The Denver Broncos just signed Alex Singleton to a three-year, $18 million deal, veteran Josey Jewell has been solid through his career, and Randy Gregory and Baron Browning are expected to produce on the outside, but adding a talent like former Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson in the draft should be a no-brainer.
Simpson is blessed with natural, elite athletic ability and can play both the inside and outside LB positions, and given the depth concerns the Broncos have at the position, this is a prospect the Broncos may give a hard look.
Singleton was good last season after a rough start, but can he maintain that level of play? Jewell is solid when healthy, which is not always the case, and he also only has two years left on his contract while not getting any younger at age 28. Gregory and Browning can both play, but also have their share of injuries in the past and lack of consistency as well.
Therefore, a guy like Simpson makes sense, even if he may have to be brought along at a moderate pace.
Trenton Simpson — Linebacker — Clemson
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 235 lbs.
Bench Press: 25 reps | Arm Length: 32 3/8” | Hands: 10 1/4”
40 Yard Dash: 4.43 seconds | 10-Yard Split: 1.55 seconds
Simpson was a blue-chip recruit out of a high school, ranked among the best 20 players in the nation and the #1 overall outside linebacker prospect, ultimately signing with the Dabo Swinney-led Clemson Tigers.
As a high school athlete, he was primarily renowned for his athleticism, quick first step, and ability to get to the quarterback from the outside, but while at Clemson, he was used as a defensive Swiss army knife of sorts. He would play from the outside, inside, and even dipped back into the secondary when situations called for it.
A starter in all three of his seasons in Clemson, Simpson finished his career as a Tiger with 166 total tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles while being named third-team All-ACC his junior year, ultimately deciding to forgo his senior year and test the NFL Draft waters.
Film Room and Highlights
Positives: If there are three traits that best define Simpson’s game, they are speed, athleticism, and versatility. There are few linebackers in the upcoming draft who possess those traits at the same level he does, and his 4.43 forty-yard dash was second among all linebackers at the NFL Draft Combine. He is dangerous from all three levels of defense, is reactive and has quick reflexes, and there are few offensive players he can’t run down. He improved in coverage over his career as well and could be a special player covering big tight ends. His explosive first step is something that is going to get him on the field early.
Negatives: While Simpson is oozing with athleticism and speed, he is still a work in progress on the technique front. Much of his production was due in part to his natural gifts and not necessarily using the proper form. He tends to arm tackle too often and also has tendencies to not use basic block-shedding techniques which could get him in trouble at the next level. And while he did improve in coverage over his career, he still finished his college playing days being too inconsistent, and he will likely need to add bulk if he is destined to play inside (and what would that do to his speed?).
Outlook: Likely a day 2 pick, his speed and athletic ability will have teams interested, but he will likely need more seasoning before being anything more than a situational player his rookie season.
Simpson’s fit with the Broncos
Simpson played in a 4-3 scheme at Clemson, but switching up to the 3-4 the Broncos run shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment for him. If linebackers for the Denver Broncos in recent seasons have been known for two things, it would be rushing the passer effectively and covering the middle of the field ineffectively. The team doesn’t have an immediate need for a pass rusher with Gregory, Browning, and second-year hopeful Nik Bonitto returning but could certainly use help over the middle. However, he’s far more ready to contribute on the former than on the latter. Depending on how the Broncos view him, he could be an ideal candidate to start out in a situational position on passing downs while being developed as someone who can cover the middle.