Some football players jump off the screen because they are fast, dynamic, and explosive. John Simon is really none of the above. While he’s faster than me, he’s not the fastest guy on the field at any given time, and it’s not particularly close. He’s as blue collar as football players come, which seems like the opposite of dynamic. And he’s powerful and strong as an ox, but explosive isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you watch him.
The stout and rugged senior out of Ohio State isn’t very flashy, but he’s one of the most underrated football players in the nation, and I think there’s a good chance he’s piqued the attention of more than one NFL franchise.
| Ht || Wt || Class || Ranking || Projection |
| 6'1" || 257 || Senior || 76th || Mid-Second Round |
Leverage/Strength: While Simon doesn’t jump off the screen for being fast or flashy, he has ridiculous power and leverage for a 6’1” and 257-pound man. He’s earned a reputation as a freakish weight-room loyalist, and it shows on film. His arms are a little on the short side, though 33 ¼” isn’t too bad for 6’1”. He disengages surprisingly well for a “smaller” guy, and his ridiculous brute strength is one reason for that. When he was recruited, reports were confirmed that he benched 450 pounds, squatted 700 pounds, and benched 225 pounds 31 times--in highschool.
He’s a violent player in every positive sense of the word. He doesn’t defeat blocks--he destroys them. He doesn’t tackle ballcarriers--he piledrives them. He’s smart and aggressive and plays technically sound football with quick feet and discipline.
Persistence/Passion: Nobody ever taught John Simon what giving less than 100% looks like. From the first snap of the game to the last, he pushes like he’ll never play football again. He actually seems to let up a little bit towards the end of games, but it’s more from exhausting himself than trying to conserve energy.
He doesn’t lack refinement as a pass rusher. In fact, he has a fantastic arm-over swim move and a nifty little spin move that he uses to great effect. But his technical abilities as a pass-rusher aren’t remotely matched by his sheer willpower to get to the quarterback.
Character: Urban Meyer described Simon’s weight-room mentality and leadership qualities as “Tebowish.” Given ESPN’s throttling of the Tebow horse, that seems to bring negative connotations to mind, but it was actually high praise. Simon is perhaps the hardest-working player in all of college football. He was a captain for the last two years and he was the inarguable heart of the team.
Meyer had to create a John Simon Rule that stated that the indomitable player was not allowed to go to the weight room alone. So Simon began waking up teammates at 4:30 to drag them to the gym with him. His entire team raves about his character and his coach has guaranteed him a job any time he needs one. Simon is the type of leader NFL teams fall over themselves for.
Agility: All of the weightlifting has perhaps worked against the muscular Buckeye in some ways. His leg workouts have given him great power and explosiveness (over 10’ broad jump), but his muscle-bound frame doesn’t move laterally very well. He struggles to break down in space and contain quicker ballcarriers.
Edge Rush: This heading is a bit misleading. Simon isn’t a poor edge rusher. However, his lack of length and flexibility may couple with his one-speed pass-rushing to force him inside at the next level. He has a great first step, and he bends the edge pretty well, but he’s not exceptionally quick, and he’s not a fast straight-line athlete, so his slightly shorter arms may sound the death knell for his future as a full-time defensive end in the NFL.
He reportedly played at around 270 pounds, but he weighed in at 257 at the Senior Bowl, probably to emphasize his ability to play outside linebacker. However, given his relative lack of agility at around 260 pounds, and his unbelievable strength for his size, I think he may be just as well-suited to add weight and focus on making an impact in the NFL as a three-technique defensive tackle. He has experience as a defensive tackle in Ohio State’s hybrid 3-4 scheme, and he has great quickness playing at 270. If he added 10 or 15 pounds, he’d still be a little bit smaller than the prototypical NFL defensive tackle, but most 280+ pound defensive tackles don’t have his movement skills or his insane strength.
Because he doesn’t fit an exact mold for an NFL position, he may fall a bit in the draft in spite of his elite strength, top-notch character, and relentless motor. He did lead the Big 10 in sacks as a senior, notching nine to go along with 14.5 tackles for a loss. He tallied 19.5 sacks and 43 tackles for a loss in his four years (three as a starter), as well as forcing two fumbles and breaking up ten passes. His production is solid, though not great, so it probably won’t push him over the edge.
If teams buy into him, it will be in the interview room. He’s a film buff and a high-character guy, and I expect a team to fall for him before the middle of the second round. He missed the NFL Combine because of an injury, but if he performs well in the speed and agility drills at Ohio State’s pro day, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him sneak into the back end of the first round.