The Broncos defensive backs coach Joe Woods got two new safeties on his squad following the draft, and he is pretty excited about adding top talent to the already-stacked No Fly Zone.
With Justin Simmons, third-round pick out of Boston College, Woods is getting a true athlete, a solid tackler and a ball hawk. That must be why this ball-stealer is considered a steal of his own for the Broncos.
"He's extremely gifted athletically," Woods said, calling Simmons a "sound tackler" too. "The versatility is impressive. He gives us a lot of versatility of what we can do in the backfield."
Although BC is not your typical CFB powerhouse, its defense was the top-rated unit in 2016. And Simmons - who is somewhat of a Superman, leaping over tall buildings in a single bound (OK, that's a stretch, but no one actually asked him to try it at the Combine, so who really knows?) - was a star on that defensive squad.
So A.J. Black, senior football writer for BC Interruption, is here to tell us how good the third-round safety from the No. 1 college defense is going to be on the No. 1 NFL defense. And the best part? Even a Patriots fan like Black can't deny what a great player the Broncos just drafted.
MHR - Broncos selected Justin Simmons in the third round, and many thought we got a steal in him. Were they right...was this great value for us?
A.J. Black - I think it's a terrific pick, and an absolute steal where you got him. He's everything you want in an NFL safety - he's got good size, he's smart and can diagnose plays quickly, and from all reports, he's a tremendous locker room presence.
MHR - The safety position was definitely considered an area of need after the departure of David Bruton Jr. in free agency, and Simmons could be tapped for rotational action this season as a rookie. Will he be ready for the NFL this year?
A.J. Black - He's going to be able to contribute right away. BC played against some elite offenses in 2015 and for the most part Simmons was able to go toe to toe with all of them (ignore the Clemson game). Rarely was he ever out of position, and he's a quick learner who can go from position to position (he started as a cornerback for BC).
MHR - Simmons' athletic ability is off the charts (literally), and with five interceptions last year with Boston College, he certainly seems to be a ball hawk. I know you're a Patriots' fan, but do you think Simmons has the goods to be a legit part of the "No Fly Zone"?
A.J. Black - With the defensive front that Denver has, along with some of the best cornerbacks in the league, I think Simmons' transition will be pretty seamless. The Broncos have such a dynamic defense that they should be able to cover up any potential hiccups Simmons has as he learns the defense. That's a great luxury to have for a rookie, and even though I think he will learn quickly, it's par for the course for rookies to have to learn quickly. But man, having T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib there to help and mentor should be a major plus.
MHR - An aspiring NFL scout noted this was his favorite pick for the Broncos, saying that the best part of Simmons' athleticism is his play speed on the field. Would you agree and how has it translated into solid play from him?
A.J. Black - I agree with the scout. The interesting thing is that BC has never been known for burners on the field, but Simmons is deceptively quick and can cover large portions of the field. There were times last year that Boston College CBs got burned by a faster receiver, but without fail Simmons was almost always there to cover.
MHR - Aside from his natural athletic talent, what do you see as some of Simmons' greatest strengths on the field?
A.J. Black - I think Simmons other great asset is his ability to lay the lumber, especially on the run. Because of his speed he can support the run, and what impressed me most was that he rarely missed tackles. In the open field he had good, not great, ability to separate receivers from the ball as well.
MHR - On our scouting report of Simmons, we listed his lighter weight as a potential problem against much heavier wide receivers. Will this be a problem for him with the big boys of the NFL? (i.e., can he tackle Gronk?)
A.J. Black - I don't see height as an issue for Simmons since he's 6'3, but in terms of physical size, he's a little on the smaller size and might need to bulk up a little bit. I think going after bigger receivers like Gronk may be a challenge for Simmons, but it's hard to gauge. Then again you can have him hit Gronk up high and have T.J. Ward torpedo his knees (I kid, I kid).
MHR - What is your favorite thing about this kid?
A.J. Black - BC football was a train wreck last year, and throughout it Justin Simmons never gave up. He is a leader, and kept the defense going even when the team was a mess. He's going from the nation's best defense in college, to the best defense in the NFL. This is going to be a perfect fit for all involved. Enjoy, he's a great player.