seems like a can’t miss and what he offers with all 5 positions, the Giants lack…in all 5 positions. I’m not saying Simmons has bust potential, or I think he’s a bad player, but I’ll do this with every player in that I can’t just see someone as a perfect prospect, who Simmons is being hyped to be. In evaluating a lot of players, it’s difficult to determine what skills can and can’t translate to the NFL game and that’s just with 1 position. With Simmons, we’re talking about 5 different positions. Essentially, that’s 5 different scouting reports, 5 different types of questions, 5 different ways to decipher what he can do at the pro-level etc. etc.

With that said, Simmons is a rare athlete, and playing in the ACC, he was, without question, the best athlete on the field every week. With that, and what’s viewed on film, you have to ask yourself, “Is this person truly nuanced at these 5 positions? Or is he getting moved around to avoid holes in his game”? It’s an interesting take on such a polarizing athlete, but one I feel needs to be asked. Clemson’s DC Brent Venables could and should be a HC at many big programs, and certainly can make great use of that athleticism. Every player has tendencies, and, what if in certain situations, Venables didn’t like Simmons’ ability to cover deep middle, so he played OLB? And in situations when he needed to play OLB, Venables thought he’s better suited as the slot CB. And in situations where he could have played the slot, Venables moved him to ILB to mirror the QB or cover a TE. There’s a pattern to tendencies, and those tendencies expose weaknesses in a player’s game. Also, when I watch Simmons’ tape, I see a good player at all 5 positions, but for each 5 that he plays, someone else in the draft does what he does at a higher level at their respective positions.

Now, lets say the 5 positions translates to 2 or 3 depending on the opponent. I’m a Giants fan, and honestly, I don’t want a 230 pound ILB/OLB taking on Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Jason Kelce, or Lane Johnson twice a year trying to stop the run, and you know with getting Simmons, the expectation is his physicality allows him to play Linebacker. So now we’ve taken 5 positions, trimmed it down to 2 or 3, but now we’re adding limitations to those 2 or 3 positions as well and Linebacker might be his best position. Historically, Safeties slide in the draft too, so assuming LB and both Safety positions are what he does best, is that worth a top 10 pick? Is the defensive front ready to allow Simmons to dominate from the Safety position? Jamal Adams was the last Safety to be picked top 10 back in 2017; you’d have to go back a decade to 2010 to get another Safety to be selected top 10 when Eric Berry went 5th to Kansas City.

I’m not saying I think he’s a bad player, but I don’t believe, with those limitations, and how much you’ve got to take away from his game, he’s a guy who gets selected top 5 that you can rely on to change the culture of your defense. I believe he’s someone who benefits more from a defense with better pieces in more places than what the Giants can offer, or what the Lions can offer at this point. What he offers is more of a luxury than a building block. And with selections 7-10 is where I think Simmons finds a team in the Carolina, Arizona, Jacksonville and Cleveland rounding out to top 10. Those teams have good players in place at the right positions that would allow the talent to flourish and allow him to play in space and really take on a Derwin James/Jaylon Smith role. He’s a jack of all trades, master of none type guy, and it will take the right coaching to effectively mold him, but not take away from who he is to get the most out of him at the next level.

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