With the next pick: Auburn DB Jaylin Simpson

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Auburn defensive back Jaylin Simpson. (AU Athletics)

AUBURN, Ala. – In the transfer portal era, Jaylin Simpson exemplifies an exception to the rule.

He came to Auburn, and here he stayed. Through five seasons and three head coaches, Simpson made his mark, enjoying an All-SEC senior season that positioned him for an NFL opportunity.

The 6-1 safety made four interceptions in 2023, finishing with 118 career tackles and seven INTs.

“It’s been a long waiting game,” he said. “Now after the Senior Bowl and the Combine, you’re just waiting, doing interviews. It’s been good. I’m just ready to get to that next level, start all over and continue to show why I think I’m one of the best.

“I’m ready to continue to do what I was destined for. Continue to grow as a player, continue to show everybody why I feel like I’m one of the best players in the country, one of the best safeties in the draft.”

Before Auburn’s A-Day scrimmage, Simpson received the Zeke Smith Award for being the Tigers’ defensive player of the year in 2023.

“Blessed and thankful for these fans and my teammates who are getting ready to play,” Simpson said April 6 on Pat Dye Field. “I couldn’t have done this without them.”

Simpson leaves with fond memories of his time on the Plains.

“People ask me all the time what’s the best stadium you played at,” he said. “It’s this one. This helps you win games. They love you until the very end. I received nothing but love my entire time here. That always drove me and pushed me to play for them and play for the guys to the left and the right of me.”

NFL COMBINE

40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds
Bench press: N/A
Vertical jump: 40.0″ (Pro Day)
Broad jump: 11′ 1″

DRAFT ANALYSIS

A one-year starter at Auburn, Simpson played a free safety/nickel role in former defensive coordinator Ron Roberts’ man/zone coverage looks (played for four different defensive coordinators). After serving as a rotational corner as an underclassman, he moved inside in 2023 and delivered an impactful final season with a team-best four interceptions (all in the first five games), spending most of his time in the slot and playing a mix of press and off coverage. A long, rangy athlete, Simpson anticipates well in coverage, and he has the explosive lower body to transition and drive on throws with impeccable timing. With the ability to play man-to-man or line up in the post, his experience across the secondary is a strength — but he also has some cornerback-safety tweener traits, including his slight, under-powered size.

Overall, Simpson’s inconsistencies in the run game aren’t ideal for a nickel role, but his reactionary athleticism and ball-hawking instincts are superb and what will drive the discussion when NFL teams put his tag on the draft board. Although he is off some NFL boards because of his size, he projects best as a versatile role player in the secondary and potential special teamer.

Grade: 4th Round

– Dane Brugler, The Athletic (@dpbrugler)
 

SIGNATURE MOMENT

Simpson’s first career interception was a biggie, helping then-No. 18 Auburn defeat No. 10 Ole Miss 31-20 in 2021 with a fourth quarter pick in the end zone that preserved the Tigers’ two-score lead.

“Matt Corral rolled out of the pocket and I plastered with the nearest guy to me. He threw across his body and I capitalized on it,” Simpson said. “Once I saw the ball I just played my keys and did my job, and the ball hit me right in the face.”

Two years later, Simpson started his senior season in style, recording a 50-yard pick-six and recovering a fumble in Auburn’s season-opening 59-14 victory over Massachusetts in Hugh Freeze’s debut on the Plains.

Setting the tone for a banner season, Simpson intercepted passes in Auburn’s first three games and tallied four interceptions in the Tigers’ first five games to earn midseason All-America honors.