Trenton Simpson NFL Draft Scouting Report
LB, Clemson Tigers
Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson projects as a hybrid defender at the NFL level who will be best implemented on passing downs and as a positionless defender who attacks defenses in coverage and zone blitz looks. He’s a skill-specific player who, when used right, can be an impact starter.
Originally a 5-star recruit, Simpson hails from a military family and committed to the Tigers out of Mallard Creek in Charlotte, NC. Simpson was a two-way player in high school, taking reps as a linebacker and at running back. He led his team in sacks (20) during his final season in which Mallard Creek finished among the best programs in the state. Simpson peaked at Clemson in 2021 under then-DC Brent Venables, who utilized him as a chess piece and allowed him to earn a lot of reps around the football. He also earned his bachelor’s degree from Clemson in three years, earning a Communications degree this December ahead of his departure for the NFL.
Simpson’s roles throughout the course of his career with the Tigers were expansive—this dude was everywhere on tape. His versatility and ability to hide in personnel peaked in 2021 under Venables, who had Simpson taking snaps every which way from deep safety, playing games across the front as a scheme pressure player, and triggering from depth as a WILL linebacker. Modern linebackers who move the needle are the ones with skill sets to contribute on the passing downs and Simpson looks ready to go on this front, even if he saw his usage get away from some of those ideal qualities in 2022. His ability to fulfill a role as a pressure player in multiple front defenses will be because of his explosiveness and length; both are blue-chip qualities that pair to make him a huge influence as a rusher. Add in his work as an apex and overhang defender in zone coverages outside the hash and you have yourself a player with plenty of pathways to contribute to your defense.
When Simpson is shooting gaps from depth or wide angles, he brings a lot of force into his challenges to spotlight his ability to deconstruct blocks. He’s a dynamic finisher, too. He’ll run through blocks and you rarely see him catch a blow as compared to delivering one. His ability to run through blocks is among the best in the class and he showcased elite closing burst when spying quarterbacks underneath—which he did frequently in 2022.
He is an impressive athlete and the more you watch, the more you appreciate his versatility. But how consistent and impactful can he be as a stack backer on the second level? He filled this role more frequently in 2022 and was challenged, losing out on his explosive burst to attack the football and instead being left in muddy piles of bodies too often. And considering how offenses can motion or flip the strength with a shift, Simpson will not be immune to living life on the second level of the defense in the NFL, either. Continued focus on negotiating blocks will take him further in these instances, as he can get swallowed up at the point of attack with vertical surge in the run game. Several of his perimeter rushes fell flat with high and wide hands—particularly his near hand, which too often fell off the inside shoulder and slipped off the body. He’s got the length and explosiveness to be more impactful with better strike accuracy early in those reps assuming he goes to a place that will ask such reps out of him.
Expectations for Simpson are going to depend on the plan in place by the team that drafts him. Are they looking to develop him into a more traditional stack linebacker? Or are they going to empower him to fulfill the impact role that he’s had as a member of the Tigers? There may be a lag in development before we see his best version in the pros but I would expect Simpson is a plus starter in due time.
Top Reasons to Buy In:
- Electric range in coverage and pursuit
- Explosive hitting power and impressive finishing ability to the football
- Passing-down value is rare for a player of his stature
- Instincts playing forward or in space against the pass
Top Reasons For Concern:
- Not a one-size-fits-all prospect for scheme fit
- Saw reduced impact in 2022 when moved into a more traditional stack role
- Ability to set the edge or deconstruct blocks in the box is an area for improvement
Size (NFL Combine):
Height: 6′ 2”
Weight: 235 lbs
Arm Length: 32 3/8”
Hand Size: 10 1/4”
Athletic Testing (NFL Combine):
40-yard Dash: 4.43s
Vertical Jump: TBD
Broad Jump: TBD
Bench Reps: 25 reps
Ideal Role: Nickel linebacker
Scheme Fit: Multiple front; zone pressure scheme
Prospect Comparison: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (2021 NFL Draft)
TDN Consensus Grade: 81.00/100 (Second-Round Value)
- Crabbs Grade: 81.00/100
Written By: Kyle Crabbs
Exposures: Georgia (2021), Louisville (2021), Notre Dame (2022), Miami FL (2022), South Carolina (2022), North Carolina (2022)
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