Isaiah Simmons went from an interesting trade-down candidate to a real option at three overall for the Lions, but is he a fit in Matt Patricia’s defense?
But always with hesitation, as he is smaller than general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have gone on record stating they prefer.
In both practice and preach the Lions like big linebackers for this particular defense. Which was never more relevant when Quinn spent a second-round pick on Jahlani Tavai.
Here’s what Quinn had to say after the pick, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press;
"“We like thick-built linebackers. Really thick guys that can kind of take on blocks so that when they play on the edge they have enough playing strength and enough arm length to set the edge.”"
After the draft Quinn also told DetroitLions.com;
"We like bigger, thicker guys that weigh 240-255 pounds. Some of the guys that are a little bit lighter than that, a little bit, let’s say faster, really don’t have a great role on our base defense."
Simmons is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. But I wouldn’t be so quick to think Quinn is just omitting or even dropping Simmons on his draft board. The last time Simmons was checked he weighed in at 230 pounds and there was an LB acronym next to his name.
Simmons is a defensive hell-raiser that played primarily … well, everywhere outside of the interior defensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, this is where Simmons lined up in 738 snaps in 2019;
- Slot cornerback (256)
- In the box (239)
- Defensive line (106)
- Deep safety (130)
- Wide cornerback (7)
The possibilities with Simmons are endless and positionless backers are the new direction of NFL defenses and a staple with Matt Patricia. No, he’s not an ideal MLB in this defense, but he could be elite in about three or four other positions. Being an LB/DB/EDGE hybrid who excels in man coverage, he would be Patricia’s favorite chess piece.
One of the ways Patricia’s defenses created pressure in New England was with pre-snap confusion. Being able to rush or drop back in coverage is vital in this philosophy and is something you saw Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables do a lot of with Simmons and company. In Patricia’s case, if you’re not going to send enough to beat them physically. If you have to outsmart them and cause chaos at the line.
The biggest factor in Simmons being a possibility for Detroit isn’t fit, as he’s a perfect fit for the Lions. But rather positional value.
As a defensive player, if you’re not a cover corner that comes with their own island or pass rusher to put fear in opposing quarterbacks, there’s not a long history of your type getting drafted at three.
I see Simmons as more of a box safety in the NFL and I bet the New York Jets are happy with their selection of safety Jamal Adams at 6th overall in 2017. Adams is 6-foot-1, 213 pounds and Simmons is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.
If the Detroit Lions can grab Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the third overall selection in the upcoming draft, they should obviously do it. If the Lions can trade back into the five to eight range and hope Simmons is still there, they should do it. But if they stay at three and see Simmons as the most talented player available, they should absolutely take him despite any positional value or scheme related concerns.