LSU and Clemson put on one of the most star-studded, entertaining titles games in recent memory on Monday night. For many of those stars, it was their last night donning their collegiate duds as they will be moving on from suiting up on Saturdays to Sundays this fall.
There is no doubt that the eyes of every NFL front office were keenly focused on the on-field talent. Here are some prospects that might find themselves in Pewter and Red come the first Sunday of September.
Isaiah Simmons, OLB/ILB/DB
While many of the biggest moments came on the offensive side of the ball, Isaiah Simmons was surely the most talked-about defensive prospect of the night. Whether he was blazing off of the edge, plugging the A-gap, or lining up outside manning-up tight ends, Simmons made his presence felt on seemingly every snap.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is known for his creative utilization of versatile players. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile prospect than 2019’s ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
#Clemson LB/S Isaiah Simmons final position snap counter against LSU (per @PFF_College):
• ILB: 27
• OLB: 21
• D-Line: 9
• Strong Safety: 8
• Slot CB: 7
• Free Safety: 6
• Outside CB: 6
6 tackles, 2 QB hurries, 2 pass breakups, and 1 sack.
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) January 14, 2020
Bowles and the rest of Tampa Bay’s defensive coaching staff are salivating at the idea of having a chess piece like Simmons at their disposal.
However, last night’s performance, along with what is sure to be an electric showing at the NFL combine next month, likely pushed the Kansas native out of the Buccaneers’ reach at 14th overall. If by some miracle he is still on the board, general manager Jason Licht would have a tough time not pulling the trigger.
Grant Delpit, S
Entering the season, Grant Delpit was seen as a potential top-10 if not top-five selection. While his 2019 campaign didn’t quite live up to such lofty expectations, he is still a versatile playmaker with outstanding ball skills and considerable range.
Like Simmons, Delpit possesses a skill set that allows him to handle a wide range of assignments. He’s at his best when working downhill but can more than hold his own in deep-half and even single-high situations if need be.
The Buccaneers’ defense made remarkable strides from where they were a year ago, but one thing they still appear to be missing is a ballhawk that can cover serious ground, contest catches, and make plays on the ball.
There’s a fair chance Delpit is still on the board when the Bucs are on the clock and he is almost sure to be in serious consideration.
K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE
Much like Simmons, K’Lavon Chaisson is a player that seems to keep pushing his way up draft boards week after week. He’s still a bit raw from a technical aspect, but his athleticism is enticing. He missed almost the entire 2018 season after tearing his ACL in the season opener, but you wouldn’t know by watching him last night.
Chaisson gets off the ball like a missile and can bend as well as anyone in the class. He’s developed into a more than adequate run defender too. It may take a season or two for his technique to catch up with his physical traits, but if they do, he could be special.
While Licht will do everything he can to retain Shaq Barrett, you can never have enough pass rushers in today’s NFL. If he’s still on the board at 14, expect the Bucs to take a long, hard look.
Travis Etienne, RB
Bruce Arians has made it abundantly clear he’d like more splash plays out of the running game. Whether it was Peyton Barber or Ronald Jones II, the Bucs simply didn’t manage to spring nearly enough runs beyond the second level in Arians’s first season at the helm.
Etienne’s acceleration and long speed are special. He’s incredibly agile, makes intuitive reads, cuts like a straight razor, and possesses more power than is typical of a back of his archetype. He’s still raw in the passing game and will have to develop more trust in his hands, but shows ample potential there, too.
While the offensive line appears to be the bigger need, someone like Etienne may prove too tempting to pass up.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
Etienne may well be a luxury pick Tampa cannot afford considering the numerous holes they will be looking to fill. If that turns out to be the case, a more modest investment could be made on Day 2 with Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
If you’ve watched LSU this season, Edwards-Helaire has almost certainly caught your eye with his crafty route-running and remarkable contact balance. He plays with a low center of gravity, impressive quickness, and is a nightmare to corral in the open field.
It’s well-known that Arians likes to get his running backs heavily involved in the passing game both as pass protectors and receivers. It appeared neither Jones nor Barber performed well enough in both areas to secure the third-down role which resulted in Dare Ogunbowale seeing 31.72 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
It’s very likely Arians will be looking to upgrade his backfield’s production across the board but especially in the passing game. If they decided to go the specialist route, Edwards-Helaire would be a fantastic fit.