Isaiah Simmons was a top prospect in the NFL draft for good reason, as he was an excellent player in college at Clemson. So, when the Arizona Cardinals selected him with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, no one could really blame them. However, the team already had linebacker Jordan Hicks, who racked up 150 total tackles in 2019. The Cardinals also signed De’Vondre Campbell this offseason, who had 129 total tackles for the Atlanta Falcons last season. This means that they didn’t drastically need a player like Simmons.
Now, as the 2020 season is underway, the Cardinals have to be wondering if they made the wrong choice in the 2020 NFL draft.
Isaiah Simmons was a star at Clemson in college
Isaiah Simmons played safety for Clemson in 2017, and he had a good amount of success at that position. He had 49 total tackles and one forced fumble, according to Clemson’s site. However, he then transitioned to linebacker in 2018 and became a star in the next two seasons.
In 2018, Simmons had a team-high 97 total tackles to go with seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, and one interception. He was absolutely dominant for the Tigers that year, and Clemson was a really good team too. They ultimately won the national championship that year.
During the 2019 season, though, Simmons was arguably the best linebacker in the nation. He ended up winning the Butkus Award that year for being the nation’s top linebacker as he had 107 total tackles, eight sacks, 10 pass breakups, and three interceptions. His play helped him become an unanimous All-American, and he ultimately helped lead Clemson back to the national championship game.
Simmons clearly proved that he was one of the country’s top defensive players during his time at Clemson. This led to him becoming a top prospect in the draft, and going to the Cardinals at No. 8 overall.
He hasn’t played well for the Arizona Cardinals so far
Through three weeks of the NFL season so far, Simmons has not played very well. He only has five total tackles, and only two in the last two games combined.
Additionally, according to NFL reporter Dov Kleiman, Simmons has been targeted four times in the passing game through those three games. He has ultimately allowed four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
However, the biggest issue so far isn’t the way Simmons has been playing. He is a rookie, and rookies go through struggles at the beginning of their NFL careers. The issue is how much the team is playing him. According to Sports Illustrated, Simmons has only played 35 snaps through his first three NFL games.
The Cardinals made the wrong choice for them and Simmons
It is clear by how much Simmons is getting to see the field that the Cardinals potentially made the wrong choice in the draft. No, he hasn’t played great, especially when defending the pass, but how is he supposed to improve if he doesn’t play?
One has to wonder what his stats would look like if another team had drafted him. LA Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray also went in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. He has played 171 snaps and has 23 total tackles so far this season. Additionally, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen, who also went in the first round in the 2020 draft, has played 143 snaps and has 21 total tackles this year.
You can assume that Simmons’ number of tackles would be around Murray’s and Queen’s if he were to see the field more. The reps are, instead, going to Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell, though.
The Arizona Cardinals have played well so far this year as they are 2-1 and have a really talented team. However, they have to be wondering if they made the wrong selection in the 2020 NFL draft and if they should have tried to fill another need on their roster instead.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference