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Kiper’s 1st NFL mock draft has Cardinals selecting Georgia OT

(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. agrees with the majority of mock draft creators thus far.

The Arizona Cardinals should go with an offensive tackle at pick No. 8 in the 2020 NFL Draft. Which offensive lineman they should choose has been up for debate.

In Kiper’s first version of his mock draft, Arizona selects Georgia Bulldogs offensive tackle Andrew Thomas.

This is about the range in which we could see a run on offensive tackles, and Thomas, who has played on both the left and right, is No. 1 on my board. I debated going with a receiver here; wouldn’t Kyler Murray’s former teammate CeeDee Lamb enjoy catching a few more long touchdown passes from his friend? But this comes down to protecting the franchise quarterback, and Arizona desperately needs help along its line, particularly at left tackle, where starter D.J. Humphries is a free agent. The Cardinals also have some defensive deficiencies, so keep an eye on a defensive back, too.

There’s a lot of intriguing thought in that paragraph, but comparing Kiper’s mock to others, a key point stands out.

Arizona general manager Steve Keim will have options to add a ready-to-go impact player. Whether that’s good or bad is hard to say.

As of a few months ago, Thomas was generally regarded as the top offensive tackle in the draft class, but there are now other names rising to the top.

For example, Daniel Jeremiah’s mock draft released three days ago on features Louisville’s Mikhi Becton going No. 4 overall and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills coming off the board No. 6. That left Arizona to draft Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs at the eighth pick, though Jeremiah sees him more as a guard than a tackle.

Kiper likes those options, too, and that’s a good sign for the Cardinals if other teams draft tackles ahead of them. The ESPN analyst has Becton, Wills and Wirfs all getting drafted 10th to 14th overall.

As for the receiver options, Lamb and fellow top prospect Jerry Jeudy of Alabama don’t come off Kiper’s board until 12th and 13th, respectively. Kiper also has Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, another receiver, going 15th overall.

Todd McShay, Kiper’s fellow ESPN draft analyst, had the Cardinals selecting Lamb at No. 6 overall when his mock draft came out in mid-December.

Point is, it appears that there’s pretty good receiver and tackle talent in the top-half of the first round. Arizona desperately needs both.

The Cardinals, however, can’t afford to make the wrong choice.

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