Isaiah Simmons (Sr.), 6-4, 230
Olathe North, Olathe, Kan.
Draft range: Round 1 (top 20)
Only two players have ever come out of Olathe North High School who went on to play in the NFL.
There’s about to be a third, and he may turn out to be the best of the bunch.
Clemson’s do-everything linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons recently declared for the 2020 NFL draft after his team lost in the national championship game to LSU. Simmons is expected to be a high first-round pick, with many draft analysts predicting he won’t last past the 10th overall pick.
And it’s not hard to see why NFL teams and scouts are so high on the 6-foot-4, 230 pound junior.
Whether he lines up at safety or linebacker at the next level, his athleticism is off the charts. A former track star, Simmons played both ways in high school, earning all-state honors on both offense (as a wide receiver) and defense (as a safety). And the player formerly dubbed “Slimmons” because of his slight build has filled out nicely since his Olathe days, checking in at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.
Following his stellar high school career, Simmons was thought to be headed to Arkansas.
“I love it here,” Simmons told then-Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, via ESPN. “If you have an offer, I’ll commit today.”
The problem, Simmons told ESPN, is that Arkansas didn’t know how to use him. With the Razorbacks out of the picture, Simmons looked at Nebraska and Michigan before Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables came calling. Venables wanted Simmons for his defense – he didn’t care at what position.
“I saw him in the hallway (at Olathe North),” Venables said in the ESPN feature, “and I just wanted his autograph. He was everything we hoped.”
Describe @isaiahsimmons25 in one word.
— #ClemsonNFL (@ClemsonPros) January 24, 2020
Sure enough, Simmons logged most of his minutes at safety and special teams after redshirting his first year at the school. Then, after the 2017 season, Simmons moved to the starting nickel/Sam linebacker spot. It was a good move for the junior. Simmons won the Butkus Award in 2019, which is given to the nation’s top linebacker, in just his second year at the position.
He finished the season with 102 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 8 sacks and 3 interceptions, giving him three-year totals of 236 tackles, 28 TFLs, 10 sacks and 4 INTs.
Now he’s seen as the prototypical three-down linebacker/safety hybrid, a player who can cover tight ends, stop the run, rush the passer or even play some in the slot.
“An off-ball linebacker in the top five? Believe it — Simmons is that good,” writes ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, who has Simmons slated to go to the New York Giants with the No. 4 overall pick in his latest mock draft.
“He is the perfect run-and-cover linebacker for today’s NFL, and he can do anything and play every down. … Simmons is the type of defender who makes everyone around him better.”
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