Clemson LB Simpson declaring for NFL draft

11:00 AM ET

  • Pete ThamelESPN

Clemson junior linebacker Trenton Simpson is declaring for the NFL draft, he told ESPN on Wednesday.

Simpson wasn’t slated to play in the Orange Bowl because of an ankle injury suffered during the ACC championship game.

He is one of the top linebacker prospects in the upcoming NFL draft, as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as the No. 3 inside linebacker prospect behind Drew Sanders and Jack Campbell. An NFL scout told ESPN that Simpson projects as a likely first-round pick, describing him as physical, aggressive and instinctive.

2 Related

Simpson told ESPN that Wednesday’s decision offers a perfect coda, as he committed to Clemson three years ago on Dec. 14 and he’s deciding to leave on the same day three years later. At the time he chose the school, he set his goals to play both three seasons and graduate, and he’ll be receiving his degree in sports communications next week.

“It’s amazing,” Simpson told ESPN. “It’s definitely a dream come true. Me and my family all talked, and I was able to sit down with my coaches. I felt like this was what’s best for me. I worked my whole life for this opportunity.”

Simpson, a true junior who is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, was second on the Tigers with 73 tackles this season. He registered 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 pass breakups and 4 tackles for loss. His breakout sophomore season featured 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

Simpson is excited to compete at the NFL combine, as he said he has jumped 40 inches in the vertical jump and has run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash while at Clemson. He said he’ll be leaving to train at EXOS in Dallas in January.

Simpson said he played more inside this season, reading guards and stuffing the run more than rushing the quarterback from the edge. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he also thrived in coverage, as he allowed just three completions in 16 attempts, an 18.8% completion percentage that was best in the ACC by a large margin.

He also generated pressure on more than 14% of opposing quarterback dropbacks, which was also the highest rate among qualified ACC players, per ESPN Stats & Info.

There’s a lot that Simpson does well that should translate to the NFL, including having the athleticism to cover in space. He said he sees his versatility as a strength, as he said he models himself after former Clemson star Isaiah Simmons and Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons.

“He’s really well-suited for what football is now,” the NFL scout told ESPN. “He can play in coverage. He can run and chase as a linebacker and be used as a blitzer from the second level.”

Simpson relished his time at Clemson, as he took to heart the message that coach Dabo Swinney gave the team in his first team meeting: “Do what I can, while I can, so that when I cannot, I will not wish that I would have when I could have.”

He said he appreciated Swinney’s guidance and the entire Clemson operation.

“Clemson has been truly special,” Simpson said. “The thing that makes Clemson so special is the people.”

Simpson, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, said getting drafted will be an important moment for his family. He said he has trusted every word from his mother, Dionna Ford, and appreciated the discipline instilled from his father, Timothy Simpson, to stay on course to this moment.

“I’m proud to represent our family and look forward to continue to represent and make everyone proud,” Simpson said. “It’s going to be surreal. There’s going to be a lot of joy going through the house.”

Previous Article
Next Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.