ARIZONA CARDINALS

Peter King’s NFL mock draft lays out how Cardinals can upgrade defense

Apr 20, 2020, 8:34 AM | Updated: 3:00 pm
Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting com...
Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

If the first 10 picks of the 2020 NFL Draft were to be chalk, it’d look something like our Arizona Sports Ultimate Mock Draft.

By the time the Arizona Cardinals are up at No. 8, three quarterbacks would be off the board to three teams needing a future QB.

Ohio State’s two elite defensive players, edge Chase Young and corner Jeff Okudah, would be drafted. So would be the second-tier of defenders, hybrid Isaiah Simmons and tackle Derrick Brown.

So the Cardinals would have a few offensive tackle options and its choice of receivers.

But how might Arizona general manager Steve Keim get lucky, with one of those aforementioned defensive stars falling to the eighth pick? Peter King’s NFL mock draft published to NBCSports.com on Monday shows us.

He has the Cardinals nabbing Simmons at No. 8.

I’ve never before labeled a player “defensive player.” Simmons has played strong safety, cornerback, slot corner, inside linebacker and outside linebacker, and he’s likely going to be a hybrid safety/linebacker/edge player in the NFL. Could be an instinctive pass-rusher too, which the Cardinals lack in a big way; he had 23 pressures on 70 pass-rushes. Now, the Cards have other needs, and Simmons doesn’t have a singular position. But he was a great and instinctive college player.

How did Simmons fall?

Simply, King’s mock has Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert going third overall to the Miami Dolphins via trade and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa dropping all the way to No. 13, where the New England Patriots trade up for him.

Obviously, that’s a wild scenario. If you want to make it more reasonable, you can swap Herbert for Tagovailoa in King’s mock draft and the Cardinals’ situation doesn’t change.

The point is that we are too often assuming that three quarterbacks will be off the board before Arizona picks and that the defensive players in the top two tiers are all valued by each team the same way as most mocks.

The second point there is worth repeating: Each teams evaluation of the top defensive players, offensive tackles and wide receivers could be very different from the relatively consistent mock drafts.

For example, King has the New York Giants favoring offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs ahead of a defensive star. Then he has the Los Angeles Chargers drafting offensive tackle Andrew Thomas even though it needs a quarterback. That would happen if the Chargers didn’t like the third quarterback on their board, a completely reasonable scenario.

Whether that third quarterback is Tagovailoa or Herbert is important to Los Angeles.

Moreso from the Cardinals’ perspective, it’s important to realize that if a team or two ahead of the eighth pick reverts to drafting from tiers outside of the quarterback position, it can shake the draft up in a hurry.

Throw in the wild cards of teams like the Giants, who already have a young quarterback in Daniel Jones, surprising everybody by selecting another quarterback at No. 4, and there’s even more potential for teams behind them to pass on quarterbacks to fill other positions of need.

Or three or four quarterbacks get picked and Arizona lands a player like Brown or Simmons that way.

All of that’s to say that anything is possible on Thursday. Don’t expect it to be chalk.

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Peter King’s NFL mock draft lays out how Cardinals can upgrade defense