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2020 Draft Wins: Arizona Cardinals

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NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Oklahoma vs Louisiana State John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2020 NFL Combine in the books and with the start of the free agency talking period less than two weeks away, the Arizona Cardinals are now in the process of putting the finishing touches on their off-season plan.

In many ways trying to decide on prospects at the NFL Combine is like perusing an elaborate menu at a five star restaurant and somehow finding a way to settle on the best order—-do you go for something more exotic like a zuppa de pesche or frog legs in butter and garlic? Or do you go with the sure thing, like a filet mignon or chicken parmesan?

Well, what I learned over the weekend is I want the Cardinals to select WR CeeDee Lamb at #8, the player whom, Kyler Murray, our 2019 Offensive ROTY QB wants.

Based on the prospects who skyrocketed at the Combine, I think that it’s a pretty sure bet that WR CeeDee Lamb will be available at #8. As will WR Jerry Jeudy.

The fact is—-the Cardinals need a #1 WR—-and Kyler recognizes that.

Sure, the Cardinals drafted 4 WRs the past two years—-but—-if we are being honest with ourselves, none of the 4 WRs the Cardinals drafted were expected to be a WR1 and the rightful heir to the Fitzgerald Throne.

Surrounding Kyler with as many good receiving options as the Cardinals can is wise and it would be especially great to get Kyler’s WR1 in place asap so that they could have a 4 year run at a championship.

Having a WR1 will help all of the receivers on the team.

Yes, the talent in this draft at the tackle position is impressive—-Jedrick Wills or Tristan Wirfs would look particularly good in Cardinal red.

But, the Cardinals are going to make a strong case to sign RT Jack Conklin to 5 year deal in the vicinity of $16-17M a year. Yesterday, Adam Schefter made it clear that Conklin is not a lock to accept the rumored Jets’ rumored offer of 5 years at $90M. Apparently, Conklin is looking for the right fit, team, scheme and money wise. And if Peter Schrager is correct about the Cardinals’ popularity among free agents, Conklin could very well pick the Cardinals.

If the Cardinals would prefer to draft Wills or Wirfs, then they could put their sights on signing a WR1 in free agency. The one clear WR1 option who likely won’t be receiving the franchise tag is Amari Cooper. But to sign Cooper, what will, it take? Probably close to $20M a year. The Bengals are slapping the f-tag on A.J. Green, who spent the 2019 season on the shelf, and it would be quite a stretch to think of Robbie Anderson as a legit WR1.

The WR1 cupboard after Cooper and Green is bare.

However, the numbers work for the Cardinals at #8 to draft their WR1.

What if Conklin signs somewhere else? How about Brian Bulaga? Bulaga’s 2019 PFF grade of 77.9 was #12 in the NFL for tackles who played in more than 800 snaps. Jack Conklin at 78.0 was #11.

if not Bulaga, how about re-signing Marcus Gilbert at a very affordable salary and have him compete with Justin Murray, who was the Cardinals’ highest graded OL the last 6 weeks of the season (69.2)?

Imagine if Justin Murray builds on his 2019 momentum. He’s a ERFA this season and would be a RFA next year, thus making him a salary bargain.

Plus, if you think this year’s draft is loaded at tackle, wait until you see next year’s.

On Twitter and within the Arizona media recently there have been outcries from fans and pundits who insist, no matter what, that the Cardinals HAVE to take a defensive player at #8.

Sure, the holes on defense at 34DE and WILB appear to be enormous.

However, at the Combine, LB/S hybrid Isaiah Simmons pretty much locked up a top 3-6 selection when he ran a 4.39.

Can the Cardinals trade up to take Simmons? Can’t see them being able to do that in this draft without giving up multiple picks in this year’s draft and next year’s #1 pick.

As for 34DE, if you watched Derrick Brown’s performance this weekend, yikes. Brown is tremendously powerful, but his feet and agility are now in question. Plus, drafting DIs high in the draft has been quite the crap shoot in recent years.

But, what about Javon Kinlaw? His talent is promising and he has good size, strength and quicks, but is he a bona fide top 10 pick?

We learned this weekend that the Cardinals are one of five teams courting UFA 34DE Derek Wolfe. if the Cardinals can sign Wolfe to start at the 34LDE spot opposite Zach Allen, and then if they can re-sign Zack Kerr or Rodney Gunter for depth, plus perhaps bring back run stuffer Jonathan Ballard for a tad more than the minimum, with Corey Peters starting at NT and Miles Brown behind him and Michael Dogbe in the DI pass rushing rotation, that group could shape very nicely.

We also learned this weekend that RB Kenyan Drake is asking for $10M a year—-which confirms that his head is in free agent la la land.

Same. imo, for ILB Joe Schobert, who also is asking for $10M, despite a 2019 PFF grade of 59.1, which ranks him close to #100 in the NFL. If you watched Schobert’s play versus the Cardinals, it was poor (40.0 grade) across the board, even in pass coverage which is typically Schobert’s strength.

The numbers work very well in the Cardinals’ favor to draft a dynamic RB at #40 like J.K. Dobbins, D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Zack Moss or Cam Akers.

Then at #72 there are two very athletic cover safeties in Kyle Dugger (6-1, 218, Lenoir-Rhyne) and Jeremy Chinn (6-3, 221, Southern Illinois) who have the size, speed and fluid athleticism to cover TEs.

The Cardinals appear to be committed to starting Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford at CB this season—-which would make one wonder if Byron Murphy can be assigned to cover TEs on passing downs. It would be ideal if the Cardinals could sign ILB Cory Littleton, who can cover TEs on any down. But if Littleton is too pricey, Nick Kwiatowski, who was PFF’s #12 ranked ILB in 2019 (72.6) for ILBers who played in more than 500 snaps and also graded well on pass coverage (68.7) ranking #17 in the NFL, would be a very good choice.

Obviously, the Cardinals have to pave the way to feel perfectly comfortable drafting CeeDee Lamb at #8. They need to fortify both sides of the ball up front.

if the Cardinals can’t accomplish that to their satisfaction in free agency, then they may need to move in a another direction at #8.

What do you think should happen, and what will happen?