Carolina Panthers: NFL Draft first-round pick projection, Isaiah Simmons
Isaiah Simmons may have performed too well at the NFL Combine for the Carolina Panthers.
Entering NFL Combine testing, there were a number of prospects in consideration for the Carolina Panthers and their seventh overall pick. With needs at virtually every position and a cloudy quarterback situation, the Panthers are expected to make an extremely important selection once on the clock in April.
After losing linebacker Luke Kuechly to a shocking early retirement already this offseason, the Panthers were expected to target Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons with their early pick. Before the NFL Combine, Simmons was projected as a first-round prospect with the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner likely still available when general manager Marty Hurney makes the pick.
However, thanks to a phenomenal showing at the combine, Simmons has put himself in line as a potential top-five selection. Among a crowded field of talented linebackers, Simmons sheer athleticism and speed outperformed many of his peers.
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While the former Clemson product elected to not complete positional drills, his measurable statistics (4.39-second 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump) were enough to warrant early consideration.
Given the Panthers have a number of places they could utilize a first-round pick – offensive line, defensive back, defensive line – it’s doubtful a trade would be used in order to move up unless the Carolina brass is sold on Simmons being a legitimate answer to losing Kuechly.
While no one is going to come in and replace the potential future Hall of Fame inductee, especially a rookie, Simmons paired with Shaq Thompson, would provide a solid duo for the linebacker corps to build around during new coach Matt Rhule’s first campaign.
Stay tuned to see who the Panthers select when the NFL Draft takes place April 23-25 in Las Vegas.