April 30, 2006
Columbia, S.C. – Former South Carolina safety Ko Simpson was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the eighth pick of the fourth round (105th pick overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft on April 30. In doing so, Simpson joins fellow Gamecock Johnathan Joseph as Carolina draftees in 2006 and becomes the 18th Gamecock drafted since 2000.
After turning in one of the best seasons ever for a freshman defensive player at South Carolina in 2004, Simpson came back in 2005 to earn first-team All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America and consensus all-SEC recognition. Simpson ranked third in the SEC and led all SEC defensive backs with 103 tackles, 72 of which were unassisted. His 13 pass breakups tied for the second-highest total in the SEC. Simpson was honored as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week after making 13 tackles (nine of which were unassisted), picking off a pass and recovering a fumble that he returned 19 yards for a touchdown in the Gamecocks’ win over Kentucky. Prior to the season, he was ranked as the top safety in the country and was a first-team All-America honoree from The Sporting News.
“I had a great experience at South Carolina and got the chance to play with and against some great players while I was there,” Simpson said. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d go to South Carolina again and I wouldn’t change a thing about my college experience. Coach Spurrier is a great coach and great players want to play for him. There are a lot of people who dream of playing for him and he’s going to have a lot of success at South Carolina.”
Simpson starred for the Gamecocks from the moment he joined the team, earning SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year honors from the Associated Press to go with Freshman All-America recognition from nearly every organization that presents such an honor in 2004. The Rock Hill, S.C., native led the SEC and ranked third nationally with six interceptions as a freshman. Simpson burst onto the scene when he picked off a pass thrown by Georgia’s David Greene and ran it back 57 yards for a touchdown in front of a national-television audience in the second game of his career. His penchant for making big plays became more and more apparent as the season wore on, as Simpson picked off six passes, recovered three fumbles and scored two defensive touchdowns. He ranked second on the team in tackles as a freshman with 61, 50 of which were of the solo variety.
Simpson came to South Carolina as a largely unnoticed recruit from Rock Hill HS, where he helped the team to the 2004 Class 4A State Championship his senior year and by made 112 tackles with four interceptions and six pass breakups his junior year. Simpson’s lone scholarship offer from a major school came from South Carolina and he didn’t enroll at Carolina until January of 2004.
Simpson was clocked at 4.47 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and recorded a 40.5 inch vertical leap.
Buffalo Bills Southeastern scout Joe Haering on 4th round selection of Ko Simpson
I was surprised he was available. We had him rated as a good player and probably would have gone on the first day. For him to be there in the fourth round we were really surprised. With the need we had he was a really good pick for us. He’s got size, speed and was a very productive college player. He did also come out early and is another junior…He’s a guy that will come in and because of his size, speed, and ability to tackle will be an immediate help on special teams. I think the coaches have him slotted to start to work in as a free safety so now we have a free safety and strong safety. While he’s learning that position he should be able to contribute early on special teams. One of the things he does best is that he is a physical player against the run. He had very good stats as a run stopper. He also has the speed to get into range to be a deep safety. He’s a good kid and was a very good player for his school, South Carolina, where he helped those guys turn down the run a little bit. They had him and Joseph, the two very good defensive backs.
On how Ko was used at South Carolina:
I think even at most colleges, whatever they are listed at they do play both up in the box as a strong safety and as a free safety. The games I saw him at a lot of the times he was in the box and coming up to play the run and also played in the 2-deep where he had to get back and play half of the field because of his really good straight line speed. I think he ran a 4.4 at Indianapolis. I think 4.45 it was, yes. He’s got good straight ahead speed so that gives him range to help him as a deep safety.
On his ball skills:
I think his interceptions were a little bit better a year before which would have been a sophomore year than this year but I think that’s because they used him as more of a free safety the year before and more of a dime safety this year. But he has played both and has the physical ability to play either position. I think our coaches have him slotted as a free safety because of his size and the position need because we already have a young safety coming in.
On any character issues:
There are no character issues at all that we know of. Everything was a positive. He was a good steady player for them and not a problem.
On why he may have fallen to the fourth round:
I have no idea because I am not in those other draft rooms but I think maybe we are just smarter than everybody else. I’m hoping that that’s the deal. When they say a guy is slipping, we keep on looking at the guy that we had in the first day, and we are thinking….Sometimes as you know guys, you look at our board and we think we have them in pretty good order and somebody in the second round falls down to the sixth round. That’s what they thought and because of need or they think they fit into their system better. Especially safeties or linebackers because of the different defenses, the 3-4, and some people play more zone or 2 deep concepts so they are looking for different corners or safeties. When you’re looking for the player, you grade him as an athlete and a college player but you also grade him on how he’s going to fit into your team. That’s why guys look at you and say, `They took that guy. You know we had him in the sixth round,’ but that’s what our philosophy is for the Buffalo Bills. He was a sixth rounder and sometimes it’s amazing. Those other teams make a lot of mistakes in my estimation.
On his coverage ability:
He has some coverage ability. In what I had seen he didn’t go a lot against wide receivers like most college safeties. Most of it was against running backs and tight ends in college and he did that very well. And that is what you’re looking for in a safety. There are only a few safeties that can come in and you always try for the most part to not match them up against wide receivers. There’s only a few of those guys that you think can be a good corner, safety…but he could probably be a nickel guy, go inside against the slot if you use him in sub packages.
South Carolina Gamecocks Drafted Since 2000 (All Rounds):Year Player Pos. Team Rd. Overall2006 Johnathan Joseph CB Bengals 1 24 Ko Simpson FS Bills 4 1052005 Troy Williamson WR Vikings 1 7 Rodriques Wilson LB Bears 7 220 Darrell Shropshire DT Falcons 7 2412004 Dunta Robinson DB Texans 1 10 Travelle Wharton OT Panthers 3 94 Deandre Eiland DB Vikings 6 1842003 Langston Moore DT Bengals 6 174 Corey Jenkins DB Dolphins 6 181 Andrew Pinnock RB Chargers 7 2292002 Kalimba Edwards DE Lions 2 35 Sheldon Brown DB Eagles 2 59 Andre Goodman DB Lions 3 68 Willie Offord DB Vikings 3 70 John Stamper DE Buccaneers 6 1932000 John Abraham LB Jets 1 13 Arturo Freeman DB Dolphins 5 152