Giants Prospect Debate: Draft Isaiah Simmons or Jeff Okudah?

Should the Giants draft Isaiah Simmons or Jeff Okudah in the 2020 NFL Draft?

Getty Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons & Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah

The New York Giants are coming off of their sixth losing season over the last seven years. On the bright side of things, their struggles in the win column from 2019 earned them a slot towards the top of the 2020 NFL Draft first round.

The G-Men will select fourth overall in this coming April’s draft. Today, we debate between two blue-chip prospects, each of whom could be on the board when it’s time for New York to announce it’s draft decision.

The Case for Giants Drafting Isaiah Simmons

Isaiah Simmons is everything you look for in a defender, let alone a linebacker. He’s a physical specimen, standing at 6’4” and weighing in at 230 pounds. In his junior season, he racked up 100+ tackles, 16 of which were for loss, on his way to earning the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.

He also showed an improved ability to get after the quarterback, recording eight sacks on the season. While he may never be a double-digit sack artist at the next level, any pass-rush help would be welcomed to a defense who has averaged the seventh-fewest sacks in football over the past two years.

In 2019, he picked off three passes and broke up another nine. Simmons originally began his career at Clemson as a safety and continues to show safety-like range despite his added bulk. This is evident in this beautiful interception the Tigers star recorded in this past season’s College Football semifinal game.

While Simmons’ likely position at the next level will be at linebacker, that’s simply for designation purposes. It’s true that with Alec Ogletree as a likely cap casualty this offseason, Simmons would fill the role alongside Ryan Connelly at linebacker in the team’s base defense were he to be selected by New York.

However, he’d serve as so much more than that. Simmons is a puzzle piece and would be used in a similar fashion to some of the league’s elite do-it-all defenders such as Tyrann Mathieu, Shaq Thompson, and Derwin James.

In many ways, Simmons is very much what people hoped/believed Jabrill Peppers would be coming out of Michigan. That may draw some concerns from Giants fans. However, in the modern-day NFL, the more interchangeable parts the better for a defense.

The Case for Giants Drafting Jeff Okudah

Jeff Okudah of Ohio State is the clear-cut CB1 in the 2020 NFL Draft. His man-to-man skills are superior to any eligible corner in the class. The Jim Thorpe Award finalist for the nation’s top defensive back offers blue-chip upside with prototypical measurements. Okudah checks in at 6’1” and 200 pounds. His size, teamed with his superior footwork and quickness, have drawn comparisons to the likes of Patrick Peterson and fellow OSU alumn Mashon Lattimore.

Okudah’s stats speak for themselves. As Pro Football Focus pointed out, Okudah didn’t allow 50+ yards in any game over his last two seasons as a Buckeye. On top of that, he went through 2019 without having a single pass interference or holding call against him.

Aside from Janoris Jenkins’ 2016 campaign, New York has lacked a legitimate CB1 since arguably the Corey Webster days.

The Giants drafted DeAndre Baker out of Georgia in the first round a season ago. However, selecting Okudah in the first round shouldn’t be perceived as an indictment on Baker, who elevated his game at the latter part of 2019, but rather viewed as a simple ploy to strengthen a position group.

In the pass-happy league that is today’s NFL, you can never have too many cornerbacks. New York will look for Baker to take a major step forward in 2020. Yet, they’ve also lost Jenkins and Eli Apple over the past two seasons, while Sam Beal still remains a question mark.

Final Verdict: Draft Simmons or Okudah?

While a cornerback would certainly be a welcomed addition, New York did select Baker last season in hopes that he would become the team’s top corner. Plus, they are still likely holding out hope that Sam Beal reaches his potential as a guy who many pegged as a first-round talent when coming out.

Simply put, the Giants defense has a plethora of holes it needs to fill, and while Okudah would be an improvement from a talent standpoint, Simmons would be able to mask multiple deficiencies within the unit.

We’ve all heard the saying “good at everything, master of none.” Well in Simmons’ case, he may be a master of all.

Many people like to point out the fact that New York’s organization has continuously turned a blind eye to their linebacker woes in the past, showing their hand that they don’t value the position as much as others.

However, for all of Dave Gettleman’s love of hog-mollies, let’s remember he did select Shaq Thompson in the first round during his Carolina days. Also, there’s new staff in town, led by Joe Judge, a coach who learned under Bill Belichick, a man who values versatility more than any coach in football. In the 2020 Draft Class, there’s no player that offers more versatility than Isaiah Simmons.

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