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Defense or trade back: My Cardinals 2020 draft wish list

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Draft day is upon us! Here is one writer’s wish list for the Cardinals draft.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State
Let’s hope an elite defensive prospect like Isaiah Simmons falls to the Cardinals at #8.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Given the state of the world in general—and the sports world specifically—it’s a minor miracle that the NFL draft is happening today as planned. I’m happy it is, as the NFL draft is one of my favorite sporting events of the year. (Although I wish they’d go back to starting early on Saturdays again.)

It’ll be especially interesting to see what the Cardinals do with their #8 pick. I’ll be honest—I have no idea what they’re going to do with the pick. But if ideas are in short supply, I have plenty of wishes for what they’ll do over the next three days. So, here’s my wish list for the 2019 Arizona Cardinals draft.

Wish #1: One of the defensive studs falls to #8.

I might not even need to wish too hard for this. The latest buzz around the league has the Giants taking an offensive lineman with the #4 pick, so it’s looking increasingly likely that one of Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Simmons, or Derrick Brown will be available at #8. If that’s the case, I hope Steve Keim and the Cardinals pounce on that player, whoever it is. The offense is already in great shape, but the defense still needs a lot of help. If the goal is to not be drafting in the top 10 again next season (and it had better be), we need to use the top-10 pick we have this year on the unit that needs the most help. Adding Okudah or, more likely, Simmons or Brown to the unit will improve the team in 2020 and beyond more than an O-lineman or, especially wide receiver.

Wish #2: If no defensive stud is available, trade back a few spots.

If all three of Okudah, Simmons, and Brown are gone, I’d want the Redbirds to trade back a bit—no more than, say, 10 spots—and grab the highest Day 2 pick we can get. We could hopefully then grab one of the many solid OT options (Mekhi Becton or Josh Jones?) or one of the second-tier defenders (like Javon Kinlaw or K’Lavon Chaisson). No matter which way you slice it, there will be a strong prospect at a position of need in the teens. And an extra Day 2 pick is sorely needed to grab, perhaps, an RB, lineman, or—sigh—even a WR. This draft seems deep at the Cardinals’ positions of need, so getting more picks makes sense if we miss out on the top defenders.

Wish #3: Do NOT draft a WR in the 1st round.

I’ve been beating this drum all offseason, and it continues to flabbergast me that many Cardinals fans and observers—including most of the 98.7 crew—are still pushing for the team to draft someone like CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs at #8 (or later if we trade down). The team spent a 2nd-rounder on Christian Kirk in 2018, a 2nd-rounder on Andy Isabella last year, and traded this year’s 2nd-rounder for DeAndre Hopkins. We’ve already thrown enough draft resources at the position. To spend a top-10 pick this year would be reckless and show a poor understanding of how to build a championship team. Super Bowl teams just don’t spend top picks on wideouts—especially if they’ve already spent so many resources on the position. I think the only way I’d be disappointed in the Cardinals draft this year is if we draft a WR in the 1st round.

Wish #4: Draft an exciting RB in the middle rounds.

Just because I don’t want the team to draft a WR doesn’t mean I think we should ignore the skill positions. This is reportedly a deep draft for RBs, and the team’s depth chart at the position is thin at this point—Kenyan Drake (still unsigned long-term), Chase Edmonds, and D.J. Foster (who has yet to make an impact in the regular season in his Cardinals career). I would love it if we drafted one of the many exciting RBs in Rounds 3-5 to, perhaps, eventually supplant Drake. Cheap talent on rookie deals goes a long way, especially at RB. That’s a position I’ll be keeping my eye on as Friday turns to Saturday.

Wish #5: We temper our expectations for the 2020 rookie class.

Last year’s rookie class got a lot of hype—too much hype, as it turned out. Other than Kyler Murray (who won Offensive Rookie of the Year), the rest of the draft class failed to make much of an impact. Byron Murphy played a ton, but played like a rookie (which is to say, not that well). Andy Isabella and Zach Allen barely played for various reasons. Deionte Thompson and KeeSean Johnson were nondescript. The rest of the class were barely seen nor heard. But it’s important to remember that the transition from college ball to the pros is a tough one—especially when you’re joining a team that was 3-13 the year before and breaking in a rookie coach (and QB). The 2020 class will be coming into a slightly better situation, but let’s do our best to temper our expectations and give them some time to adjust to the NFL game. Expecting immediate and significant production from any rookie class is unrealistic.

Final Thoughts

This is my wish list for the Cardinals 2020 draft… what is yours? Are there still 1st-round WR proponents in the RotB comments section? Anyone still hoping for one of the top tackles? What about later in the draft? Toss a comment below and make a wish!