Keim: Isaiah Simmons can ‘change the complexity’ of the Cardinals’ defense

Apr 24, 2020, 11:28 AM | Updated: 1:08 pm
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)...
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

In the days leading up to the draft, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim started to think about scenarios in which the players they most wanted to draft might be able to last until his No. 8 selection.

“As you walk through and you look at some teams ahead of you that were either quarterback needy, or you listened to the rumors and looked at a potential run on offensive tackles, that’s when you realize that this guy could actually slip to you and may not have a home in the top seven picks,” Keim said on Doug & Wolf on Arizona’s Sports Friday.

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons was that guy for the Cardinals, Keim said.

“The bottom line is we had a lot of needs,” Keim said. “I felt like we took the best player on the board.”

Simmons has received player comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu and Derwin James. Listed at 6-foot-4, 239 pounds, he played more than 100 snaps at five different positions for Clemson.

“To be able to have a guy that’s a dynamic defender that can truly change the complexity of your defense, he’s a guy that you’ve just got to go ahead and take,” Keim said.

It will be up to the Cardinals coaching staff to best utilize him.

Keim said he envisions Simmons playing different linebacker positions and situationally moving to strong safety.

“When you take a player that has this type of flexibility, you want to make sure everybody’s on the same page … I think we have a great plan for him,” Keim said.

More simply than positional fit and advanced technique, though, Simmons excels in an area the Cardinals defense was far from excellent at last year.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we really struggled to tackle,” Keim said.

Simmons had 104 tackles for Clemson last season, 16.5 of which were tackles for loss. He also had eight sacks and three interceptions.

Even with his size, Simmons is very mobile and agile around the field, which Keim said he noticed in his scouting.

“The best thing about the guy for being such a long, gangly athlete, so to speak, is some of these guys that are that long, they have some stiffness or they have some limitations in space,” Keim said.

“The thing that I really like about his tape was you saw a guy with tremendous length be able to come to balance in space, be able to bend his knees, change direction and was a very, very good open field tackler.”

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