Isaiah Simmons selected No. 8 in NFL Draft by Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals have selected Clemson hybrid defender Isaiah Simmons with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and now it’s a matter of how they’ll use the versatile playmaker.
Does he join a group of inside linebackers that includes Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell, the latter of whom signed a one-year deal with Arizona this offseason?
Or does Simmons slide to safety, where he can team with two-time Pro Bowler Budda Baker and second-year pro Jalen Thompson? Does Simmons do both?
He doesn’t fit any positional archetype at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds.
He’s got edge-rushing explosiveness and size with cover skills of a defensive back. He didn’t slot into one role in college, playing over 100 snaps at each of five positions, per Pro Football Focus.
“He’s a safety. He flips his hips, he runs with these guys, he turns,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf. “You’ve got to cover these tight ends like (the Chiefs’ Travis) Kelce and these elite tight ends like (the 49ers’ George) Kittle. The Ravens live and die with Mark Andrews … their whole offense revolves around him.
“These are wide receivers in a tight end frame. I think Isaiah Simmons’ role will be that: neutralize the go-to tight end, H-back, whatever you want to call them. He can get after the quarterback as well.”
Keim surely hasn’t been afraid to go against the general draft trends or draft positionless players with high draft picks.
Kyler Murray was a quarterback shorter than 5-foot-11 and went first overall to the Cardinals last year. In 2014, Arizona drafted Washington State safety Deone Bucannon and converted him into a versatile inside linebacker that, to some degree, also changed the way NFL teams viewed the position.
A year before that, during Keim’s first year on the job, the GM drafted cornerback-slash-safety Tyrann Mathieu in the third round and watched over the next few years as he developed into one of the league’s premier slot corners.