Cardinals go defense-heavy in The Athletic’s 7-round NFL mock draft

Apr 15, 2020, 7:29 AM | Updated: 11:40 am
Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown listens during a press conference at the NFL football scouti...
Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown listens during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

The Arizona Cardinals possess six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, leaving many to wonder how the team will divvy up the selections in mock drafts.

While some have focused heavily on the team’s first-round pick, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler took things to another level, going the full seven rounds of the upcoming draft.

In the mock, the Cardinals lean heavily on the defensive side of the football, while adding some depth to two positions on offense.

Leading the pack of the team’s six picks in the draft is Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown at No. 8.

There is a good chance this pick comes down to the trenches, either offensive or defensive line. And while I think upgrading the right tackle spot should be the priority, the Cardinals have been searching for that hog molly on the defensive line who can help reset the line of scrimmage.

In four seasons (46 games) with the Tigers, Brown recorded 170 tackles, 33.5 for loss, 12.5 sacks, eight pass deflections and five forced fumbles.

Brown saw his numbers increase during his collegiate career, posting four sacks, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 54 tackles, 11.5 for loss.

At 6-foot-5 and 316 pounds, Brown would give the Cardinals a big body on the defensive line to pair with Corey Peters and free-agent addition Jordan Phillips in the interior.

With Arizona’s second-round pick headed to Houston as part of the DeAndre Hopkins-for-David Johnson trade, the Cardinals don’t draft again until the third round.

Looking to add to the running back room after Johnson’s departure, Brugler has the Cardinals selecting Florida State RB Cam Akers with the 72nd pick of the draft.

Last season as a junior, Akers rushed for 1,144 yards and 14 scores on 231 carries (5.0 yards per attempt). He also saw an uptick as a pass rusher, catching 30 balls for 225 yards and four touchdowns.

He had six games of at least 100 yards on the ground and scored at least a touchdown in every game this season. Akers’ best game came against Syracuse, where he rushed for four touchdowns and 144 yards on 20 attempts (7.2 yards per carry). The year marked his second season of over 1,000 rushing yards and at least eight total scores.

As it stands, the Cardinals have Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds and D.J. Foster on the depth chart, giving the team a sort of security blanket in Akers.

Moving on to the fourth round, the Cardinals have two picks at their disposal, their own and one they acquired in the Hopkins deal from the Houston Texans. Brugler has the team looking at both sides of the football in this round, going with Washington tight end Hunter Bryant (pick No. 114) and Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia (pick No. 131).

Bryant saw his best season in 2019, making 52 receptions for 825 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games, all career highs. He had at least 80 yards in six games last year with two games over the 100-yard mark.

Ojemudia disrupted opposing quarterbacks last season, making nine passes defensed, three interceptions, a fumble recovery and 52 tackles in 12 games. It was the second straight season of three picks and six pass deflections for the corner.

The team’s final two selections in the draft, a sixth- and seventh-round pick, the Cardinals double down on defense, adding North Carolina State edge rusher James Smith-Williams and Penn State linebacker Cam Brown.

The Wolfpack defensive end made 20 tackles and a sack in 2019, down from his six-sack and 36-tackle performance from a season prior. Brown set a career high in tackles (72), tied a career best in sacks (2) and made four pass deflections.

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Cardinals go defense-heavy in The Athletic’s 7-round NFL mock draft