Why the Slide?: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

Our “Why the Slide” series parallels and grew out our “Why Undrafted” series. The latter was created a number of years ago in response to your questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For both series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

In the final months leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, there were some in the media who were projecting Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson to be a first-round pick. Simpson was a workout warrior before the draft, showing off an excellent combination of size, speed and athleticism. Thus, many were surprised when Simpson slid to the back half of the third round before being selected by the Ravens.

Multiple NFL team sources said Simpson graded out on the second day of the 2023 NFL Draft because he lacked first-round tape. That absence of impressive tape was why I had Simpson going in the second or third round of my mock drafts, but his workouts were definitely eye-poppers. Sources also said they felt Simpson lacked instincts, which was reflected in his production being unimpressive. One area scout said of Simpson, “Just not that good of a player, just a workout guy.” Hence, Simpson went in the portion of the draft where teams thought he belonged.

The Baltimore Ravens ended Simpson’s slide late in the third round, and the organization is a fine landing spot for Simpson. As a rookie, he could push former first-round pick Patrick Queen for playing time next to Roquan Smith. The Pro Bowler Smith is locked in for many years to come as a starter, but Queen had his fifth-year option declined and has not lived up to the hopes thus far in Baltimore. Simpson will also have to compete with 2020 third-round pick Malik Harrison to replace Queen if the Ravens decide to move on from Queen. Even if Simpson does not play on defense quickly, he has the skill set to be a core special teams player. The Ravens present a good opportunity for Simpson to become a starter next to Smith, although it will be up to Simpson to play up to his potential in order to make that happen.

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