by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Auburn University Athletics.
At Draft 412, the NFL draft talk never ends. We will keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars—from today and all the way until draft night 2024. We will bring you mock drafts, player profiles, individual team needs, and everything else you may need related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - Auburn, Defensive Back, Jaylin Simpson
Name - Jaylin Simpson
Pos - DB
Team - Auburn
HT/WT - 6’1” 178 lbs.
Home – Brunswick, GA
Simpson attended Frederica Academy in Georgia where he played quarterback and defensive back and was considered a 4-star prospect at the safety position. He finished his high school career with 2,349 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and rushed for 1,286 yards and 17 touchdowns. On defense, he had 13 interceptions and 4 defensive touchdowns. He committed to Auburn over offers from Alabama, Clemson and Florida State, amongst others.
Simpson redshirted in 2019 after only playing in 4 games and finishing with 2 tackles. Most of his time on the field was as a special teams gunner for the Tigers. In 2020, he saw the field as a cornerback and not safety. He started 1 game and ended the season collecting 14 tackles with 3 pass break ups.
He played the 2021 season as a reserve cornerback and in nickel packages, rotating with the other starting cornerbacks. On the season, he had 27 tackles and produced his first career interception. Last season, Simpson was again a rotational starter at cornerback and had his most productive season as a Tiger. He tallied 37 tackles in 12 games and also picked off 2 passes while playing in a rotational role.
This season, Simpson moved back to his original position of free safety and his play has skyrocketed from the switch. He has started 12 games and has 36 tackles and 4 interceptions. He has become a big time playmaker, returning an interception for a touchdown and has forced a fumble.
Simpson plays bigger than his size, and has long limbs despite being only 178 lbs. He is a big hitter, capable of laying out receivers in the secondary and does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes, helping him break on the ball. As a safety, he plays downhill and is a capable run stopper who does not shy away from physicality. He has the fluidity to be able to mirror running backs or tight ends and is comfortable changing direction on the move. He gets his head turned around at the right times and uses his length well to defend passes. His versatility will go a long way to help his draft stock and being able to play both cornerback and safety will help team’s with depth issues.
On the downside, Simpson has struggled with man-to-man coverage while playing cornerback. He lacks the size and speed to be matched up on an island with faster, bigger receivers. His aggressiveness gets the best of him at times, and he is susceptible to giving up the big play. He has been a penalty prone player for much of his career and he has had bad timing when he makes contact with receivers while the ball is in the air. He is a willing run stopper but needs to add muscle on his frame to get stronger at the next level. He gets engulfed by bigger blockers and has problems getting on the right path to stop the ball carrier. He is a better athlete once he opens up with his hips and looks uncomfortable at times in his backpedal.
K’Von Wallace is a good NFL comparison for Simpson. Wallace was used as a nickelback and safety at Clemson and was drafted in the 4th round in 2020. The pair share many of the same attributes, being active in the run game though they are undersized.
Reads QB’s eyes
What sets Jaylin Simpson apart from the other safety prospects is his versatility and his above average playmaking abilities. His aggressiveness at times will get him in trouble and if he can improve on his penalties and add some bulk to his body, he has enough upside to be a nice 3rd day draft pick.
Draft 412 Draft Prediction - 4th or 5th round