Now that the initial waive of free agency has come and gone, I thought it would be an appropriate time to roll out my second mock draft of the “draft season”.
We are roughly two weeks away from round one, and things are as muddled as ever. The Cardinals have gone out of their way to secure “upgrades” at seemingly every position of need with some (DeAndre Hopkins) adding more value than others (Marcus Gilbert).
Regardless, Cardinal General Manager Steve Keim has done an admirable job of improving this roster in the short term without sacrificing long term resources. He has enabled this team to go into April 23rd with an open mindset of truly securing the best available players.
So, without further ado, here are the results from my most recent Arizona Cardinal Mock Draft:
Round 1: Arizona Cardinals TRADE pick 8 to Cleveland Browns for pick 10 and pick 97.
Arizona Cardinals select Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama (pick 10)
In this scenario, all the premium defenders (Derrick Brown, Isaiah Simmons, Jeff Okudah) were long gone as were all the top quarterbacks. This allowed the Cardinals to deal down to the Cleveland Browns, who wanted to secure their left tackle of the future (Mekhi Becton). After the Jaguars (pick 9) opted to go defense with Javon Kinlaw, that left Arizona with some quality options, even with Becton and Tristian Wirfs (#5 to Miami) off the board.
I opted to go with one of the safest picks in the draft, that being Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills. Wills has perhaps the best overall tape of any of the offensive tackles but questions surrounding his size (6’4 1/2, 310) pushes him to OT3 in this scenario.
It also doesn’t help that no Alabama offensive tackle, in the Nick Saban era, has developed into a pro bowler at the next level.
What you see on tape with Wills, however, is the most polished pass protector in this year’s draft. Wills has a steady presence in the run game, but his ability to wall off the fearsome edge rushers of the SEC makes him that much more valuable to the pass happy Cardinals. His flexibility is tremendous in combination with his textbook footwork and technique.
With the absence of OTAs, securing a prospect that’s “pro ready” should be a priority for the Arizona Cardinals. Jedrick Wills is just that, as the former Tide standout immediately walks off the plane as the team’s starting right tackle.
Other options considered: OT Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and CeeDee Lamb WR (Oklahoma).
Round 2: Baltimore Ravens TRADE pick 55 to Arizona Cardinals for pick 72 and 131
Arizona Cardinals select Patrick Queen, ILB, LSU (pick 55)
With the Cardinals now equipped with two third round selections following the trade down with Cleveland, Keim and company could keep a close eye on round two should there be a premium player suddenly available.
Sure enough, coveted ILB Patrick Queen saw his stock tumble right into the hands of the Arizona Cardinals.
A steep price? Perhaps, but dealing away a third and fourth round pick for an ILB with first round tape is an absolute win.
Queen is the prototypical modern day NFL linebacker. With 4.5 speed and instincts to match, the former LSU Tiger has the kind of ability to immediately aid Arizona’s tight end woes defensively.
This may not be Isaiah Simmons (who is?) but it’s a terrific consolation prize for a player that is drawing pro comparisons to that of Thomas Davis.
Queen would immediately challenge for playing time alongside Jordan Hicks, while also shining on special teams during his rookie campaign. The addition of LB De’Vondre Campbell on a mere one year deal gives Keim the flexibility to add an impact ILB via the draft and bring him along slowly.
Queen only started a single season at LSU, but often stoodout in the biggest games for the Tigers (Check out the Georgia and Clemson tape).
Give him time to develop and you’ve got a quality building block to add to an otherwise mediocre front seven.
Other players considered: OT Ezra Cleveland (Boise State), DL Raekwon Davis (Alabama) and OG Damien Lewis (LSU).
Round 3: Pick 92 (from Cleveland)
Arizona Cardinals select Rashard Lawrence, DL, LSU
After failing to address the defensive line with each of their first two picks, the addition of Lawrence is a welcomed one with the newly acquired pick 92.
