Photo by Kelly Donoho/Mississippi State Athletics
It’s a historic crop of Mississippi guys in the NFL Draft. Our NFL insider ‘Iso’ Joe Simeone takes on the challenge of predicting where the best players will land. Part six: Mississippi State DT Jeffery Simmons.
By Joe Simeone
Where Will They Land: Jeffery Simmons
Last but far from least, Mississippi State star defensive linemen Jeffery Simmons. Of all the talent that I have covered in this series, Simmons might be the best of them of all. He also may be the hardest to grade because of two major ‘red-flag’ type questions. Simmons is a top-five defensive talent in this draft, ranking alongside guys like Ohio State superstar Nick Bosa and Alabama savant Quinnen Williams. The 6’4, 301 lb. lineman has incredible explosiveness, power, and an array of good pass rush moves already. It’s not just the technical skills: Simmons has the college production to back it up. He racked up 165 total tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 7 pass deflections in three seasons in Starkville. He was, by all means, a superstar for Mississippi State.
But Simmons does have issues which will cause him to fall out of the top five of the draft. This off-season, Simmons tore his ACL in training and also suffered a slight meniscus tear. The injury kept him out of workouts at the NFL Combine and the MSU pro day, but more importantly, could make him a de facto redshirt in his first year in the NFL. The knee and ACL alone would have caused him to slide, but on top of the injuries, there are character questions with Simmons. The concerns come from a simple assault charge from 2016 where Simmons was seen on video beating a woman in an attempt to break up a fight between his sister and an adult woman. While he and those around him have stressed the video is not representative of the person he is, it is something that necessitates deep exploration, and the team that drafts him will need to be prepared to talk about. Despite the question marks, Simmons could still find himself off the board in Round One. Let’s take a look.
.@HailStateFB @GrindSimmons94 is the most physically dominant player in this draft. 38 straight games w/o injury but tears his ACL in off season training. Please, go back to the tape tape tape. Is he the next Fletcher Cox? Who makes the investment & how high?? #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/efCP6nwY1I
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) April 9, 2019
No. 21 Seattle Seahawks
The Legion no more. The Seahawks were once known for their defensive dominance, famously coined the ‘Legion of Boom.’ But the legion has since disbanded and there have been a lot of changes to the core makeup of the team. Head coach Pete Carrol has done a great job at turning the page and still keeping his team in playoff contention. The Seahawks locked up quarterback Russell Wilson with a massive contract, but put themselves in a bind to keep some of their defensive talent. Seattle franchise-tagged and then traded young defensive end Frank Clark to the Chiefs. Without their top pass rusher, the Seahawks will be looking to find a replacement this draft. Simmons is a generational talent and if anyone is going to get the most out of his abilities, it is likely Pete Carrol.
No. 24 Oakland Raiders
Picks on picks on picks. Oakland stockpiled an insane amount of ammunition for this draft with three first round picks. The team needs help in just about every way. After handing Jon Gruden the keys to the kingdom, the team promptly traded away their two best players in Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Then they went 4-12. While the Oakland front office is putting all their faith in Gruden, they have to be feeling some pressure from the fans who don’t want to suffer through another rebuild. Gruden needs to turn the Raider ship around, and relatively fast. The good news: having three first round picks is a great place to start. It is hard to tell who the Raiders will go after with each pick, but Simmons at No.24 is an absolute steal for Gruden and Co. He is a pass-rushing interior defensive lineman that will help them improve on their 13 total sacks a season ago, and make a nice addition next to last year’s fifth-round pick Maurice Hurst. No matter who the Raiders take with their first pick, Simmons here feels like a no-brainer. The Raiders simply cannot afford to pass up on his talent level.
No. 26 Indianapolis Colts
A team reborn. The Colts are getting back to basics in their rebuild, focusing on the trenches on both sides as priority one. Colts general manager Chris Ballard said he intended to focus on the offensive line last year and did so, with two lineman picks (No.6 Quenton Nelson and No.37 Braden Smith) in the first forty selections. Indy now boasts one of the best young offensive lines in the league. This year Ballard has similarly made it clear the team needs a dominant pass rusher. I wouldn’t be surprised if that effort starts with Simmons. The Colts already have good rotational pieces on the defensive line, but adding Simmons would force teams to game-plan around one player. He would be an impact player and a tone-setter in Indianapolis. The Colts and Simmons already seem to have a connection through multiple interviews and reports the brass loves the Noxubee native. If Ballard himself has fallen in love with Simmons, watch for the Colts to be a team trying to trade up and grab him.
No. 28 Los Angeles Chargers
Putting it all together. The Los Angeles Chargers are easily the most underrated team in the league. When you look at their roster it is hard to find a flaw or even huge need that the team has. Their offense is about as good as they come with top wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and a good offensive line around still-has-it quarterback Phillip Rivers. But if there is an area to be improved it is the middle of that defensive line. With Joey Bosa on the edge, the Chargers already have one dominant pass rusher. Simmons would turn this defensive line into a real problem. With Rivers’ window closing, the Chargers need that final push right now. They are another potential team I could see trading up to target Simmons and complete their defense. It feels unrealistic for Simmons to fall to No.28, but crazier things have happened.
The Mississippi State star is a top-five guy but due to the questions, one lucky team is going to get a generational talent later in the first round. By all accounts, Simmons has been a leader and a great teammate during his collegiate career. I think many teams are going to take this into account and he will be gone by the last picks of the first day. Personally, as the resident Colts fan, I hope he falls to No.26 on Thursday, but I can’t argue with the team that would take him before that. The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting times of the year. There’s no better feeling than seeing your team fill a need with someone you think can be a star. A new player to get hyped about, that brings new hopes and dreams for the season to come. I hope that this draft series has you excited, and a little more in tune, to see where some of our favorite Mississippi players end up.
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