Even though Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons’ stock is surely to rise after an elite combine performance, the Detroit Lions should not take him at No. 3.
The NFL Scouting Combine concluded earlier this week, giving many top prospects across the country a chance to prove their athletic ability in front of scouts from the Detroit Lions and every other NFL team. Every season, there is always one prospect who sees their draft stock skyrocket because they prove themselves to be an athletic freak at the event.
At the 2020 combine, that prospect was Isaiah Simmons. The Clemson linebacker was mostly seen as a mid-first round selection until he showed the world that he may not actually be human.
Not only did Simmons go off at the combine, but he proved to be a solid leader in what was arguably college football’s most dominant defense over the past few years. He put up solid numbers in his time as a Tiger, putting up 238 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks, along with four interceptions and six forced fumbles.
With his freak athleticism, elite length and versatility, there’s no doubt that Simmons has a chance to be an elite linebacker in this league, with the pass defending capabilities of Darius Leonard and the pass rushing potential of Vic Beasley.
But as good as Simmons has the potential to be in the NFL, the Lions simply don’t need an outside linebacker as badly as they need other positions such as defensive tackle and cornerback. As Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire pointed out Monday, the Lions have already devoted a lot of resources to outside linebacker, and can’t afford to use such a high draft pick on Simmons.
"It’s very difficult to see the Lions envisioning Simmons as anything but a linebacker in the base defense. And that’s an issue, because right now the Lions are set at off-ball linebacker with Jarrad Davis, Jahlani Tavai, Christian Jones and even Devon Kennard to some extent. There is a significant amount of resources devoted to the spot already."
As tempting as it would be for the Lions to draft Simmons, selecting him and having him drop back into coverage would improve pass defense slightly, but it would also encourage the Lions to keep rushing only three or four players, which would allow talented quarterbacks plenty of time to get to the quarterback.
Don’t get it twisted: Simmons will be a talented player in this league, but with as many holes as the Lions have on the roster, they can’t afford to draft with best player available.
They need to stick to picking their most dire needs, as Ohio State cornerback Jeffery Okudah and Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown would both be available at No. 3 and would be much more logical fits in the Lions’ scheme.
If the Detroit Lions were to trade down anywhere from No. 5 to No. 11, then drafting Isaiah Simmons may be the only logical option. But if they remain at three, they shouldn’t be tempted to try to fit a square peg into a round hole.