Mel Kiper Jr. sticks with Cardinals picking OT Tristan Wirfs in 4.0 mock

Apr 14, 2020, 9:30 AM
Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapo...

Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. hasn’t wavered in believing the Arizona Cardinals need to better protect quarterback Kyler Murray.

Through four NFL mock drafts for 2020, he’s had the Cardinals selecting an offensive tackle with the eighth pick. After having Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas heading to Arizona in his initial mock back in January, Kiper has stuck with Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs fitting with the Cardinals in his last three mock drafts.

Here’s what the ESPN draft analyst had to say about Arizona and Wirfs in his latest that was revealed Tuesday.

As I mentioned in my Mock Draft 3.0, I like the fit of Wirfs in Arizona, because he could start from Day 1 at right tackle and help protect Kyler Murray, who took way too many sacks as a rookie. Arizona could also target defensive line, even after it signed Jordan Phillips in free agency. If Derrick Brown is available here, the Cardinals would have a tough decision to make.

Murray did take 48 sacks in 2019, and the Cardinals’ 50 allowed ranked tied for fifth-most in the NFL. But 23 of Murray’s sacks were categorized by Pro Football Focus as his fault and not offensive line miscues.

That said, having a young starting right tackle is a strong bet even though Marcus Gilbert and Justin Murray are, as of now, expected to fight for the starting role in 2020. Both are on one-year deals, Gilbert has battled health issues the past three years and Murray might have limited upside.

There are other factors to weigh, of course.

No wide receiver is off the board when Arizona picks at No. 8 in Kiper’s mock draft, and selecting a future No. 1 or 2 wideout to pair with DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and last year’s WR class could set the future up well.

So too could drafting a plug-and-play defensive talent like Brown or inside linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons. That just doesn’t look likely.

Kiper has Simmons going No. 4 overall to the New York Giants, while Brown is selected by the Carolina Panthers a pick before the Cardinals are up.

Wirfs, in Kiper’s opinion, is the best fit for the Cardinals among the other offensive tackles. Louisville’s Mekhi Becton (10th) and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills (11th) are drafted after the Jacksonville Jaguars take receiver Jerry Jeudy ninth in Kiper’s 4.0 mock draft.

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Mel Kiper Jr. sticks with Cardinals picking OT Tristan Wirfs in 4.0 mock