It’s that time of the year where mock drafts start to dominate the headlines when it comes to football.
With the Super Bowl completed and the 2020 NFL season just a few weeks away from starting, everyone turns their attention to the NFL Draft, which will be held in Las Vegas this April.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Todd McShay released his second mock draft of 2020. McShay has two Clemson players going in the first round. He has linebacker Isaiah Simmons going No. 4 overall to the New York Giants and wide receiver Tee Higgins going No. 24 to New Orleans.
McShay says Simmons is what every NFL team dreams of having.
“He can rush the passer, he can stand up against the run and he can drop into coverage,” the ESPN analyst wrote.
With New York’s Markus Golden headed toward free agency, the Giants could fill a void on its roster with a player like Simmons.
Simmons is sure to continue to wow NFL general managers and coaches at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month. It would not surprise anyone to see him in the top 5 of the draft before it is all said and done.
The former Clemson linebacker is one of those guys who can do it all, He is big enough (6-4, 230) to play linebacker and fill in the run fits. He is fast enough to run sideline to sideline and cover wide receivers in the slot or running backs out of the backfield. He is intelligent enough to play both safety positions and he moves hips well enough that he can go out wide and cover wide receivers if need be.
Simmons can even put his hands on the ground and play defensive end if a team needs him to. That’s what makes Clemson’s unanimous All-American so intriguing in this year’s draft.
“He’s going to run probably 4.4 or better. He’s got a 41-inch vertical. He’s an unbelievably special young person. Just great character,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He has awesome work ethic. I mean, just freaky measurables.”
In an era when offenses are throwing the football everywhere and run-pass options (RPOs) are built into almost every running playing, having a dynamic player like Simmons, who is arguably the most versatile player in the draft, makes him extremely valuable to NFL teams.
Teams can basically get three players with one pick, that’s how important his value will be in the draft.
“Then you throw in the fact that he’s a very humble young man,” Swinney said. “He’s got great character. He’s got an unbelievable family. He’s a guy that came back for his fourth year. Could have come out last year, and just has a lot of self-awareness of what he needs to do as a football player.”
At Clemson, all of that translated into a memorable season, one that is without a doubt the best of any defensive player in school history. In 2019, Simmons played and started all 15 games for the Tigers. He not only played just about every defensive snap, but he also stayed on the field and covered punts and kickoffs.
He finished the 2019 season with a team-best 107 tackles. He had 16 tackles for loss, including eight sacks. Both led the Clemson team. He also tied for the team lead with 10 passes broken up and was second with three interceptions.
At season’s end, Simmons was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a First-Team All-American and the winner of the Dick Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker.
“Now he’s a complete player. He’s become very detailed in his approach,” Swinney said. “His preparation, his understanding of our defense, and more importantly understanding of offenses. So, just the nuances of the game, and so you put all that knowledge with the work ethic and the talent, you get a great player.”
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