ARIZONA CARDINALS

How did Cardinals mock drafts change after a week of free agency?

Mar 23, 2020, 9:43 AM
Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scou...

Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Arizona Cardinals’ start to the 2020 season certainly was a whirlwind.

General manager Steve Keim acquired starters at receiver, both linebacker spots and the defensive line. All those moves addressed dire needs, and together they point more than ever to the Cardinals eyeing offensive linemen with their NFL Draft pick at No. 8 overall.

However, the draft is not a vacuum and neither is NFL free agency.

The first official week of action is in the books, and by looking at four new mock drafts, a few things are trending differently because of quarterback changes around the league and more.

It’s still heavily leaning toward an OT

Even before Arizona traded running back David Johnson in a package to acquire receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans, mock draft creators were mostly thinking the Cardinals would select an offensive tackle.

Some thought they would lean on rookie receivers like Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb or Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy. While that still could be the case, it’s more clear than ever that right tackle is the biggest need in terms of finding a starter.

A rookie tackle would need to beat out Justin Murray, last year’s starter for 12 games, but regardless, selecting a right tackle would give Arizona line depth across the board.

While it seems offensive tackle is still the en vogue pick, there are changes about which tackles could be available.

Tackle value rising, other positions falling

Scanning fresh mocks as of Monday morning, one trend became clear. While most mock creators have Arizona drafting a tackle, often it’s not the first team to do so.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson and DraftWire.com’s Luke Easterling all have the New York Giants going after an offensive tackle at the No. 4 spot in the draft.

That could leave Arizona with their second-favorite offensive tackle left. The good news for the Cardinals is that Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas are all valued differently by different teams.

A tackle going fourth overall will push other positions down the board. That in combination with quarterback maneuvering could give the Cardinals options at positions other than offensive tackle.

QB chase could give Arizona more options at No. 8

A musical chairs of quarterback movement across the NFL has clarified the first seven picks ahead of Arizona.

The Los Angeles Chargers this past week locked themselves into needing a quarterback of the future with Philip Rivers heading to Indianapolis. All signs pointing to veteran QB Tyrod Taylor manning the position for 2020, but he’s probably viewed as a bridge quarterback.

The Cincinnati Bengals (first pick), Miami Dolphins (fifth pick) and Chargers (sixth) appear likely to target quarterbacks.

Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and either Justin Herbert or Jordan Love could be taken before the Cardinals are up in the draft.

Zierlein’s mock paints a picture of Arizona having a choice to draft either linebacker Isaiah Simmons, tackle Tristan Wirfs or defensive tackle Derrick Brown — not a terrible choice to make. Zierlein has the Cardinals going with Simmons.

The guess here is that Arizona won’t be expecting to see Simmons on the board, but if he is, he may be too enticing to pass up. Plugging in an OT here is an easy move, but Tristan Wirfs doesn’t offer the same potential impact as Simmons.

Easterling, meanwhile, has Arizona picking Becton, but Brown and Wills remain on the board.

Kadar has the Cardinals still going with a tackle in Wills, but it’s interesting to note cornerback Jeff Okudah is still left to be drafted. A week ago, Okudah was widely projected to go third overall to the Detroit Lions.

Zierlein and Easterling have Detroit trading out of the No. 3 spot to land Okudah at fifth or sixth as other teams attempt to position themselves to draft their preferable quarterback. The Lions traded star corner Darius Slay this week but did sign veteran Desmond Trufant, who is a projected starter.

All of the WRs are available

Just to remind you that Keim has been bold about remaking the Cardinals into the identity that fits head coach Kliff Kingsbury, all of the above recent mock drafts have zero receivers off the board when Arizona drafts eighth overall.

Lamb, Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III remain on the board through the top 10 picks of each of the four mentioned mock drafts. The temptation could be there for the Cardinals to trade out of eighth for two picks and land a starting-caliber tackle and wide receiver. It could be more necessary without a second round pick that was dealt to the Texans in the Hopkins-Johnson exchange.

Kingsbury adapted to more 11- and 12-personnel sets to improve Arizona last season, but don’t think he’d be bashful about continuing forward with 10-personnel looks in 2020 if Keim gives him the offensive line talent and one more starting-caliber receiver.

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How did Cardinals mock drafts change after a week of free agency?