Isaiah Simmons Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Great sub-package linebacker
Very good run defender
Excellent pass-coverage linebacker
Can cover running backs, tight ends, receivers
Rare cover skills for a linebacker, covers like a safety
Has covered slot receivers in man-to-man
Can run down the middle seam
Reads plays well
Superb at knowing when to fire his gun
Good pursuit defender
Is an enforcer in the middle of the field
Never hesitates to get physical
Covers a lot of ground in zone coverage
Can break down in space
Ability to redirect
Could also contribute on special teams
Could stand to get better at taking on and shedding blocks
Not a fit to be a Mike - middle - linebacker
Summary: Simmons was a key player on the Clemson defense for three years. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Simmons saw his first action and totaled 45 tackles with three tackles for a loss and six passes broken up. Simmons improved in 2018 and had a big presence for the Tigers, cleaning up a lot plays behind their star-studded defensive line. He totaled 89 tackles with six passes broken up, three forced fumbles and one interception while helping the Tigers claim another National Championship.
During the 2018 season, many area scouts who cover Clemson were preparing reports on Simmons as he could have entered the 2019 NFL Draft. It would not have been a bad decision, as NFL teams were projecting him to be a first- or second-round pick. However, Simmons decided to return for his junior year at Clemson, and that was a great decision as he played his way into being a potential top-10 pick.
In 2019, Simmons totaled 104 tackles with seven sacks, one forced fumble, three interceptions and eight passes broken up. He then had a tremendous showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, recording a legendary 4.39-second 40-yard dash.
The first trait that stands out about Simmons is his instinctiveness. He is very impressive with how quickly he anticipates what an offense is trying to do and gets in position to contribute to stopping the play. Defensive coaches in the NFL have a term called "fire your gun," which is when a player makes a decision to come downhill or chase down a ball-carrier. Simmons is very good at deciding when to fire his gun as he does not bite on misdirection. He makes wise choices on when to go after the ball-carrier and not get caught out of position.
With the NFL being a passing-driven league, defenses need linebackers who are capable of contributing to pass coverage. Simmons is that kind of linebacker, as he is a true asset to defend passing attacks while also being a good run defender in the middle of the field. While he has the size of a linebacker, Simmons has the cover skills of a safety and does some very unique things in pass coverage. Thus, he is a rare and elite sub-package linebacker for the NFL.
Simmons is the best pass-coverage linebacker in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is a fast linebacker who covers a lot of ground in zone coverage while also showing the ability to run down the middle seam. During the 2019 season, Simmons showed great speed to run with slot receivers downfield, and it was incredible to see him run stride-for-stride with those wideouts.
As a pro, Simmons should be a nice asset to cover tight ends running vertically down the middle of the field, running backs leaking out of the backfield, and he also should be a good defender to help with receivers crossing the middle of the field. He won't hesitate to get physical and can be a hard-hitting enforcer in the middle of the field. On top of being able to cover up receivers, Simmons has good ball skills for a linebacker, showing an ability to take the ball away. He is smart and instinctive to get in throwing lanes and disrupt passes. Simmons' pass coverage is his best trait, and he should be an asset in coverage quickly in his NFL career.
On top of Simmons being very good in coverage, he also is a dangerous blitzer with closing speed to hunt down quarterbacks. He could even get some consideration as an outside edge rusher in obvious passing situations.
As a run defender, Simmons combines instincts with explosive speed to cover sideline to sideline. He chases down ball-carriers while having the size and strength to handle big backs. Tackling is becoming a lost art in college and NFL football as the reduction in practices and the limitations on how physical practices can be has led to defensive players not being as technically sound at tackling. Simmons is an exception to the trend, as he is a very good tackler doing an excellent job of tackling low and wrapping up ball-carriers. While he will dish out some big hits, he does not miss tackles at the expense of pummeling a ball-carrier.
In the ground game, Simmons has excellent speed to close, is able to change direction to redirect, and is bolt of lightning to the flat on perimeter runs. He often reads plays quickly and explodes downhill to make tackles near the line of scrimmage, in the backfield, or disrupt the run to set up teammates for a stop near the line of scrimmage. The one real negative for Simmons for the NFL is taking on and shedding blocks. He is going to have problems with that at the next level. Simmons will need to work to get better at taking on and shedding blocks when runs come downhill straight at him, but that is case for almost all college linebackers going to the NFL.
Simmons looks like a top-12 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He could quickly become one of the league's top outside linebackers.
Player Comparison: Lavonte David. Simmons reminds me of a bigger version of Lavonte David. Both are tremendous in pass coverage with rare speed and athleticism to cover. They also are sideline-to-sideline run defenders who consistently put their defenses in a favorable down-and-distance situations. In the NFL, I think Simmons could have an impact like David for his pro defense.