The Indianapolis Colts need help in multiple positions on defense, and Isaiah Simmons’ versatility and athleticism would be exactly what the team is looking for.
The 2020 NFL Combine has come and passed. As the biggest offseason event in the league comes to a close in Indy, many players have cemented their statuses as a top pick. Some took their performances to the next level and are trending up, while others underwhelmed and slipped down draft boards. It was a busy week for the Colts, especially with the combine in their own stadium.
Arguably one of the best performances in the Combine this past week came from LB Isaiah Simmons. The Clemson product was regarded as a surefire 1st-round pick going into the offseason, and his combine performance has only risen his draft stock. The 6’4″, 238-lb linebacker cruised to a 4.39 40-yard dash, ranking first at his position and 11th among all players, not to mention being the 2nd-fastest time run by a linebacker since 2003.
To truly understand how incredible of a performance Simmons put on this week, let’s look through some statistics.
Isaiah Simmons is:
- Faster than Devin Hester
- Taller than DK Metcalf
- Heavier than Roquan Smith
- Jumps higher than Julio Jones
Simmons also ran faster than these top wide receiver prospects:
- Justin Jefferson, LSU
- Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
- CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
- Jalen Reagor, LSU
- Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
Okay, so he’s basically an alien of an athlete. His athleticism alone is enough to provide a valuable argument for Simmons to land inside the top five. Here’s where it really gets interesting. Simmons’ athleticism is paired with a versatility on defense that is unparalleled.
Simmons is listed as a LB, however, he took more snaps at slot CB and nearly as many at safety. There have been questions with his ability as an off-ball linebacker, however his ability to play six(!) different positions on defense is a good enough reason to say that he is talented enough player off the ball and in coverage. During his 2019 season alone, he notched 104 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. Add to that three interceptions and two forced fumbles, and you have an elite defensive prospect rivaled only by Chase Young this year as the best overall players in the 2020 NFL Draft.
This is exactly the type of player that the Colts need. The team’s main problem last season was in the secondary; Simmons would have the ability to shift around different positions on the back end based on scheme or need. He has the ability to play in coverage, shown by his combined 521 snaps at CB and Safety, and the ability to both play inside and rush the passer. The Colts are in desperate need of help in the secondary and help getting to the quarterback; Simmons’ innate ability to shift around any back-end defensive position could be a crucial addition to the team’s defense to bolster both the defensive line and the secondary.
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If the Colts were to take Simmons, it is most likely that he would need to shift to a different position under the team’s 4-3 defense. With Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, and Anthony Walker all filling out the linebacker positions, Simmons would most likely slide into a possible slot-CB nickel position if he were to be on the field with the three aforementioned linebackers. However, it wouldn’t be a huge concern based on his ability to play multiple positions. The biggest concern for the Colts would be the act of drafting Simmons itself.
The Colts currently hold the 13th pick, and with Simmons projected to be at least a top-10 pick and possibly a top-5 pick, the Colts would need to do a good amount of work to be able to trade up into the top five. If the Colts were willing to trade up to 10 spots ahead, questions might be raised if Simmons would be the best player available in that spot.
In the scenario that The Colts trade up to the third pick with the Detroit Lions (who are expected to draft a cornerback with their first selection), it opens the door for players like Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert to be available, players who previously wouldn’t have been an option for the Colts at 13. Therefore it’d come into question whether or not Simmons would still be the best player at three. If the Colts were to be 100% set on Simmons, the safest option would be that third pick, as Detroit hasn’t been in speculation for any specific player. In that event, a trade scenario would likely go something like this:
This trade scenario would likely be one that the Colts would be in favor of, especially if the team is confident in making the playoffs next season. This would give the 2021 pick less value as it slips towards the back end of the round. It is certainly a risk giving up the 2021 pick in the event that the Colts cannot return to the playoffs next season, but drafting a player like Simmons would be an incredible addition to boost those chances.
Simmons is one of the best young defensive prospects that have come into the NFL over the last few years; if the Colts were to trade up and select him, they would be receiving a potential All-Pro talent on the back end of the defense and a key cog in the team’s future Super Bowl runs.