The Las Vegas Raiders have the draft capital to move up to get Isaiah Simmons, but is that something Mike Mayock should actually consider?
Linebackers are increasingly becoming more valuable to defenses, and athletic ones are even more hard to come by. With the prospect of the Kansas City Chiefs being one of the NFL’s most dominant teams for years to come, should the Las Vegas Raiders think about trading up to take Isaiah Simmons?
It’s pretty clear that Simmons is the best linebacker in the draft this year and seeing as how the linebacker position was a sore thumb for the Raiders all year long, it would make sense for them to start Day 1 with a player at that position. The Clemson linebacker is incredibly athletic, and can even keep up with the modern-day tight ends of the league.
I recently wrote an article suggesting the Raiders should go after soon-to-be free agent linebacker from the Los Angeles Rams, Cory Littleton. However, this could be a cheaper option and one that wouldn’t require getting into a bidding war with other teams for a coverage linebacker. Most offenses are going pass-first and running as needed for play-action passes, save for teams like San Francisco and Baltimore.
Just like most rookies, he’s a roll of the dice. Remember when Matt Leinart was the next Peyton Manning? Or when Trent Richardson was supposed to be the next Barry Sanders? The point is there’s always a risk in trading multiple picks away for a single pick who may not work out.
Athletic ability isn’t always the best trait for a young player. College linebackers typically do one of two things: cover or run support. In the NFL you’re asked to do both simultaneously. Isaiah Simmons is a player who can do both at the same time with incredible skill.
Simmons has played a safety/linebacker hybrid for most of college career, which is exactly what defensive coordinators are looking for. In many cases, like Littleton, their skills are either run support or coverage skills but being as Simmons can do both. While I have a feeling he’ll excel more in a 3-4 system as a hybrid player, I do think he can help the Raiders defense become better.
The focus on defense should come from the lack of defensive stops last season. In the first game, the Raiders showed they could dominate when they wanted to, but that proved to be futile against the eventual Super Bowl champs in Kansas City. Los Angeles will eventually, probably this season, move on from Phillip Rivers and draft a younger quarterback since the 2020 NFL Draft is full of quarterback talent.
However ridiculous it sounds, trading up for Simmons could help get the Raiders over the hump of being a basic defense and be able to use a weapon to pass rush, defend the run, and play coverage.
Isaiah Simmons can do that. I don’t think the question is can they do it, the real question is if they should do it? I’m making the case they should.
Not only is he young, but he also talented, can be coached, and has played in an NFL style defense at Clemson. He can tackle, he can defend the run, and he can cover. What’s there not to like?
The issue is the cost. What will it cost to move up? From my interactions with Raiders fans, most of them have stated: “leave the draft picks alone!” I get that, but last season the front office hit home runs on most of the picks where they had the best rookie class of the year. Simmons will go in the first 10 picks and the Raiders pick at 12 so they’d only have to give up a first-round pick and add in a 3rd or a 4th to move up a few spaces. Is that cost worth a player like Simmons?
100% it is.