Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons wows scouts at NFL Combine

2020 NFL draft Combine
2020 NFL Combine 6

Derrick Brown’s and A.J. Epenesa’s performances at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine will likely cause teams to go over their game tape again – and not necessarily for good reasons.

As for Isaiah Simmons? He’s exactly who scouts thought he was: incredibly athletic with ideal measurements for just about any position along the defense.

Simmons was among the players who stood out Saturday as defensive linemen and linebackers went through drills, testing and ran the 40.

The on-field workouts wrapped up today (Sunday) with the defensive backs.

Simmons (6-foot-4, 238 pounds) declined the agility drills but ]had already made his mark, as the Clemson junior ran a 4.39 second 40-yard dash, best among linebackers. Simmons also had a 39-inch vertical and a 11-foot broad jump, which were some of the best numbers a player over 230 pounds has put up at the Combine in nearly 20 years.

The one question that wasn’t answered about Simmons? What position he will play – and that’s OK. Simmons worked out with the linebackers on Saturday.

“I know years ago it wasn’t good to be a positionless guy,” Simmons said earlier this week, via ESPN. “But now it’s become a benefit for me just because of all the versatility I’ll be able to do, play linebacker, play safety, whatever it is, I feel like it just helps me out.”

Simmons is currently the No. 4 player in the latest Fanspeak-Steve big board.

The player ranked directly above Simmons is Brown, the defensive tackle out of Auburn.

Brown didn’t have a bad combine, as some media outlets say he’s still very much in the top-5 conversation. But it certainly wasn’t the performance Brown was hoping for, as the 6-foot-5, 326 pound senior ran a 5.16 40 – which is a “good not great” time.

But it was Brown’s 3-cone drill that sent social media abuzz. His time of 8.1 was one of the slowest times ever for an interior defensive lineman. Brown also ran a 4.79 second short shuttle.

Again, good but not great.

Erik Schlitt of LionsWire talked about how Saturday’s performance might help – or hurt – Brown’s draft stock.

“(The 3-cone time) … (is) a red flag for sure, but at the end of the day, the 3-cone is a drill that won’t matter much — if at all — for Brown’s position,” Schlitt writes.

During the season, there was talk about moving Epenesa over to tackle, where he would play the 3-tech position. Now, after checking in at 6-5, 275 pounds, and after a so-so performance in some of the drills, a move inside may be inevitable.

Epenesa ran a 5.04 40 and had a 32.5 inch vertical and a 9-foot, 9-inch broad jump. All are average numbers. Top 20 player in the draft numbers? Maybe, maybe not.

From Chad Reuter of The NFL Nework:

“Scouts questioned his athleticism coming into the combine, and his performance on Saturday likely won’t do anything to assuage their suspicions,” Reuter writes, adding that Epenesa’s on-field work “showed a lack of suddenness and bend off the edge.”

“It’s clear to me that his future is as a five-technique at the next level, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he added some weight to play that spot. … NFL teams should give Epenesa credit for working out instead of choosing to wait until his pro day — but there’s not a lot of 275-pound defensive linemen with 5.0 40s going in the first round these days.”

Other notable news from Saturday’s workouts:

  • Oklahoma DL Neville Gallimore (6-2, 304) and TCU DL Ross Blacklock (6-3, 290) aren’t the biggest linemen at the Combine, but both looked good during drills and in testing. Gallimore ran a 4.79 40 – extremely fast for a player that heavy – and showed good flexibility and power. Blacklock ran a 4.9 40 and had a 29-inch vertical jump.
  • Another defensive lineman, Ohio State’s DaVon Hamilton (6-4, 320), may have solidified his standing as the top nose tackle in the draft. He ran a 5.14 40, had 33 reps in the bench press and had a vertical jump of 29.5 inches. “He should be taking another step up draft boards thanks to his combine performance,” writes NFL Network’s Reuter.
  • Besides Simmons, two other linebackers had standout performances on Saturday: Mississippi State’s Willie Gay (6-1, 243) and Ohio State’s Malik Harrison (6-3, 247). Gay needed a big Combine performance after he was suspended for all but five games this past season, and he didn’t disappoint, running a 4.46 40, which was second to Simmons among linebackers. His 39.5 vertical was second-best and his 11-4 broad jump was tops for his position. Harrison, meanwhile, ran a respectable 4.66 40, and his 3-cone drill time of 6.83 was tops among LBs.


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