“I think I’m unique to the game ‘cause of my versatility.”– Ice Cube
Huddle up, Nerds! It’s that magical time of the year when we put the incoming rookie class under a fantasy microscope. As in the NFL, drafting well is a cornerstone of successful dynasty fantasy football. But fear not. Dynasty Nerds has you covered with a series of draft profiles bursting with scouting details guaranteed to have you sitting pretty for your pending rookie draft(s).
Today we’ll indulge those IDP fans out there by taking a deep dive into one of the more compelling linebacker prospects in this class. Clemon’s Trenton Simpson is a fierce competitor that can be deployed in a variety of ways. This multiplicity is reflected in his stat sheet, which boasts 137 tackles (5.5 per game) and 9 sacks over the past two seasons when he assumed a starting role as a sophomore.
Widely recognized for his impressive contributions, Simpson was a semifinalist for both the Butkus Award and the Lott Impact Trophy in 2022. And, as a two-time Academic All-ACC selection, Simpson also has the intelligence to match his physical gifts.
So, sit back as we look closer at what makes Trenton Simpson such a special player and how he might project to the NFL. I think you’ll be quite impressed.
What is there to like?
Before we explore Simpson’s film, let’s first talk about his raw metrics. At the Combine, Simpson laid down a blazing 40 time of 4.43 seconds and paired it with a robust 25 bench press reps.
Kent Lee Platte, the founder of the Relative Athletic Score, recently published a RAS of 9.83 (out of 10) for Simpson based on the available testing. This qualifies as the 43rd most impressive athleticism score for a linebacking prospect in a population of almost 2,500 evaluated since 1987. We are talking about the top two percentile here. That’s, indeed, rarified air.
The expression ‘high motor’ gets thrown around a lot by evaluators. It conjures Tasmanian Devil-like imagery, a guy who ‘plays with his hair on fire’ to quote a popular axiom. That type of energy is fantastic and can be contagious in a team setting. However, it needs to be applied judiciously.
This is where Trenton Simpson shines. He is a relentless dynamo who really pops on film due to his consistent intensity. That said, he shows remarkable poise and never lets his considerable motor usurp his composure.
Take a look at the following clip. On third and long against Notre Dame, Simpson (#22) is sent on a blitz, attacking the left side of the blocking scheme. Rather than become entangled with a tackle with a considerable size advantage, Simpson keeps his eye on the quarterback and remains focused on containment. When the quarterback ultimately decides to escape a collapsing pocket, an unencumbered Simpson is then able to capitalize on his impressive agility and speed to track him down for a sack.
Throughout this example, Simpson keeps his feet churning and his mind sharp. By approaching this play with intelligent aggression, he produces a big play and sets the tone for his defensive unit to do the same.
Scouts will no doubt fall in love with the utility of Simpson’s game, unlike some prospects who might be typecast as an off-ball ‘banger’ or perhaps a pass rush specialist, Trenton Simpson can simply do it all.
From the middle, Simpson flows with the play and has the lateral range to lock things down from sideline to sideline. As a blitzer, he can utilize his considerable athleticism to penetrate gaps in the protection and be a disruptive force in the backfield. Lastly, he has the quickness to drop into coverage and stay with a receiver.
And, regardless of alignment, Simpson is a consistently sound tackler who exercises good fundamentals in wrapping up and bringing down the ball carrier.
This play below, against South Carolina, is a nice example of his trademark adaptability. Simpson is deployed in slot coverage. He promptly sniffs out the wide receiver screen and defeats the block from the lead wideout. Before the play can even turn the corner, Simpson is waiting to blow up the progression, and the play results in a loss.
What should concern you?
Though I’ve lauded Simpson for his versatility, traditionally, full-time middle linebackers are most coveted by IDP aficionados. The reason for this is that this position plays a central role in the defensive front, which makes tackles easier to accumulate. Additionally, off-ball linebackers generally play a core leadership role and thus are thus less likely to be substituted for in sub packages. More snaps equal more statistical opportunities to help your fantasy team.
With Simpson’s ‘chameleon-esque’ abilities, an enterprising defensive coordinator will likely line him up all over the field. This pliability is great for real football and will no doubt make it a challenge for opposing offenses to scheme against. However, Simpson being dropped into coverage or trying to earn his way as a 235-pound pass rusher does pose some concerns as a fantasy asset.
Comparison – Isaiah Simmons
A former Clemson Tiger himself, Isaiah Simmons was one of the most highly regarded talents in the 2020 draft class. The linebacker boasted an impressive collegiate career combined with outrageous athletic measurables. Sound familiar?
As a college athlete, one of the many areas where Simmons shined was his tenacity. Much like Simpson, he took no plays off. Simmons could always be counted on to bring an infectious energy to the defense. Take a look at the side-by-side below, which shows first Simpson and then Simmons being deployed as blitzers. With remarkable similarity, the two defeat the protection scheme and drag down a fleeing quarterback for a sack.
Both Simpson and Simmons play a fundamentally sound, smart game as well. They have the same ability to diagnose and attack, which is absolutely essential for pro backers. Sure, eye-popping athletic traits will always draw headlines. But the players who can combine those abilities with cerebral awareness truly thrive.
As evidence, I present the following juxtaposition. In the first example, you’ll see Simpson rightfully pass coverage to his support while staying fixed on the quarterback. When the quarterback attempts to flee the pocket, Simpson has the quickness to close the gap and easily shut down the play. This is followed by a nearly identical instance of Simmons executing the same combination of recognition and physical ability. It is an underrated amalgamation that NFL scouts will surely value come draft time.
With off-the-charts athleticism paired with an impressive body of work in a top college program, Trenton Simpson has captured the attention of the scouting community. He is a fierce competitor and a tone-setter poised to establish himself as a valuable chess piece for some lucky defensive staff.
Like his fellow Clemson alum, Isaiah Simmons, Simpson is known for his relentless pursuit and an uncanny ability to break down an offensive play in real time. However, Simpson also possesses the same versatility that has proven to be a liability for Simmons from a fantasy perspective. Projecting how Simpson will be deployed as a pro will be critical in his evaluation. Pay close attention to his landing spot and the associated scheme.
Look for Simpson to be a Day 2 selection, though he may sneak into the first round for a team that is smitten with his unique traits. With that type of draft capital, you can feel confident in making a second to third-round play on Simpson in your rookie draft.
I have Simpson cemented in a top trio of linebackers that also includes Iowa’s Jack Campbell and Arkansas’ Drew Sanders. I view these players as interchangeable talents, so feel free to navigate around the draft board to maximize value. Just ensure that you lock up at least one of this tier.
Top linebackers are always in high demand for IDP, and Trenton Simpson is poised to become the next NFL star. Stay educated on his fit with whichever team selects him. And don’t hesitate to snag him if he lands in a favorable spot. If you read and react with the dexterity of this budding young talent, you’ll have your IDP squad sitting pretty for years to come.
I thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this piece and would love to continue the conversation on Trenton Simpson. Please feel free to comment below or contact me @Spydes78 on Twitter. And also, stay tuned to @DynastyNerds for a steady pipeline of content from our eminently qualified staff to carry you through your offseason. If you like what you read, please consider becoming a subscriber to any of the elite tools that Dynasty Nerds has to offer. Make sure to use the promo code “SPYDES” to receive a 15% discount. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the grind!