Isaiah Simmons could end up haunting the Giants in so many ways.
Though Clemson’s ultra-versatile linebacker/safety would have provided a much-needed defensive game-changer for the Giants, general manager Dave Gettleman instead opted to select Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth-overall pick in Thursday’s 2020 NFL Draft, allowing Simmons to slide to the Cardinals with the eighth pick.
While leading the reigning national champions to a 29-game win streak and another title game appearance last season, Simmons — the ACC Defensive Player of the Year — was one of just four players in the nation to play more than 100 snaps at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback and safety.
“You only get 53 [players] on a roster,” Simmons recently told the NFL Network. “I feel like if you draft me, you get 56.”
Had the Giants taken a linebacker in the first round for the first time since building the foundation of a championship defense with Lawrence Taylor (1981) and Carl Banks (1984), Simmons — who played wide receiver in high school — would have provided a 6-foot-4, 238-pound sideline-to-sideline difference-maker, strong enough to cover the most athletic tight ends and athletic enough to chase down the quickest quarterbacks.
Last season at Clemson, Simmons received the Butkus Award — given to the nation’s top linebacker — while recording 67 tackles, seven sacks, three interceptions, eight passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
“This is one of the most unique players I’ve ever evaluated,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. “There’s very little this guy can’t do. … You don’t realize how big he is until you see him in person, and then you see how fast he covers ground. He’s essentially what you call an eraser. He’s a guy that can play in the middle of the field and he just erases things.”
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Just one year after snagging the most dynamic offensive talent in dual-threat Kyler Murray, the Cardinals found a potential defensive cornerstone fall into their lap.
“Isaiah Simmons is as advertised,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “He dispels the myth that there’s no unicorn. He is one. I have not had a guy like him. I’ve had guys who could do aspects of his game, but not all of them, not with the size and speed that he has.”
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