Carolina Panthers: NFL Draft first-round pick projection, Isaiah Simmons

2020 NFL Mock Draft, Isaiah Simmons of the Clemson Tigers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
2020 NFL Mock Draft, Isaiah Simmons of the Clemson Tigers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

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.

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Stay tuned to see who the Panthers select when the NFL Draft takes place April 23-25 in Las Vegas.