If LB is the call, should Raiders trade up for Clemson's Isaiah Simmons?

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Isaiah Simmons had just blown through 40 yards in 4.39 seconds, the second-fastest such time by a linebacker at the NFL combine since 2003.

It took even less time for Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to giggle, put a hand to his mouth in an attempt to stifle his excitement and turn for acknowledgement from general manager Mike Mayock, who looked just as bemused.

Indeed, earlier in the week, Mayock lamented the lackluster play of the Raiders' linebackers last season, saying, "I think I made some mistakes there."

Might Simmons help Mayock atone, particularly at middle linebacker? This coming after a season when the Raiders lost Vontaze Burfict to a season-long suspension for a Week 4 hit, installed Tahir Whitehead as the defensive playcaller before replacing him with Will Compton, who had been on the street and hosting a podcast a few weeks earlier.

Here's the thing -- while the ultra-versatile Simmons might be the Raiders' dream pick to shore up a leaky defense (the Raiders were No. 19 in total defense but just 29th in INTs and 26th in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries), the Clemson product is sure to be long gone before Las Vegas picks at No. 12. Then again, with two first-rounders, the Raiders could conceivably package Nos. 12 and 19 to trade up to get the Simmons. And we know how Mayock feels about Clemson guys, given his drafting Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen and Hunter Renfrow out of Death Valley last spring.

"If you know who George Kittle and Travis Kelce are, then that explains it all," Simmons said at the combine. "Stopping tight ends and linebackers playing man [defense] on running backs is… the game's no longer a 250-pound linebacker. It's more, guys that are able to run side to side and are able to cover. It's just a necessity now with the tight ends and running backs. The game is evolving so, the name of the game now is stopping tight ends so something has to be done to stop these Travis Kelces and George Kittles out there."

Fair enough, but middle linebacker is not the only glaring need for the Raiders -- they also need a gamebreaking receiver (who doesn't, right?). And as it stands, after picking 19th overall, the Raiders don't pick again until the third round, where they select at Nos. 80, 81 and 91.

Trading up to pick Simmons at, say, No. 4 and then having to sit and wait until No. 80, does not seem the Raider Way. Not when two other middle linebackers caught the Raiders' eye at the combine. Either LSU's Patrick Queen or Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray could still be there at No. 19 should Las Vegas gamble.

"Queen is interesting," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. "Early in the season, he wasn't starting and then when you watch the championship run that they were on he was a big part of that. Very fast-twitch, athletic linebacker. Impact playmaker.

"Murray is a Type0A alpha. He's a fun guy to talk football with. Two really good young linebackers. We've met with a couple others. We feel like there is a good group in this year's class as well.

Simmons sees himself as the prototype hybrid linebacker.

"Von Miller just for pass rush, Jalen Ramsey for man techniques and Tyrann Mathieu just because he plays around everywhere as well," Simmons said. "I take bits and pieces from all of them and kind of throw them into my game."

Said Mayock: "I think the only limitations on him are the ones a defensive coordinator puts on him."

Truly, the only negative from a Raiders fan perspective is Simmons being a lifelong Chiefs fan.

"Mentally, I feel like there isn't anything I can't do," Simmons said. "I played every position except for a nose or 3-technique. When it comes down to it, I'm going to try with my best ability to do everything I can."

And if the price is too high to move up to get him, the Raiders could see Queen or Murray fall into their laps.

"All those guys are great linebackers," Queen said. "There's a lot that separates us as a whole. I feel like my game just goes to another level when I step on the field. I'm fast, explosive, can stop the run to play pass coverage. So, I feel I'm just very versatile in what I can do."

Murray, meanwhile, might be a more conventional fit as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme after his meeting with the Raiders went "really, really well" in Indianapolis.

"I really love their staff, they have some really great coaches," he said. "The Raiders, a phenomenal program, a phenomenal team, obviously the history that the Raiders have on defense. So really, really good with them. I truly do believe I'm the best inside linebacker in this draft. I believe from a leadership standpoint, I believe from an athletic standpoint. I think I truly just separate myself."

And whatever the Raiders choose to do first in free agency to address such needs will obviously have a trickle-down effect in the draft.

After all, Mayock said he wants to have a "big, strong, long, fast, violent, pursuing defense" in Las Vegas.

"We have so many needs over there," Mayock said. "It's just, who is a dynamic football player who makes us better?"

Having a playmaking middle linebacker would answer that question.