ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Justin Simmons will allow Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips to use the same sub-package looks that worked so well last year in helping the Broncos have the league's top-ranked defense.
A tall (6-foot-2) safety with a long stride and the ability to cover a lot of ground in a hurry, Simmons has the skill set to fill the role handled by David Bruton Jr. last year -- as a deep safety next to veteran Darian Stewart that allowed T.J. Ward to line up inside the box in a linebacker-type role.
"He's a big, rangy guy that can play center field," added General Manager John Elway. "We were looking for a center fielder that can get T.J. in the box."
Simmons' extensive special-teams work at Boston College also makes him a strong candidate to fill multiple roles for Joe DeCamillis right away.
"Obviously, he's going to fill a lot of roles on our football team," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "The biggest thing he gives us the ability to do defensively is to have some flexibility with T.J. being a box player, and [Stewart] being in the middle of the field. This kid can come down either way.
"You want flexibility as a safety in this league. Guys have to be able to cover; they have to be able to come down in the box and do those types of things."
Simmons can do all that. And as "a very smart young man," as Kubiak noted, Simmons can also read the intent of opposing quarterbacks. He finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year with five interceptions, including picks off Clemson's Deshaun Watson and N.C. State's Jacoby Brissett, who became a third-round pick of the New England Patriots late Friday night.
A standout at the East-West Shrine Game, Simmons has also played cornerback in the past, which means he could be brought closer to the line of scrimmage to have man coverage responsibilities off the snap.
Further, Simmons also gives the Broncos some long-term insurance. Stewart's contract expires after this season; if the Broncos cannot re-sign him, Simmons could ascend into the starting lineup alongside Ward, who has two years left on his contract.
"We've added a big piece to the puzzle here [after] losing Bruton," Kubiak said. "So this is a great get for us as a team."
Safety Justin Simmons, the Broncos' third-round pick (98th overall), in action at Boston College.