Isaiah Simmons says he is like a Swiss Army Knife, there isn’t anything he can’t do.
He is right.
At Clemson, Simmons lined up and played at almost every position but nose tackle, while leading the Tigers back to the national championship game for the fourth time in five years.
“Just move me around because then I can really show you what I am able to do,” he said. “I was never really tied down to one position. Coach [Brent] Venables, he used me in a really special way that most people are not able to be used.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Simmons is a guy you don’t replace. There are not many players like him. He said Simmons has allowed the Tigers the comfort of staying with three linebackers on the field because he could play the nickel so well.
Simmons said playing in Venables’ scheme is what will have him ready to play for any NFL defense.
“I believe that anyone who can play defense for him, can play defense anywhere just by how complex it is and the demand he puts on all of us,” Simmons said. “Honestly, he just prepares all of us for moments like this.”
Simmons feels playing in Venables’ scheme and lining up everywhere on the field like he did will benefit him in the NFL.
“I know years ago, it wasn’t good to be a position-less guy, but now it has become a benefit for me, just on all the versatility and things I will be able to do … play linebacker, play safety, whatever it is,” he said. “I figure it just helps me.”
He can also run. Simmons, who is 6-4, 238 pounds, ran a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February. His unique skill set has some teams wondering if they should take him in the top 5.
The Lions (No. 3) and Giants (No. 4) have shown interest in him. The Carolina Panthers would also take a long hard look at him if he is still on the board at No. 7. If he still around, the Cleveland Browns will definitely take him with No. 10 pick in the draft.
The NFL Networks Daniel Jeremiah has Simmons listed as his No. 3 overall prospect, while ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. has him No. 4 overall on his big board. The 2020 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23-25.
The former Clemson linebacker is one of those guys who can do it all. He is big enough to play linebacker and fill in the run fits. He is fast enough to cover sideline to sideline and cover wide receivers in the slot, tight ends or running backs out of the backfield. He is intelligent enough to play both safety positions and he moves his hips well enough that he can go out wide and cover wide receivers if need be.
That’s what makes Clemson’s unanimous All-American so intriguing in this year’s draft.
“I think I can play at any scheme just because of my versatility, I can fit in anywhere,” he said. “Depending on what position they need me at, I feel like I can play it.”
Simmons 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 unanimous First-Team All-American and the winner of the Dick Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker.
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