Would you want an outside linebacker for your team if he were smaller than some of the kickers and punters in the National Football League? If that outside linebacker is Florida State's Ernie Sims, and if you are smart, the answer should be "yes". Despite standing just 5-foot-11 1/4 and weighing 234 pounds, Sims is one of the top outside linebacker prospects in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Ernie Sims III was born Dec. 23, 1984 in Tallahassee, Fla. He earned a varsity spot at North Florida Christian in eighth grade and would go on to lead the team to four state championships in his five years of play. As a senior, Sims had 133 tackles, 15 tackles for lost yardage, six forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and one blocked field goal. On top of that, he also registered over 1,000 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns as a running back.
Rated the No. 1 high school linebacker prospect in the country by multiple publications, Sims received interest from many top college programs. It should not have surprised anyone when Sims chose to attend Florida State. His father, Ernie Sims Jr., played for the Seminoles under head coach Bobby Bowden from 1978-1981. His mother was an All-American sprinter at Florida State from 1980-83.
In 2003, Sims played in all 13 games for the Seminoles as a true freshman and racked up 42 tackles. Though playing mostly as a backup linebacker, he was also a standout on special teams.
Sims started 11 out of 12 games in 2004, earning Second Team All-ACC honors. He more than doubled his previous tackle total with 86 stops, nine tackles for lost yardage, 4.5 sacks, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. He led the team with three games of double-digit tackles.
In what would be his last collegiate season, the junior Sims started all 13 games and ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 72. He also added ten tackles for lost yardage, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Following the season, Sims declared for the 2006 NFL Draft. He left school early, is undersized for the position and is coming off a year in which his numbers dropped. So why is Sims a likely top 20 pick?
The first thing that stands out about Sims is his athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and ran a 4.48 at Florida State's Pro Day in March. He has great agility and acceleration, which results in him often being close to the ball.
Surprisingly, Sims holds up very well against blocking, and that should help him make the transition to the pros.
To date, Sims has done well in coverage thanks to his speed. He is a very tough player and fits the description of "playing bigger than he is."
As far as intangibles go, Sims has very good football instincts which keep him in the play. He's a tough, intense player that always goes all out.
The obvious knock on Sims is his size, and unfortunately it does create some disadvantages. Players are bigger and faster in the pro game which will make it difficult to completely duplicate his success at the next level. Sims will be limited on Draft Day in the sense that he will not fit every team's defense and will need to go to the right scheme.
Like many similar players, Sims' intensity can sometimes take him out of the play by over pursuing.
Keeping with apparent school tradition, Sims has also had a run-in with the law. In June 2005, he was charged with two misdemeanors of domestic battery and resisting arrest without violence.
While not in A.J. Hawk territory in terms of draft status, Sims is not far behind and should give Iowa's Chad Greenway some competition for being the second outside linebacker selected in the draft.
Philadelphia (No. 14) is probably the first realistic possibility for Sims, but it seems more likely they go with Greenway or in another direction altogether.
The most likely destination for Sims is Minnesota. The Vikings have the No. 17 pick in the draft and likely won't have to worry about him going before they pick. Current starting weakside linebacker Dontarrious Thomas, a second-round pick in 2004, has been somewhat disappointing thus far. The new coaching regime led by Brad Childress in Minnesota would likely be in favor of bringing in some quality competition at the position.
Perhaps most importantly, in Minnesota, Sims would play behind the nearly 630 pounds of defensive tackle provided by Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. This could be an ideal situation for Sims and would put the talented linebacker on a path to pro success.