Isaiah Simmons lived up to the expectation bestowed upon him by draft prognosticators when the Arizona Cardinals selected him eighth overall in last month's draft.
The buzz surrounding Simmons' projection, though, has understandably quieted down. While many spent hours of airtime debating Simmons' best positional fit at the NFL level, the Cardinals are trusting their instincts. Simmons will play one position -- linebacker -- in the desert.
"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?" Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said, via ESPN. "And the sky can really be the limit.
It's not a decision to stubbornly jam an amorphous peg into a square hole, but a move made more out of modern logic than anything. Thanks to the shift to a pass-first approach and resulting sub-package defenses becoming the norm, football hasn't been a black-and-white positional game for about a decade now. Believe it or not, Simmons fits it better than an abbreviation can describe.
Sure, it might say LB next to his name, but this LB can also be an effective DB against weaponized TEs. In an era of lucrative mismatches created by offensive gurus, Simmons arrives as a foil and a potential model of the game's future.
"That's why we were so excited about him," Kingsbury continued. "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."
Most don't reach the NFL in the same fashion as Simmons. The track star played five different positions at Clemson, spending more of his time as a defensive back than a linebacker. That experience should help him against the premier route-runners he'll have to cover in the NFL, and he'll be able to rely on his size and athleticism as he adjusts to playing linebacker at the pro level.
Until then, it'll be about reps and working on technique for Simmons, who is as gifted as possible athletically. With time, he should develop into quite a defender -- a linebacker, in fact.