X

Trenton Simpson NFL Draft 2023: Scouting Report for Clemson LB

BR NFL Scouting DepartmentContributor I

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 15: Clemson Tigers linebacker Trenton Simpson (22) in pass defense during the Clemson Tigers game against the Florida State Seminoles on October 15, 2022, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL. (Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

HEIGHT: 6'3"

WEIGHT: 240

HAND: TBD

ARM: TBD

WINGSPAN: TBD


40-YARD DASH: TBD

3-CONE: TBD

SHUTTLE: TBD

VERTICAL: TBD

BROAD: TBD


POSITIVES

– Impressive athlete with good change of direction and fluid hips. Can mirror and match against running backs and tight ends in man coverage.

– Uses his hands well to help stay in phase when playing man coverage or get reroutes when playing underneath in zone coverage.

– Has the acceleration to click and close quickly.

– Good ball skills for a linebacker. Plays the hands from a trail position and has decent hand-eye coordination to get pass breakups when facing the quarterback.

– Can use his quickness to make offensive linemen miss at the second level.

– Physical at the point of attack when taking on run blocks and strong enough to get off blocks from tight ends and wide receivers.

– Speed helps him make plays in pursuit. Has the athletic ability to break down and make tackles in space.

– Has the agility and acceleration to be an effective looper in line games as a pass-rusher.


NEGATIVES

– Needs to work for more depth when spot-dropping in zone coverage to tighten the windows between the second and third levels of the defense, especially in Cover 3.

– Struggles to read the quarterback's eyes and anticipate throws in zone coverage.

– Not strong enough against the run to consistently get extension against offensive linemen. Will get pushed around a bit if he can't win at the point of attack.

– Not a violent block-shedder when working to get off blocks. Linemen with good grip strength can latch onto him.

– Has a habit of taking too shallow of an angle versus outside runs.

– High pad level. Likes to lunge and leave his feet when tackling, which will lead to misses.

– No pass-rush moves as a blitzer.


NOTES

– DOB: June 14, 2001

– Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

– No. 29 on Bruce Feldman's list of top athletes entering this season: 6 percent body fat, benches 375 lbs, power-cleans 355 lbs, 35" vertical jump, 10'2" broad jump, high 4.3s in 40-yard dash (per Clemson's coaches)

– A 5-star recruit in the 2020 class, No. 26 overall, No. 1 OLB, per 247Sports composite rankings

– 27 career starts

– Injuries: 2022 (Ankle, missed one game, aggravated it in ACC Championship Game, will miss bowl game)

– 2022 Honors: Third-team All-ACC, Butkus Award semifinalist, Lott IMPACT Trophy semifinalist

– 2021 Honors: Second-team All-ACC (PFF), All-ACC Academic team


OVERALL

Trenton Simpson put on about 10 pounds this offseason, per his school bio, but the extra weight didn't appear to affect his athleticism much (if at all). That's part of the reason why he ended up on Bruce Feldman's "Freaks" list and is one of the top linebackers in this year's draft class.

Simpson has always played with his hair on fire and has been physical at the point of attack against the run. Wide receivers and tight ends working to the second level had trouble blocking him, and the added strength helped him hold his ground and get some extension versus offensive linemen.

However, Simpson still has room for growth in those areas, as bigger and more physical linemen will still be able to push him around a bit in the NFL. He also struggles to get off blocks against the big guys.

Simpson's athleticism shines through when he plays man coverage. He's fluid and sinks his hips well to cover running backs and tight ends on shorter routes, and he has the speed to carry if they go deep.

That speed also comes in handy when he converges on the ball in zone coverage. However, he does struggle to find his landmark while spot-dropping, and he isn't great at reading the quarterback's eyes to anticipate throws, which will leave throwing windows open.

Schematically, Simpson would be best as a "Will" linebacker for a team that uses a lot of even fronts and man coverage. Down the line, he can probably mix in at "Sam," too, but he'll need to become more consistent with his angles on the front side of outside runs before he can make a full-time switch to that position. He also isn't a terrible fit in a zone scheme, but that will take some time and development, and he looks more comfortable in man.

Simpson is what a lot of teams are looking for in a modern-day linebacker. He could easily be a late Day 1 pick and the first linebacker off the board.


GRADE: 7.7 (Potential Impact Player/Round 2)

OVERALL RANK: 34

POSITION RANK: LB2

PRO COMPARISON: Rashaan Evans


Written by B/R NFL Draft Scout Matt Holder