No Brainer Draft Choice for the Detroit Lions
The drawback with talent is that it's misleading. One might have expectations that may be difficult to hold up to. Or even worse, if not properly utilized, it increases the chances of not living up to its full potential. Take coaching for example. Matt Patricia is 9-22-1 in his short time in Detroit. Since obtaining the gig from Jim Caldwell, the Lions have been the doormat of the NFC North. To put it mildly, Tampa Bay, has more division crowns currently, since separation from the Central division, than Detroit has. While making the playoffs from time to time, success has been non-existent. Sure, individual accolades are great to achieve, but do outsiders take the team seriously just because an individual player is a stand out? Ask Barry Sanders, or Calvin Johnson. Better yet the recently departed Darius Slay; doubt it.
Rumblings and whispers of a coaching change are not the only thing in the air at Detroit. This team is in major need of an overhaul. Last years number 1 pick T.J. Hockenson had a somewhat subpar outing. He only had 32 receptions for 367 yards. His longest reception was 39 yards and he only scored 2 touchdowns. While he provides Detroit with another offensive weapon, the defense is still suffering, and now more than ever needs a face-lift and a shot of adrenaline since Slay's departure. The acquisition of Desmond Trufant from the Atlanta Falcons puts a band-aid over a wound that hasn't completely healed in their secondary. With 9 picks in this years upcoming NFL Draft (in which I'm sure we all will be watching), Detroit has a chance to change their fortunes, bring stability to the team, and bring some pride back into the Motor City. But like a first kiss, or a fresh start, it's all about timing. Detroit needs a defensive General, a standout that will be reckoned with in the NFC North for years to come. They need an edge rusher, a nickel defender, and a tackling machine. A shutdown corner would help, but a savvy linebacker who could play multiple positions could ease the pain on certain coverages, and give that said defense versatility on how to counter-attack high
octane offenses. If only there were a specimen available in this year's draft that could play various linebacker positions, drop back into coverage with a tight end or slot, and become an eagle eye for a defense that isn't known for their 3 and outs. Someone... experienced. If Matt Patricia plans on keeping his position is Detroit, he might want to take a look at the best player available at the #3 spot; Isaiah Simmons.
Detroit hasn't been ranked high defensively since 2014. To Lions fans this year is familiar, it was the last time Detroit was a playoff team. Although Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson had amazing stats, a blown call against the Cowboys, and defensive letdowns ended their season. Issues from the past have reared its ugly head constantly in Detroit; no running game, no offensive line, and no defense. If the organization as a whole, and its coaching staff truly want this culture of mediocrity to end, they must acquire game changers. Individuals who are elite at their position, and could shine if needed at another off of improvisation. This only describes 1 player in this years draft; Isaiah Simmons.
Originally from Kansas, Isaiah Simmons chose Clemson out of all of the colleges available. While at Clemson, Simmons was a part of 3 national title runs. As a sophomore and junior, he led his team in tackles. Defining his craft after the departure of Clelin Ferrell, he became the man to know on the vaunted Clemson defense. In 2018, he led his ACC Champion Tigers with 89 tackles; in 2019 he took his game a step further, with 109. Over his collegiate career he amassed 9.5 sacks. Only K'von Wallace had more passes defended than Simmons on the team respectively. Only Tanner Muse had more interceptions than Isaiah Simmons last year. Both Wallace and Muse are safeties. Simmons ability to cover the field and opponents makes him an unique diamond in this 2020 draft. No wonder he was the 2019 Dick Butkus award winner (awarded to the best linebacker in the country). Would it hurt to mention his speed and intangibles?
At 6'3, 238 pounds, Simmons is hard to miss. A humble young man who is soft-spoken off the field, he can become a nightmare for offensive coordinators with all of his attributes. At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.39 40. That is unreal for a linebacker his size. That's also a faster time than Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey; 2 potential NFC opponents the Lions would have to face for years to come. As a collective team Clemson accumulated 46 sacks. Simmons owned 7 of them; That's 15%. He is also an excellent open field tackler. Of his 104 tackles in 2019, 67 of them were solo. From his collegiate career, 3 of his 4 interceptions were obtained his Junior year. A plug and play weapon of this caliber doesn't come along often to where its possible to take advantage of his play-making abilities. No question that Detroit could use more help in the secondary, but the addition of Jamie Collins will help Simmons, if needed at all, for the maturation process of adjusting to the NFL. A second round inquiry into Darnay Holmes of UCLA wouldn't hurt the cellar-dwelling Lions considering that the division has multiple heavy hitters from the running back, tight end, and wide receiver positions.
Will it be an easy decision for Detroit? Of course not. Jeff Okudah is available and staring them in the face. But is he a game changer? Is he "unique"? Is he willing to get into the trenches and collide with the top running backs of the NFC? Could Okudah cover a tight end? Would he shy away from tackling Derek Henry? One person in this draft, that has no questions to be answered, is the standout linebacker who can play safety and nickel, from the University of Clemson. Detroit, you're on the clock. Don't sweat this decision for too long: Matt Patricia's job depends on it. Oh, and if you do, don't forget to wash your hands.