The Las Vegas Raiders set an offense-oriented tone in the 2020 NFL Draft when they selected Henry Ruggs III with the 12th overall pick and continued all the way to the 109th selection, John Simpson.
â€œSpeed kills” is a common refrain that Al Davis would talk about all the time. With their second pick in the first, they went with Damon Arnette, a scrappy defensive back. As the draft plowed along, a theme emerged for the team â€“ a return to the old-school Raiders way. The team was looking for prospects that play fast and hard.
So how does guard Simpson fit into that? Read on to find out.
A Bully in the Making
Simpson is the latest player to be drafted out of Clemson during Mike Mayock’s tenure as the Raiders general manager. The Tigers guard is six-foot-four, 324 pounds and is best known for being a powerful run blocker. He started 29 games back in college and allowed just one sack in his 857 snaps. His strength is definitely in his upper body and has above-average arm length as well. Once he gets going, he can be an unstoppable force against defenders.
In order to be a starter or even a high-end backup, he is going to have to improve in the passing game. His biggest weakness is getting out of his stance, which will cause him issues against faster pass-rushers. He also needs to work on his lower body technique. He plays off-balance at times, which further weakens his stock in pass-blocking.
The best thing about Simpson is that he has a lot of room to improve. His technique can be addressed by a good coach. Since he wouldn’t have to start right away, he can learn from other incumbents such as Gabe Jackson and Richie Incognito. As it is, he already checks a lot of the boxes for things like strength and size. If needed, he can probably jump into the lineup and at least be serviceable, especially in the run game.
Speaking of Raiders linemen, Jackson was Simpson’s pro comparison according to Bleacher Report. With Jackson being part of trade talks for most of the offseason, it is fair to wonder if Jon Gruden has already slotted Johnson in as his potential replacement, especially considering the fact the team traded up in the draft to get him. On the other hand, the team should also keep in mind that Incognito is also 37 years old and only under contract for two more years at most.
In an ideal world, the Raiders keeps Jackson at least one more year to groom Simpson and let him get acclimated to the game before the younger, cheaper, and hopefully, more durable Simpson takes over one of the guard spots.
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