Moments ago, we were treated to one of the big surprises in this cycle of NFL Draft declarations. Top running backs, who have significant injury risk and tend to have shorter careers, typically jump early, but Clemson’s Travis Etienne will return for his senior season. Don’t bet on his defensive superstar teammate Isaiah Simmons to do the same.
Simmons showed his outstanding versatility during Monday’s night’s National Championship Game against LSU. Even in a losing effort, he was all over the field, contributing at every level of the defense.
Early in that game, NFL fans and draft aficionados were salivating over Simmons’ potential at the next level. One lucky team should get the chance to take him in April.
According to Grace Raynor of The Athletic, Simmons had been pretty open with Dabo Swinney and the coaching staff that it is his last year in Clemson, “barring something crazy.” Given he is a potential top 10 pick and a national champion already, it only makes sense for him to jump.
Programming note: Isaiah Simmons already told Clemson’s staff before the season started that barring something crazy, this season was going to be it. Because of that, not sure if we’ll see an official announcement. Been in the works for months.
— Grace Raynor (@gmraynor) January 17, 2020
Isaiah Simmons took home the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award this fall, and was a unanimous first team All-American. He also won the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker. He also won a national title with Clemson in 2018-19.
This season, he recorded 104 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three interceptions, and eight passes defensed. He set career highs across the board.
While his “natural position,” inasmuch as he has one, is probably outside linebacker, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables would also line him up inside, at cornerback, and at defensive end.
His ability to stay on the field and thrive in all types of roles makes him an incredibly valuable, modern defensive player. While Chase Young is very likely to be the first defensive player off the board, Simmons will be heavily involved in discussion for the next off the board.