NFL mock drafts divert to Cardinals selecting defensive players at No. 8
D.J. Humphries agreeing to remain the starting left tackle for the Arizona Cardinals for the foreseeable future may change the team’s approach to the draft.
Arizona, with the No. 8 overall pick, still doesn’t have a starting right tackle under contract. Justin Murray, Marcus Gilbert and Jordan Mills could re-sign, and each of them knows the system after spending last year either playing or in the Cardinals locker room while recovering from injury.
That said, there are high-level tackle prospects in the range of Arizona’s first-round pick. Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills are among the potential tackle candidates general manager Steve Keim could select to bolster the starting offensive line for 2020.
Humphries’ three-year extension signed this week, however, does take away some pressure for that top pick to be a starting tackle, and NFL mock drafts are reflecting that.
The most recent mocks across the internet have the Cardinals now leaning heavily toward the defensive side of the ball and away from offensive tackles and receivers, both needs that dominated prior mock drafts.
No. 8 — DT Derrick Brown, Auburn
The Cardinals have work to do on shoring up a defense that finished 23rd in DVOA in 2019. Brown brings the athleticism, length, and versatility to play multiple roles on Vance Joseph’s defensive front and gives the team a three-down stalwart to build around.
Brown is gaining traction in the draft and was already widely considered the top defensive lineman. Now, he’s even moreso one to watch for the Cardinals. At 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, he has the size of a nose tackle and the explosiveness and motor to slide outside as an end. Considering defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes to move people around and had a duo of 300-pound-plus players in Corey Peters and Zach Kerr lining up side-by-side last year — although those were injured-caused circumstances — Brown would seemingly be a significant, ready-to-go addition.
No. 8 — LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
He is perfect for a defense that has had coverage issues for a long time. Simmons can line up all over the field, having played safety, but could call linebacker home.
Arizona does need depth here, and a Simmons-Jordan Hicks tandem at inside backer would be a scary thing for opponents. Like Brown, the versatility factor is likely enticing. Simmons in theory is the type of athlete who can help the Cardinals’ 2019 bugaboo: covering the NFL tight end.
No. 8 — DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Extending D.J. Humphries allows the team to focus on its offensive line later in the draft. The Cards can now pick the top defender on the board to play the 5-technique.
No. 40 — Edge Bradlee Anae, Utah
No. 72 — OT Matt Peart, UConn
Reuter went three rounds deep in his latest mock draft, and with the Carolina Panthers picking Brown just before Arizona is up at No. 8, he has the Cardinals sticking to the defensive tackle board and drafting the similarly-sized Kinlaw. He’s less of a true nose tackle than Brown and rates a little lower when it comes to refinement of his techniques.
As for the second and third rounds, Reuter continues adding to the front seven with Anae to pair at OLB opposite of Chandler Jones. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound edge rusher had 13.0 sacks for Utah last year.
The Cardinals get to adding offensive line depth with their third-round pick, addressing one need while hoping a very deep receiver class can be taken advantage of later on in the draft.