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Arizona Cardinals Mock Draft 3.0: Two trades and defensive line gets a huge boost

NFL Draft Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is only one day away and the Arizona Cardinals have quite a few needs to address.

A.J. Green was re-signed to a one-year deal last week which might make wide receiver less of a glaring need for Arizona. The cornerback room is already young as it is with Byron Murphy, Marco Wilson, and free agent signing Jeff Gladney.

This draft class is loaded with talented EDGE rushers, linebackers, and running backs.

It is difficult to predict what direction the Cardinals will go in with their first pick. Arizona is supposedly very interested in Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and Vance Joseph attended Houston’s Pro Day to get a closer look at Logan Hall. Steve Keim said during last week’s press conference that their needs include EDGE rusher, wide receiver, and cornerback.

He said Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks is a “big body that does a tremendous job with his catch radius” and Purdue pass rusher George Karlaftis “is a guy that doesn’t have the bells and whistles in terms of bend and edge rush ability but...you’re getting a man that’s grown and he absolutely loves the game.”

Without further ado, here is my final mock draft of the season:

Missouri Tigers v Georgia Bulldogs Photo by Steven Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Round 1 (19): Jordan Davis - Nose Tackle, Georgia (from Saints in mock trade)

Mock Trade (trade up): Cardinals’ 22 first-round pick (No. 23) and ‘23 third-round pick for the Saints ‘22 first-round pick (19) and ‘22 fifth-round pick (No. 161)

Though I would love nothing more than to see the Cardinals trade up for a top receiver prospect, this could be another draft where Steve Keim invests heavily in the defense again. In three of the Cardinals final four losses in the 2021 regular season, running backs Craig Reynolds, Jonathan Taylor, and Rashaad Penny had over 100 rushing yards against Arizona. Their 4.6 yards per carry allowed on defense was tied for fifth-worst in the 2021 season.

Jordan Davis, who is considered to be a generational-type talent for a man of his size (6’6’’ 341lbs) and speed (4.78 40), falls far enough for the Cardinals to trade up for him. He might not offer much as a pass rusher but he is a stone wall on that defensive line that will constantly draw double teams. None of the moves GM Steve Keim made this offseason has shored up their run defensive woes of last year. That changes here with this pick as their run defense gets a whole lot better with Davis.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Iowa State at Oklahoma Photo by David Stacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 2 (55): Nik Bonitto - EDGE, Oklahoma

The 22-year-old out of Oklahoma is one of the fastest pass rushers in the upcoming draft, clocking a 4.54 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. His exceptional athleticism not only made him a dangerous pass rusher (109 pressures since 2019) but also a versatile linebacker with ample coverage duties at the college level. That versatility and athletic ability is exactly what Vance Joseph covets in an outside linebacker that he has not had since Haason Reddick in 2020.

Speaking of Reddick, both him and Bonitto are very similar players. Both are considered undersized at their positions but make up for it was great burst and speed to get after the quarterback and as a cover man. He finished his college career with 118 tackles, 19.5 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, and an interception.

Purdue v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Round 3 (94): David Bell - Wide Receiver, Purdue (from Chiefs in mock trade)

Mock Trade (trade down): Cardinals’ 22 third-round pick (No. 87) and ‘22 fifth-round pick (from Saints in first mock trade) for the Chiefs ‘22 third-round pick (No. 94) and ‘22 fourth-round pick (No. 121)

The common misconception in regards to receivers is if they lack speed or run a poor 40 time, they are not going to make it in the NFL. Yet time and time again, receivers have proven that to be false. DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.57 40-yard dash but is a five-time Pro Bowler and is regarded by many as the best receiver in the NFL. Same goes with Rams’ Cooper Kupp, who ran a 4.62 40 at the NFL Combine and had a record-breaking Super Bowl Championship season with 145 receptions, 1947 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns.

David Bell out of Purdue has never been known for his speed but is coming off a year where he had 93 receptions, 1,286 receiving yards, and six touchdowns in a pretty good Big Ten conference. He is a tall receiver (6’2’’ 212lbs) who has had success on the outside and in the slot. Bell just turned 21 in December and would reunite with former Purdue teammate Rondale Moore in Arizona.

