In 2013, the St. Louis Rams drafted do-everything offensive weapon Tavon Austin eighth overall and had no plan for how to use him. There was little creativity. They used him like a slot receiver, and Austin fell far short of expectations.
Simmons was one of the most versatile defenders, along with Derwin James, among recent college football stars. One of the reasons Simmons was one of the top prospects in this draft was he could fit just about anywhere. He played safety, cornerback, inside and outside linebacker with the Tigers. With his playmaking ability, he could make offenses react to him instead of the other way around.
And the Cardinals insist Simmons will play just one position for them.
Isaiah Simmons will play linebacker
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Simmons would be a linebacker, and coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed that plan Monday.
The Cardinals have left the door open for Simmons moving around some, but that doesn’t sound like the primary plan.
“Our thought process, is if he is really able to focus on one position, having the flexibility to still move around, but really focus on one, what does that look like?” Kingsbury said, according to ESPN. “And the sky can really be the limit.
“That’s why we were so excited about him. The athleticism is through the roof. But his ability to play different positions and not really have any chance to focus on one, we just think the sky can be the limit for what he could be if we really lock him into one position the majority of the time.”
Simmons could thrive at one position but it seems like that’s taking away what made Simmons such a coveted prospect in the first place.
Simmons is a special playmaker
The Cardinals might be playing coy. They could have a much more creative plan for Simmons than they’re letting on. There’s no reason to publicly reveal those details.
Maybe there’s some concern about having him learn too much as a rookie, though James was asked to do it all his rookie year with the Los Angeles Chargers and was named first-team All-Pro.
The Cardinals passed on some elite offensive tackles in the draft to take Simmons, passing a much more pressing need. It made sense at the time because Simmons was such an unusual prospect. You don’t pass on a transcendent playmaker like Simmons too often.
Maybe we’ll see Simmons be that player. Perhaps he’ll play position-less football his second year on, become a Darius Leonard-level impact player as an off-the-ball linebacker or maybe the Cardinals are underselling how much Simmons will do. But it seems weird to take a unicorn with limitless skills as a defensive playmaker and keep him in one spot.
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