×

Detroit Lions head man Matt Patricia among NFL coaches taking look at Clemson players

A trainer works on Clemson football player Tee Higgins during NFL Pro Day on Thursday in Clemson, S.C. (AP photo)

By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. — As Clemson’s pro day unfolded, NFL head coaches like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Detroit Lions’ Matt Patricia chatted with Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
And it never took long, Swinney said, before the Tigers’ versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons came up in those conversations.
Simmons, the All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year, is considered a top-five lock when the NFL draft is held next month. He was the main attractions as representatives from all 32 NFL teams watched at the team’s indoor practice facility Thursday.
Simmons, the leader of a top defense last year, showed off his versatility, strength and speed — and why he figures to go very early in next month’s draft.
“It’s like getting three first-round draft picks in one,” Swinney said.
Simmons was the leader of the country’s sixth-best defense, which came a game shy of a second straight national title after a 42-25 loss to LSU in the championship game two months ago.
That did not dim Simmons’ dominance in the eyes of the NFL. He lined up at several different spots last season, including safety, defensive end and linebacker, and led Clemson with 107 tackles, 16 stops behind the line of scrimmage, eight sacks and 10 pass break ups.
“He’s just so unique,” Swinney said. “Everybody’s looking for that.”
Simmons, the 6-foot-4, 229-pound junior from Olathe, Kansas, lifted weights and ran shuttle cone drills in front of representatives for all 32 NFL teams.
He chose not to do the 40-yard dash, standing on his stellar time of 4.39 seconds he ran at the NFL combine a couple of weeks back.
Among Clemson’s three potential first-round selections, only receiver Tee Higgins ran the 40 after missing out because of a hamstring problem before the combine.
The 6-4 Higgins, from Oak Hill, Tennessee, had a fast time of 4.54 seconds before excelling at pass-catching drills.
He entered the workout hoping to show he’s a worthy successor to Clemson’s pedigree of NFL receivers including Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins, Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins and San Diego’s Mike Williams.s