A pair of late wins down the stretch might have cost the Giants an opportunity at selecting Ohio State defensive end Chase Young — considered by many to be the top pass rusher available in the 2020 NFL Draft — but Monday night’s national championship game provided another example of the major consolation prize waiting for them.
With the No. 4 pick in the draft this spring, the Giants are expected to lose out on Young to their NFC East divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins, after beating them twice in 2019.
While the Redskins pick second, the Cincinnati Bengals are slated to take LSU quarterback and national champion Joe Burrow while the Detroit Lions could be looking to bolster their secondary at No. 3.
That leaves the Giants with their pick of the deep remaining class’ litter, ensuring they have an opportunity to take a gamechanger regardless of position.
For an organization that has prided themselves on defense, though, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons gives them the best opportunity to return to that immovable side.
Simmons is considered to be the most versatile defensive prospect in the draft. At 6-foot-4, he has the brute strength of a linebacker with the coverage abilities of a safety.
For new head coach Joe Judge’s defensive schemes that will offer a multitude of looks, being able to line up a player like Simmons in varying spots to confuse the offense seems like a perfect fit, especially in today’s NFL.
“The linebacker position has evolved unlike any other over the past decade,” noted analytics site Pro Football Focus wrote. “In 2009, defenses had five or more defensive backs in only 35.7-percent of plays. This season, that number is 56.0-percent, and it’s only climbing. What was once a position with three starting slots available has dwindled to two, and in some defenses, only to one.”
“Gone is any semblance of the old downhill run-thumper, as elite sideline-to-sideline range has become priority number one for linebackers.”
Simmons’ lateral speed makes him a can’t-miss prospect by these standards as a promising run defender while his plus pass coverage puts him at the top of the all-around defensive prospects list.
When it comes to the pass rush, Simmons has a quick first step to gain an immediate advantage over the protection. Couple that with a long wingspan that helps shed tacklers and the Giants could have a daunting presence coming off the edge.
In 15 games this season at Clemson, the 21-year-old posted 104 total tackles — 16.5 of them for a loss — with eight sacks, three interceptions, and eight passes defended.
While his Tigers came up short in the national championship game on Monday night, Simmons’ skillset was on full display, racking up seven tackles, two for a loss, with two passes defended, and a sack.
The Giants have been without a defensive gamechanger for years, now. Drafting Simmons would allow the organization to take a first step toward getting its identity back.
Now it’s up to general manager Dave Gettleman to see that, too.