Colorado v ASU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Round 4 (121): Rachaad White - Running Back, Arizona State (from Chiefs in mock trade)

With Chase Edmonds signing with the Miami Dolphins, the Cardinals could be in search for a No. 2 running back in the 2022 draft. And there have not been any signs that they are committed to Eno Benjamin or Jonathan Ward as the primary change-of-pace running back behind James Conner. It has already been reported that Arizona has met with Cincinnati’s Jerome Ford, Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr, and South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr. With the fourth-round selection acquired from the Chiefs in a mock trade, Arizona fills the void left by Chase with the selection of Arizona State alum Rachaad White.

“It’s always nice to be able to try to get some local talent,” Keim said during his press conference last week. “Drafting Eno [Benjamin] was fun because to have a guy that’s local and all the ASU fans in the valley can sort of rally and support him.”

White was impressive in his lone year as a starter as a ball carrier and pass catcher out of the backfield with 1,000 rushing yards, 456 receiving yards on 43 receptions, and scoring 16 total touchdowns. He has the straight-line speed (4.48 40) to take it to the house at any given moment.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 North Carolina at Pitt Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 6 (201): Joshua Ezeudu - Guard, North Carolina

Joshua Ezeudu has the positional versatility that teams will covet with his experience as both a starting left guard and tackle with the North Carolina Tarheels. He has projectable traits as he possesses the necessarily athleticism and strength to be an eventual starting guard in the NFL. A big reason why Ezeudu fits with the Cardinals is the fact that he played in an up-tempo and fast paced offense at the college level. And we know how Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray love going no huddle.

Justin Pugh is on the final year of his contract and the Cardinals are going to need to replace him in 2023 if he is not extended. Ezeudu would be a good developmental prospect to draft in the sixth round.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Round 6 (215): DaRon Bland - Cornerback, Fresno State (compensatory)

When it comes to the overall skill for the position, you gotta like what you see from him especially this late in the draft. He played his first three years at Sacramento State prior to joining Fresno State in 2021. Bland has really good athletic traits and great makeup speed. He has fluid hips and just plays with great effort. At 6-feet 197 pounds, he also has size for the position.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 30 Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 7 (244): Juanyeh Thomas - Safety, Georgia Tech

Juanyeh may lack the instincts and cover skills to excel on defense but plays physical and is best fit to play in the box close to the line of scrimmage as a run defender. He flashed this during the East-West Shrine Bowl earlier this year and might be best fit as buck linebacker like what Deone Bucannon was for the Cardinals in the Bruce Arians era if presented with that opportunity. The seventh round is a good spot to add players that can contribute to special teams coverage units and Thomas would certainly provide that skill as a gunner standing at 6-feet-1 212 pounds.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 18 Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl - Oregon State v Utah State Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 7 (256): Deven Thompkins - Wide Receiver, Utah State (compensatory)

From a pure production standpoint, Thompkins caught my eye. He had 102 receptions, 1,704 yards, and 10 touchdowns at Utah State last year. He is a very undersized receiver standing a 5-feet-7 167 pounds but ran a blazing 4.44 40-yard dash during his Pro Day.

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Round 7 (257): Ryan Stonehouse - Punter, Colorado State (compensatory)

To keep it short, Andy Lee is not getting any younger with him turning 40 in August. Stonehouse averaged 47.8 yards per punt since 2017 which is the highest in NCAA history. Matt Araiza is getting almost all the attention as the top punter in the 2022 NFL Draft but Stonehouse deserves some recognition too.

Here is a shorter version (* = acquired via mock trade):

Round 1 (19)*: Jordan Davis - NT, Georgia (from Saints)
Round 2 (55): Nik Bonitto - EDGE, Oklahoma
Round 3 (94)*: David Bell - WR, Purdue (from Chiefs)
Round 4 (121)*: Rachaad White - RB, Arizona State (from Chiefs)
Round 6 (201): Joshua Ezeudu - OG, North Carolina
Round 6 (215): DaRon Bland - CB, Fresno State (compensatory)
Round 7 (244): Juanyeh Thomas - S, Georgia Tech
Round 7 (256): Deven Thompkins - WR, Utah State (compensatory)
Round 7 (255): Ryan Stonehouse - P, Colorado State (compensatory)

“With the 23rd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals select _________________”

Let’s have some fun! Enjoy the NFL Draft!