How Isaiah Simmons fell to No. 8, Arizona Cardinals in 2020 NFL Draft
Apr 23, 2020, 7:32 PM | Updated: Apr 24, 2020, 8:49 am
Remember when the Arizona Cardinals drafted Patrick Peterson fifth overall and his draft graphic popped up as he walked on the stage reading, “Weaknesses: none”?
That’s not necessarily true of Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, but he is widely regarded as one of the 2020 draft’s elite prospects, the type that shouldn’t slip out of the top-five.
“This is one of the most unique players I’ve ever evaluated,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said.
Alas, the draft is weird sometimes. He wound up being there for Arizona, and he was the pick.
“To be able to know that we secured a player we had much higher on our board, to me really is just kind of goes back to that 120 board process that we have and stacking the players and trusting your board and not worrying about drafting for need,” Keim said.
So, how did that happen? A couple of different factors:
The usual run on quarterbacks
The Cardinals were in a sweet spot at the eighth overall pick.
With LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young all but locked in as the top-two picks, they only needed a little bit of help for their shortlist of stud players to have at least one name remaining when they picked.
There was always going to be at least one quarterback selection in the top-seven with Burrow, but hopefully two more in the middle.
They got that best-case scenario, with the Miami Dolphins taking Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall and the Los Angeles Chargers following them at No. 6 by selecting Oregon signal-caller Justin Herbert.
Now, they were going to almost assuredly going to get a high-level name in that scenario, because of…
Other elite prospects, particularly on defense
The trio of Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and Simmons were in the mix.
That meant that with three quarterbacks going, along with Young, the Cardinals only needed one more stray pick away from those three in order to ensure at least one of them was on the board.
A stacked offensive tackle draft sealed that bet. While Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs was the name heavily mocked to the New York Giants fourth overall, it was actually Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas that was the selection.
Okudah went a pick earlier to the Detroit Lions, leaving Brown and Simmons on the board through six picks and the Carolina Panthers to choose between the two. They went Brown, leaving Simmons there for the Cardinals.
All of that was relatively smooth sailing because there was no movement.
Despite the usual buzz of teams trying to move up for quarterbacks, and some random offensive tackle rumblings at the beginning of the week, there were no trades in the top-10 of the draft for the first time since 2015.
ESPN’s Ed Werder reported before the draft the possibility of a trade and unpredictability of what would happen in the 3-6 range of the draft had the Cardinals “anxious,” so it’s safe to say there was relief in the Cardinals draft room when not only were there no deals, but that they got Simmons out of it.