Former Clemson star Isaiah Simmons stole the show on Saturday night during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with an eye-popping performance.
In front of a national audience on NFL Network, Simmons ran a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash on his first attempt, which is especially impressive considering his 6-foot-4, 238-pound size. It is the second-fastest time by any linebacker at the combine since 2006, behind only Shaq Griffin’s time of 4.38 in 2018, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
While many expected Simmons to post a strong 40 time, people were amazed by just how fast he ran. To put it into perspective, his time of 4.39 is faster than the 40 times that former Clemson wide receivers Martavis Bryant (4.42, 2014), Sammy Watkins (4.43, 2014) and DeAndre Hopkins (4.5, 2013) ran at the combine.
“I thought he would run in the 4.4s, and I thought maybe in the low 4.4s,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said during the network’s coverage of the combine. “4.3, it’s silly. It’s just silly to be that big, that long, that fast, that athletic.”
Not only did Simmons wow with his speed, but he also showcased his athleticism with an 11-foot broad jump that ranked second among all linebackers at the NFL Combine as well as a 39-inch vertical jump that was tied for third among all linebackers there.
One anonymous NFL GM compared Simmons’ freakish athleticism to that of Milwaukee Bucks star and 2019 NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“I got a text from a GM,” NFL Network personality Peter Schrager said. “He said, ‘Earlier today, you compared Isaiah Simmons to LeBron James.’ He’s like, ‘I’m calling foul on that. It’s actually Giannis (Antetokounmpo), that’s the comparison.’ And we saw it there — a 4.39.”
“But he’s a freak,” Schrager continued. “He can play safety and cover tight ends, can cover running backs. There might be no prospect like him in this entire draft.”
Because of how well he did in the testing portion of the combine, Simmons declined to participate in the on-field workout for linebackers, and Jeremiah did not blame him for making that decision.
“He’s played almost every position on the defense,” Jeremiah said. “We’ve seen him do everything and then he kind of just topped it off with the 40 time. So, selfishly I like to watch all these guys go out here and go through the drills, but I can understand where he’s coming from.”
Simmons was with the linebackers at the combine but has the versatility to play pretty much anywhere on defense. For Clemson, he played 100-plus snaps at five different positions: outside linebacker, inside linebacker, slot cornerback, free safety and strong safety.
When asked during his interview with NFL Combine media this week what position he plays, Simmons simply replied, “Defense.”
“To me, that’s the beautiful thing about him is I think it can change from game to game, and he’s intelligent, he can handle all that,” Jeremiah said. “So, one week you have an athletic tight end, you can match him up. And next game you might want to use him more coming off the edge out in space. You can do different things with him there.
“Look, with that speed — and you’ve seen him play the deep middle of the field — he can play free safety. I think what you’ll see his rookie year is you’ll probably try and get him in one spot, get him comfortable. And after you get him comfortable, you can really start having some fun.”
After seeing Simmons enhance what was an already high draft stock on Saturday at the combine, Jeremiah is excited to see where he lands in the 2020 NFL Draft in April and how his talents are utilized in the league.
“I promise you, when you get back in the draft room and you get in there, you bring your entire defensive staff in there, they’re going to say, ‘Where do you think this guy should play?’ and every position coach is going to go, ‘I’ll take him! He can play for me,’” Jeremiah said.
“He can do anything. So, it’s going to be fun to watch where he gets picked, and then after that, how he’s deployed.”
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