Draft’s Isaiah Simmons offers Detroit Lions defense needed versatility

Many draft experts have the Detroit Lions selecting from just a few prospects but one player who might offer the most to the defense is Isaiah Simmons.

The 2020 NFL Draft is still four months away but Detroit Lions social media is already focused on what the Pride should do. The list of players being considered in fan’s minds is short if they stay at their current draft spot, number three overall. In this week’s installment, we will discuss Isaiah Simmons, the versatile linebacker-safety hybrid that might be the best candidate to improve the defense.

Isaiah Simmons is the 6-foot-3, 230-pound, do-everything defender from the Clemson Tigers. While cornerback, defensive end, and defensive tackle have been the positions most draft fans have targeted for the Detroit Lions. Simmons splits time as a linebacker, safety, and slot player.

As noted by NBC Sports writer Josh Shrock, he played 650 snaps, 230 in the slot, and 107 at deep safety and the rest as a safety-linebacker hybrid. Draft Scout estimates that Simmons’ speed should fall in the 4.47-seconds forty-yard dash range.

The ability to play multiple positions and provide the defense with a coverage linebacker who can also blitz would give head coach Matt Patricia’s defense a big upgrade in the middle level, where it has struggled.

Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jahlani Tavai, and Devon Kennard possess some good qualities but the unit as a whole has been limited both by athleticism and execution. None have done very well in coverage with Davis being the most athletic and having spent the most time in coverage.

Simmons would represent an immediate upgrade as a coverage linebacker that has already amassed 20 passes defended and four interceptions, but also has 11.0 sacks, 28.5 tackles-for-loss, 238 combined tackles, and six forced fumbles, according to Sports Reference.

The Detroit Lions linebacker corps also includes Jason Cabinda, Steve Longa, Anthony Pittman, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Christian Sam as reserves and special teams players. Safety Miles Killebrew functions as a hybrid player at times, too, but has struggled to produce in sub-packages during the 2019 season after being a solid contributor in 2018.

Although many draft experts and football writers have Simmons being drafted outside of the Top-5, if the Detroit Lions trade down he would be an excellent addition to the roster. Drafttek has Simmons as the eighth-ranked prospect. Detroit’s main package, their nickel package, is either a three-man or four-man line with five defensive backs and two or three linebackers.

Detroit Lions draft talk, Simmons’ fit

Simmons can play either a linebacker or safety role, covering tight ends and running backs in man-coverage and rushing the passer, and do both equally well. The Detroit Lions do not have any players who are as accomplished at doing so many things at a high level. The Lions can move him around to disguise their coverages and numbers trying to sack the quarterback.

With most experts certain that both quarterback Joe Burrow and defensive end Chase Young will be gone prior to the Lions draft selection, the Lions’ motivation to stay put may be gone, as well.

The Miami Dolphins believe they have the draft ammunition to move up to take a franchise passer above a slew of teams with quarterback needs. The Dolphins have the No. 5 pick and another first-round pick to work with on top of that, pick 26.

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The New York Giants have the fourth pick and may be willing to move, too. In the top fourteen picks, as many as six teams could be looking to select a new signal-caller.

Those teams include the Los Angeles Chargers at pick No. 6, the Carolina Panthers at seven, the Jacksonville Jaguars at nine, the Indianapolis Colts at 13, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at pick 14. All of which could have interest in jumping over the competition to draft quarterback prospects like Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

All the while the Detroit Lions seem ready to rally around their veteran passer Matthew Stafford for another year and should attempt to improve their defense early in the draft.

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