Perfect Picks: Arizona Cardinals
With the NFL Draft approaching we are looking at each team and evaluating where they need to improve. In this particular series we are running a seven round mock using the Draft Network Mock machine, and finding the ‘Perfect Picks’ for each franchise.
We are highlighting five players that could help each team. This will include a ‘flex’ pick where we give you two ways a potential pick could go depending on how the board falls. All in all you will get picks 1 and 2, a mid round gem and a late round sleeper.
On to Arizona who certainly won’t be taking a quarterback in the first round for the third straight season, given Kyler Murray’s rookie season progress. The Cards showed some promise on offense at times in 2019 but were pretty dreadful defensively, finishing up 23rd in DVOA per Football Outsiders. Lots of hope and lots of holes in Arizona, so an intriguing draft upcoming. Let’s take a look at some likely scenarios.
Round 1 - Pick 8 - Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Kyler Murray was sacked 48 times in his rookie year, and though some of those were undoubtedly down to his playing style, the Cardinals offensive line is not without blame. It’s no secret that Arizona needs to build a better front to protect Murray and the team may well use their first round pick on Andrew Thomas, tackle out of Georgia. Thomas is a powerful blocker with the archetypal left tackle build, and excelled at the position in 3 years as starter for the Bulldogs. Thomas could improve his footwork against speed rushers but this is nitpicking, and common in almost all rookie lineman, and the 6’5, 320lb junior projects as an above average NFL starter.
Flex Pick - Pick 8 - Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Alternatively, the Cardinals need to upgrade their WR corps. Future HOF receiver Larry Fitzgerald is returning for a 17th straight year but there is no guarantee that he will play beyond 2020, so what better time to draft a stud wideout who could benefit from Fitz’s tutelage? Jerry Jeudy was electric for Alabama in 2019, catching 77 balls for 1163 yards and 10 scores. He has the rare combination (for a rookie) of accomplished route routing and breakaway speed, and he’d be an immediate plug and play weapon for any NFL offense. His willingness to line up outside, in the slot, and in the backfield suits Kingsbury’s speed and misdirection based offensive scheme perfectly.
Round 2 - Pick 40 - Raekwon Davis, IDL, Alabama
The Cardinals need a plug and play interior defensive lineman and Raekwon Davis out of Alabama fits the bill nicely. The 6’7 prospect has all the size and length you need to play the position confidently in the NFL. The Cards gave up over 120 yards per game on the ground in 2019 so a guy with Davis’ ridiculous wingspan and tackle radius is just what the doctor ordered. Though he didn’t progress over his final two seasons as many projected, Davis is still an excellent developmental rotational starter at the position with all the physical traits to succeed.
Mid Round Gem - Pick 104 - Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
If Markus Bailey hadn’t suffered a season ending knee injury back in September in practice, there’s no chance he would be projected to drop this far in the draft. But that’s how the cookie crumbles and the 6’1, 240lb former leader of Purdue’s defense finds himself slipping down draft boards because of concerns about longevity at the pro level. If he recovers sufficiently and stays healthy however, Arizona could get a steal in the middle rounds in Bailey. The LB is highly intelligent and has the versatility to play anywhere in the linebacker corps, including covering in zone. He’s shown enough football smarts to suggest he could call plays at the pro-level if given the opportunity. A true ‘watch this space’ player if healthy.
Late Round Sleeper - Pick 182 - JD Spielman, WR, Nebraska
Even if Arizona seeks to upgrade their receivers early in the draft, given the depth of this year’s class it would be no surprise to see them go in again in the latter portion. JD Spielman, adopted son of Viking’s GM Rick, has late round sleeper written all over him. The Nebraska product has come on leaps and bounds since joining the Cornhuskers. A two sport athlete at high school (excelling in both football and lacrosse), Spielman broke a number of records at Nebraska, including becoming the first ever WR to notch 200 receiving yards in one game (vs. Wisconsin). Spielman is a technical route runner but best with the ball in his hands. Elusive and slick, he has great special teams potential.
Draft in full
8. Andrew Thomas (OT)
40. Raekwon Davis (IDL)
72. Denzel Mims (WR)
104. Markus Bailey (LB)
182. JD Spielman (WR)
199. Reggie Robinson II (CB)
Feature Image Credit: NYPost.com