Lawrence, like his counterpart in Queen, hail from the National Champion LSU Tigers. While collegiate accolades mean little at the next level, don’t discount the presence of adding two players defensively who know how to win at the highest level.
The theme of this class is already starting to take shape.
Big names from big programs. Outside of Kyler Murray, the Cardinals have not followed this blueprint in recent years and you could argue that it’s burned them as a franchise when drafting.
From Brandon Williams (Grambling State) to Haason Reddick (Temple) and Andy Isabella (UMASS), Keim and company have gotten far too cute with their early round selections.
Not everyone can be John Brown.
This draft should be about getting back to basics not only from a positional standpoint (loading up on the LOS/front seven) but also about securing players from power five conferences.
Lawrence may be slightly undersized at 6’2, 310 but more than makes up for it with his play on the field. He’s a high motor player with an incredibly strong upper body that allows him to quickly shed opposing linemen.
While he offers little in the pass rushing department, he is a selfless player that is often asked to take on multiple blocks. He would immediately contribute has a rotational piece with a chance to grow into a starter come 2021.
Other players considered: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan) TE Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) and CB Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame).
Round 4: Pick 114
Arizona Cardinals select Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
After I just ranted about going with big name programs, it’s fitting that I began day three of the draft by selecting a small school corner.
I’d argue that’s when you’re able to take risks with players that may have played against a weaker level of competition (or have red flags).
The Cardinals need cornerback help, even after the addition Byron Murphy a season ago.
Robert Alford is essentially an unknown and Patrick Peterson is on the last year of his contract. The aforementioned Murphy also struggled in the second half of his rookie season.
At 5’9, 190, Robertson is your protoyipcal slot corner.
He plays fast for his size and is tremendous at reading opposing offenses. So much so that the former Conference USA standout has an astounding 14 career interceptions.
He’s also been known to hold his own in the run game.
In a perfect world, Robertson develops into the team’s primary slot corner, with Byron Murphy moving back outside like the team originally intended when they took him 33rd overall a year ago.
Other players considered: WR K.J. Hill (Ohio State) and TE Thaddeus Moss (LSU).
Round 5: No Selections
Round 6: Pick 2020
Arizona Cardinals select Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA
With the return of both Kenyan Drake and DJ Foster (one year deals), it is not a lock that Keim opts to add a running back in this year’s draft. Throw in the fact that they come into the draft with a lack of picks to begin with and you could argue it’s a luxury they can’t afford.
That being said, in this scenario, I felt that UCLA running back Joshua Kelley was far and away the best option available.
Kelley is a downhill, bruiser of a runner that would immediately become a short yardage option (especially in the redzone). His pad level is always point forward and he has the ultimate “north and south” mindset.
In other words, he doesn’t get cute and try to outrun opposing defenses by going east and west.
NFL Network’s Charles Davis thinks so much of the former Bruin that he even floated the notion that Kelley could be the next Priest Holmes...
Arizona Cardinals select Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee
Given their history, the University of Tennessee has grossly underperformed recently as a football program but that doesn’t mean they aren’t housing some premium athletes. Jennings projects as a potential number four receiver with quality upside on special teams.
With a big, thick frame, he’s tough to bring down but lacks explosiveness down field. Regardless, with their lone seventh round pick, I’d rather roll the dice on a kid from a premium conference that’s got a chance to out physical people in camp.
Recap: To me, this draft needs to be about securing proven, standout players from premium college programs. The Cardinals, while talented in certain areas, are far too top heavy as a roster. Their front seven has been deteriorating since the departure of Calais Campbell and their offensive line needs a young blue chipper to grow with Kyler Murray.
Wills and Queen project as your home run, long term starters (with Pro Bowl potential) with both Lawrence and Robertson added as rotational pieces (with the chance of eventually becoming starters).
Kelley and Jennings have special team value but also the opportunity to learn from a offensive guru in Kliff Kingsbury.
It also doesn’t hurt to play alongside Kyler Murray on offense.