Lions' Bob Quinn: Clemson's versatile Isaiah Simmons a 'playmaker'
Indianapolis — Last offseason, after finishing 31st in turnovers during the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions went on the hunt for defensive playmakers.
They found one, in fumble-forcing cornerback Justin Coleman, but that wasn't enough, as the team still ranked in the bottom 10 in takeaways last season.
Presumably, the Lions remain in the market for players who can deliver those game-altering plays. Meeting with the media at the NFL's scouting combine on Tuesday, Lions general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia were slow to offer much specific insight into the current crop of draftable prospects, but when asked about the challenges of evaluating a hybrid player like Clemson's Isaiah SImmons, Quinn gushed about the talent.
“Maybe (those evaluations) a little bit harder," Quinn said. "You have a little bit more conversation about like, 'All right, we draft this guy, how are we going to use him?' But that guy’s a playmaker. He can do a variety of things at a very, very high level. He, obviously a couple years ago, when he wasn’t even eligible, coming down the stretch, the last month of the college season, he was probably one of the most dominant guys on that team and they had a bunch of guys that got drafted last year.
"He’s great," Quinn continued. "He can cover tight ends, he can play the run, he can play sideline to sideline. He’s a very good blitzer. He’s not a big body, inside linebacker, kind of take on blocks, but his athleticism, his range, his ability just to make plays in both the run and pass game was really intriguing. He’s a high-level prospect."
As a senior, Simmons improved his production across the board. He finished the 2019 season with personal bests in tackles (107), tackles for loss (16), sacks (eight), interceptions (three) and pass breakups (10).
Simmons likely isn't in play if the Lions hold steady with the No. 3 draft pick, where cornerback Jeff Okudah or defensive tackle Derrick Brown arguably provide better value, but the safety-linebacker could merit stronger consideration if the team were to trade back a few spots.
In Detroit, Simmons versatility would play well in Patricia's defense. Simmons could defend tight ends in man-to-man coverage, freeing up safety Tracy Walker to play the free safety role the Lions originally envisioned when drafting him. And against the run, Simmons could attack from the perimeter of the box in the second level, similar to the way Tavon Wilson has operated in support the past few years.
Plus, Simmons would add a dynamic pass-rush element as a blitzer, making for an interesting pairing with Jarrad Davis, an equally adept situational pass-rusher.