Instincts: 6 Tackling: 7 Play Speed: 8 Pass Coverage: 8
Blitzing: 7 Motor: 7 Pursuit: 7
(Explanation of grades can be found here.)
Games Watched: vs Ohio State (B) vs Virginia (A22) @ UNC (A22) vs Georgia Tech (A22) vs Alabama 2018 (B)
Strengths: Isaiah Simmons has a rare blend of size, speed, play strength and playmaking ability that makes him one of the most valuable defensive chess pieces to enter the NFL in years. He has the versatility to line up anywhere from ILB, the slot, free safety, and box safety. While he’s listed at linebacker on draft guides, his positional fit will only be limited by his DC’s imagination. He’s impactful in zone coverage, dropping to spots quickly while simultaneously reading the quarterback. In man coverage, Simmons is sticks onto bigger players and has an advanced understanding of leverage downfield. With a massive tackle radius and rocked up frame, he wraps, squeezes, and drives on his tackles routinely. Coupling his tackling radius with elite agility gives him an ideal Will linebacker profile. He navigates through trash smoothly and has the flexibility and speed to dip under blockers that are in the way without compromising his pursuit angles. As a blitzer, Simmons is hard-charging, yet contained and knows how to manipulate offensive linemen with subtle fakes that give him open lanes to the quarterback. He’ll work excellently as a QB spy. While he has traits galore, Simmons’ motor stays hot at all times, which allows him to stay around the ball constantly.
Weaknesses: Simmons is a tick slow to read and react from the linebacker spot. He diagnoses plays as a free safety would, which didn’t hurt him much at Clemson, but will affect him at the NFL. Doesn’t have a lot of experience stacking and shedding blockers, or taking on blocks at the point of attack. Will need to refine his understanding of angles and run fits close to the line of scrimmage before he can make a major impact at linebacker.
What we need to learn about him: Simmons makes a major impact in the secondary, but can he put up elite production from the linebacker spot as well? That may be the major difference between him and the other Deone Bucannon sub-package linebacker types. Will he be able to competently take on interior offensive linemen at the point of attack play after play?
Scheme: Simmons played almost every off-ball position except for outside cornerback with regularity in Clemson’s 4-3 base defense. More than capably played both strong and free safety, and was most effective from the slot – an alignment that allowed him to cover, blitz, set the edge, and pursue on the backside on any given play.
Injury History: No known injury history.
Summary: Isaiah Simmons is a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of many who should make defensive coordinator’s salivate with his combination of coverage skills, ideal size, and truly elite NFL athleticism.