The LSU Tigers may have been crowned national champions down in New Orleans Monday night, but Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons was also a winner in terms of draft stock.
And that stock might have boosted all the way up to the Giants at No. 4.
Simmons was electric for Clemson's defense, setting the tone early by getting to LSU's Heisman Trophy-winning QB Joe Burrow. Overall, he had seven tackles -- two for loss -- a sack, and two passes defended.
But the generic stats don't explain why Simmons is such an intriguing prospect for this year's NFL Draft. It's his versatility to play any position on defense, which was on full display on the biggest stage in college football.
Isaiah Simmons position counter through 3 drives:- Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) January 14, 2020
• Inside LB: 4
• Outside LB: 3
• Slot CB: 2
• Defensive End: 1
• Outside CB: 1
2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB pressure, 1 pass breakup. #11 is a unicorn. There is no comparison for him.
At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Simmons might really be a unicorn. While getting to the quarterback on one play, Simmons can be seen breaking up a pass against a wide receiver downfield on the next. So, while he's been tabbed a safety, linebacker, and both of those positions together, Simmons' title might as well just be defense because of the multiple positions he can play.
Simmons was a versatile part of Clemson's national title-winning squad last season, but his best year with the Tigers came in 2019. His stats read like this:
- Tackles: 104 combined
- Tackles for loss: 16.5
- Sacks: 8.0
- Interceptions: 3
- Passes defended: 8
- Forced Fumbles: 2
- Fumble Recoveries: 1
Those numbers are the reason he was awarded the Butkus Award, being deemed college football's top linebacker. He was also a unanimous first-team All-American selection and first-team All-ACC selection.
Simmons checks all the boxes you want out of someone who can eventually lead your defense. The linebacker position in the NFL has evolved into one that requires players to be as efficient covering receivers and tight ends as they are stuffing the run and getting into the backfield. New Giants head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who was formerly a linebackers coach, definitely recognize that fact.
So does Simmons make sense at No. 4 for New York? Absolutely. It will all come down to what the Giants want to fix first.
The offensive line is a must for them this offseason, and there are quality tackles on the draft board in Georgia's Andrew Thomas -- a Top 5 talent in some eyes -- Iowa's Tristan Wirfs and Alabama's Jedrick Wills. All of these linemen would be major upgrades for a struggling Big Blue line.
But the defense was also one of the worst in the league last season, coming in at 25th overall in the regular season. At the moment, Alec Ogletree is the Giants' top linebacker, and his play -- especially in coverage -- doesn't come close to Simmons' talent. Simmons' coverage abilty would not only upgrade the position, but with a young secondary to work with, he could help the likes of DeAndre Baker and Sam Beal as well.
If GM Dave Gettleman wants him, the only chance he'll likely get is at No. 4. Trading back to acquire more draft stock and still land Simmons could be risky, but might be in the cards as well. The Dolphins and Chargers are on the quarterback market at No. 5 and 6 respectively, so swapping picks with them might work. The Panthers at No. 7, though, could have Simmons as their desired player.
Mock drafts have Simmons going later in the first round, somewhere in the high double-digits. But those will likely change when the next additions come out soon, and the Clemson Tiger could see his name sitting next to the Giants.
The Giants might have the same idea, too.