The Tennessee Titans took a risk with the 19th pick in the NFL Draft, grabbing Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons with their first-round pick.
There is no question about Simmons’ talent, as he was once projected as a potential top-10 pick in the draft. But Simmons suffered a torn ACL in training for the draft, and also had an off-field incident that occurred before he enrolled in college. He was found guilty of malicious mischief and pleaded no contest to an assault charge in 2016 when he jumped into a fight between his mother, his sister and another woman. Video of the incident showed Simmons intervening and punching the other woman while she was on the ground.
Simmons was suspended for one game over that matter at Mississippi State.
“My first reaction was to actually break up the fight, .. but I let my emotions take over and I wasn’t even thinking about the consequences. I pretty much ended up striking her while she was on the ground. The video shows that,” Simmons said. “That’s pretty much how the fight was. The day of the incident, I was so in shock I was like, ‘Did I really just do this?’”
In their press conference following Simmons’ selection, Titans general manager Jon Robinson and Coach Mike Vrabel talked about the off-field issue that haunts Simmons.
“We talked extensively about that with him, and we talked extensively to numerous, countless people that have been a part of his life. He’s very regretful. It’s something he will live with forever, but I can’t tell you how many people spoke glowingly about him during his time at Mississippi State,” Robinson said.
The Titans GM said that numerous people have noted that Simmons has done much to rehabilitate himself following the incident. Robinson said that the Titans had to come to terms with the incident before drafting Simmons.
“Trust me, I’ve gone around with it in my head and talked with him and talked with Amy (Adams Strunk), and we had to get comfortable with it,” Robinson said. “We spent a lot of time talking to Jeff about it and we spent a lot of time talking to people who have been in his life at Mississippi State and they went on and on about what he’s done for the university – all the philanthropic stuff he’s done there and the community service there and back home.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said he believes that Simmons is someone who made a horrible mistake, but not someone who has character issues.
“There are bad people and there are good people that make mistakes – bad, horrific mistakes. You can fix mistakes, but you can’t fix bad people,” Vrabel said. “I can’t wait and I’m excited to have Jeff sit in front of you guys tomorrow and share that story. He doesn’t hide behind it. He stands up like a grown man and owns it. I can promise you I will be proud of him when he meets with you tomorrow or whenever he does.”
Simmons the player was regarded as one of the most talented players available in the draft. The 6-4, 300-pounder had two sacks and 18 tackles for loss for the Bulldogs in his junior year in 2018.
The other issue with Simmons is that he is coming back from the ACL he tore in February. He had surgery on Feb. 19 and is now rehabbing the injury.