Isaiah Simmons started his career at Clemson as a safety, though he never actually played the position, as his first season playing as a redshirt sophomore, he was deployed in the hybrid DB/LB role.
At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds with 4.40 speed and long arms, Simmons is one of the freakiest athletes in college football.
Despite being considered a safety/linebacker hybrid, Simmons primarily lined up in the slot covering receivers man-to-man when he was at defensive back, so I think it would be more accurate to consider him a nickel/linebacker hybrid.
Simmons’ man-to-man skills are as good as it gets, and not just for a linebacker, but really for a corner as well.
He mirrors receivers well and despite his large stature, he has flexible hips coupled with tremendous closing speed.
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While Simmons can look mechanical at times in zone, he will instantly be one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL even in that regard.
Simmons has immense length which not only allows him to bat down balls in coverage and disrupt passing lanes even if he is a step behind or let the receiver get to his inside, but also to bring down ball carriers from distances others cannot while in pursuit.
That goes into the next thing Simmons excels at which is his play in space. Simmons is an excellent open-field tackler, consistently using textbook form and wrapping up.
Pretty much no runner gets around him in space as he can chase guys down from the opposite side of the field, as well as corral guys in short spaces with his ability to stop and go due to his short-area quickness.
An underrated part of Simmons’s game is his ability to rush the passer off the edge. He wasn’t tasked with doing so often, but when he did he looked like a refined speed rusher with his blend of hand usage and bend to get around tackles.
The lone area of concern is how well will he be able to take on blockers and is he strong enough at the point of attack. There weren’t many plays where he had too since he is great at avoiding blockers on top of the fact he played so many snaps in the nickel and at safety.
That isn’t much of a big deal as he will likely play in a backside, roamer type role in the NFL, but we have seen other versatile players in Simmons mold who were never utilized right and pigeonholed into a role where they couldn’t show their diverse skill set.
This should be the Raiders’ dream pick. In fact, if the Raiders magically held the No. 3 pick and Chase Young was gone, I’d be totally okay with Simmons being selected even if it is considered too early.
You may think that would be the same thing Mayock did last year with fellow Clemson alumn Clelin Ferrell, but I think you could argue Simmons is the third-best player in the entire draft — definitely top-five in my view.
A true junior who has started all three years at linebacker for the Oklahoma Sooners, Kenneth Murray is considered by most to be the second-best linebacker in the 2020 NFL Draft.
That explosion is evidenced by his 16.0 tackles for a loss on the season. Murray mainly manned the middle at Oklahoma but also lined up on the edge at times.
Like most of the linebackers on this list, he is more of a clean-up run-and-chase backer but he does have more ability playing north and south than the other two “big-name” linebackers covered.
In coverage, Murray looks fluid and shows flexibility in his hips, and would instantly be the best coverage backer on the team.
At the point of attack, Murray tends to struggle to fight off of blocks, and while his explosion and acceleration can get him into the backfield, he will get swallowed up if engaged in the middle of traffic.
The biggest problems in Murray’s game would be over committing on his pursuit angles as well as not being consistently disciplined in his assignments.
Too often he will not be patient and let the play develop and instead bite on the play fake or shoot to the outside or inside before he knows where the ball is going.
Despite his problems, Murray is a talented prospect that would be a nice consolation prize if Simmons does not fall to the Raiders pick.
Troy Dye plays inside linebacker for the Oregon Ducks and has the exact skill set the Raiders currently lack at the linebacker position.
Dye has sideline-to-sideline speed, giving him the ability to cover running backs and receivers and shines in zone coverage which is most of what the Las Vegas Raiders defense runs.
Dye also displays read-and-react ability and can diagnose the run well. He has a high motor, and you will always see him around the ball. What Dye lacks is strength. Often Dye will get manhandled by a lineman and even some tight ends.
He is not a great block shedder and gets eaten up in traffic. A lot of that has to do with him not using his length, despite the fact that he is long. He also is not great at the point of attack and is the type of linebacker who needs someone else taking on the block in front of him.
Basically he is the prototypical backside linebacker.
Dye may not be a player that pops out as much as guys like Isaiah Simmons or Kenneth Murray, but the things he lacks are skills the Raiders already have at the linebacker position.
And with his skill set that translates to being a weakside linebacker at the next level, those are not things he will need to be great at either.
If paired with an old school type thumper (which the Raiders have in Vontaze Burfict if retained) Dye would be the perfect fit on the team, especially if he lasts until the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.