When you analyze Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons, you clearly see an extremely versatile player that can help an NFL defense immediately this upcoming season. But the biggest question for whoever decides to draft him is where exactly does he play?
That could be the question facing Giants GM Dave Gettleman and Giants coaches at the moment, as it is very likely Simmons will be on the board for them to select at No. 4 overall on April 23 when the 2020 NFL Draft kicks off. The Giants have been looking for that defensive difference-maker, and Simmons could easily be that man -- if they can deploy him correctly.
It would make sense for him to play at middle linebacker, but new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham doesn't have to keep him in that box. Instead, it would be much more advantageous to use him strategically where the Giants need tons of help.
Simmons might have safety and linebacker next to his name on the draft board, but he is very good at getting to the quarterback -- more than some people might realize. The Giants didn't really address pass rushing this offseason other than bringing in Kyler Fackrell to hope he can replicate his 10.5-sack season from 2018. They'll lean on the hope that Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines can take a leap forward, too.
Or Gettleman could draft Simmons and trust that Graham can put him in a position to get the quarterback on the ground, something he did the most for the Tigers last season with eight sacks. That was a career-high for Simmons, a big jump from his two sacks in his redshirt sophomore year. And according to ESPN's Field Yates, he only rushed the passer 71 times and saw those results, which is very impressive.
Isaiah Simmons has the talent to be a 10+ sack player if he played strictly as a pass rusher. He's an absolute stud. Should be the Giants draft pick. https://t.co/KMU0sfT7mK- Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) April 2, 2020
Also another fun stat to look at: Pro Football Focus had Simmons pressuring the passer on 32.9 percent of his rushes. That was good for the highest rate among all Power Five defenders, which includes arguably the best draft prospect in the class in Ohio State DE Chase Young, who had 16.5 sacks last season with 21 tackles for loss.
But, of course, sacks are not the only stats that matter. Simmons also led Clemson with 104 tackles and tackles for loss at 16.5. His sub-4.4 speed and 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame makes it extremely hard to avoid Simmons in the open field.
The Giants are already stacked at middle linebacker, especially after acquiring Blake Martinez -- the NFL's second-leading tackler last season -- on a three-year deal in free agency. While Simmons could be placed next to him to make one of the best tandems in the league, Graham would be smart to use him on the outside as well. Whether it's blitz packages or sending him in on a normal rush, Simmons' abilities would give the Giants a do-it-all defender that can keep the ball in the backfield.
So, though Simmons can line up with speedy receivers and anchor the middle of the defense, the ability to rush the passer might just be the most important that makes Gettleman call his name on draft day. He's efficient when he does and is a constant disrupter.
It's just what the doctor ordered for this defense.