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2020 NFL Draft: Isaiah Simmons is a prospect whose position doesn't matter

IsaiahSimmons-Cropped
Isaiah Simmons is congratulated by his Clemson team-mates after an interception

"Everybody always asks me what position I play. That's the common question for me. I don't put myself to a position because I literally do everything."

In speaking on his own versatility in a recent Instagram Live interview with ESPN, Isaiah Simmons may have come across as arrogant to some.

However, anybody who has paid close attention to the Clemson defender's road to the 2020 NFL Draft knows his confident appraisal of his skill set is accurate.

And he is set to enter a modern-day NFL in which disguise has never been more important.

The game and the way the rules are enforced in this era tilts the scales in the favour of the offense.

Still, with the athletes on the defensive side of the ball growing ever faster and stronger, the best offenses are those who excel at deception and can mitigate the physical strengths of those game-wrecking talents.

The competitors in Super Bowl LIV were evidence of that, with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers led by two of the brightest offensive minds in the game in Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan.

Such is Simmons' versatility, that the team lucky enough to land him in the draft will be giving their defense a weapon with which to turn the tables with some disguise of their own.

Isaiah Simmons celebrates during the National Championship Game

Multi-faceted talents are nothing new in the NFL.

The Chiefs' acquisition of Tyrann Mathieu, who can play any position in the secondary, was pivotal to Kansas City's first Super Bowl win in half a century.

Part of what has made Aaron Donald the premier player in the NFL is that he wins with his ferocious pass-rushing ability regardless of whether he is playing on the interior of the defensive line or on the edge.

Simmons, though, is a true position-less player the likes of which the league has not seen.

A tremendous physical specimen at 6ft 4in and 238lbs, Simmons ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in just 4.39 seconds. He posted a vertical jump of 39in.

That freakish athleticism allows Simmons to operate at every level of the defense.

Listed in the draft class as a linebacker, Simmons more than fits the bill of the modern-day player at that position who can guard running backs and tight ends and also pick up wide receivers on occasion.

What makes Simmons so special, however, is that Clemson also deployed him as the last line of defense at free safety, and he demonstrated the sideline-to-sideline range to consistently help over the top when cornerbacks were tested on downfield routes.

The Tigers also had the confidence to put Simmons on an island at corner, with his ability to disrupt at the catch point evidenced by his eight pass deflections and three interceptions in 2019.

Those numbers alone would be enough to merit first-round consideration.

Isaiah Simmons celebrates a sack

Simmons, though, can also throw a wrench in the plans of opposing offenses with his skills as a pass rusher. He is a nightmare to stop when he attacks downhill and had eight sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss last season.

So where do you put a player who can affect every facet of the game?

Putting him at cornerback, where he would be consistently faced with NFL receivers who have proved elite at creating separation may be too much of an ask and would not make best use of his skills in pursuit.

Beyond that, however, the simple answer is it does not matter.

With his gifts, Simmons has the potential to step in and immediately become one of the NFL's top linebackers. His athleticism and ball skills are enough for him to be considered a starting free safety and he would be more than comfortable operating closer to the line of scrimmage as a strong safety or as a pass rusher off the edge.

That opens up a world of possibilities for the defensive coordinator that ends up coaching him, as Simmons can blitz the quarterback or drop into coverage from almost every spot on the field.

Offensive gameplanners focus much of their preparation on devising ways to neutralise the likes of Donald, Khalil Mack and Von Miller and take them out of the game.

When they come to face the position-less Simmons, they may find it impossible to do that to him.

Edited by Omnisport
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