Draft grades: Cardinals pass draft test with flying colors

Apr 26, 2020, 1:52 PM | Updated: 2:55 pm
Arizona Cardinals new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim (R) talk to the med...
Arizona Cardinals new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim (R) talk to the media at the Arizona Cardinals Training Facility on January 9, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The 2020 NFL Draft is officially in the books.

For the Arizona Cardinals, it was a well-received three-day extravaganza as general manager Steve Keim and Co. compiled a total of six picks:

  • Round 1 (No. 8): LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
  • Round 3 (No. 72): T Josh Jones, Houston
  • Round 4 (No. 114): DT Leki Fotu, Utah
  • Round 4 (No. 131): DT Rashard Lawrence, LSU
  • Round 6 (No. 202): ILB Evan Weaver, Cal
  • Round 7 (No. 222): RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State

After Mr. Irrevalent’s selection concluded the first-ever all-virtual NFL Draft, national reporters gave their grades for each team’s performance over the three-day period.

And while school is out for the Cardinals’ six new additions, Arizona received nothing but A’s and B’s on its report card.

Pro Football Focus

Grade: A+

Reasoning: The Cardinals made beefing up the interior of their defensive line a priority on Day 3 with selections of both Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence in Round 4. Fotu, in particular, has some intriguing qualities as a nose tackle, namely his massive size and long frame. His ability to move the line of scrimmage suits him well in the run game, where he picked up an 83.4 grade in 2019, but he’s extremely limited as a pass rusher at this point. There’s a good chance he continues to improve in the NFL.

Chad Reuter, NFL Network

Grade: A

Reasoning: Picking up a stud defender in Simmons and a value in Jones made the first two days of the Cardinals’ draft memorable. And don’t forget, this team used its second-round pick to acquire DeAndre Hopkins earlier this offseason.

Adding Fotu and Lawrence should give the Cardinals one of the biggest defensive lines in the league, although perhaps at the cost of building depth at other positions. Weaver is limited in coverage but should be a solid reserve 3-4 inside linebacker and special-teamer. Benjamin is a low-center-of-gravity back who adds needed depth at his position. They’ll want to find depth at tight end after the draft.

Dan Kadar, SB Nation

Grade: A-

Reasoning: Isaiah Simmons slipped to the Cardinals with the eighth pick in the draft, and he turned out to be too good to pass on. Simmons gives the Cardinals a versatile defender who can play multiple spots. He’s not a safety, and he’s not a linebacker. Simmons is both, and he should be an early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The Cardinals arguably got the biggest steal of the draft by taking offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round. Jones was my 21st-ranked player overall in the draft, and fills the big need the Cardinals had at tackle. He’ll have to transition to the right side, but he has the athleticism to do so.

General manager Steve Keim then used his next two picks on defensive linemen in Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence. Fotu is a big run stopper, and Lawrence is a player who can line up at end in three-man fronts.

Nate Davis, USA Today

Grade: A-

Reasoning: Spending a second-round pick allowed them to import all-pro WR DeAndre Hopkins and dump overpaid RB David Johnson. That alone constitutes a pretty good draft. But the Cards also landed first-round LB/S Isaiah Simmons, one of the most intriguing defenders to emerge in years, and now just have to figure out how to maximize his unique versatility. Third-round OT Josh Jones could be a bargain.

Andy Benoit, Sports Illustrated

Grade: B+

Reasoning: Offensively, if we treat DeAndre Hopkins as Arizona’s second-round pick, that boosts their draft by a whole letter grade. And it shouldn’t be a bad grade to begin with considering they found a new right tackle in Josh Jones. The third round is much later than many expected the Houston product to go. With Marcus Gilbert being 32, having some injury history and entering the final year of his contract, Jones was a no-brainer selection for Cardinals GM Steve Keim.

It was also a no-brainer to restock Arizona’s defensive line depth, which Keim did in the fourth round, taking Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence.

Mel Kiper, ESPN

Grade: B

Reasoning: As I said Thursday night, I like Simmons, but this was the spot to help Murray (and the run game), and I’m not sure where Simmons fits in the Cardinals’ defense. The reason I can’t fault it too much is that Keim and Kingsbury did get a starting tackle with their next pick. Offensive tackle Josh Jones (72) is No. 40 overall on my board, and I thought he could sneak into the bottom of Round 1. He was a four-year starter at left tackle in college, but he could move over to the right side in the NFL.

I also liked run-stuffing tackle Leki Fotu (114) and running back Eno Benjamin on Day 3, and of course, I have to factor in the Cardinals getting Hopkins. My only knock on this class is passing on all the tumbling tight ends. That’s a hole that wasn’t filled. This is a nice class — though I still don’t quite see Arizona as a contender in the NFC West.

Mark Maske, The Washington Post

Grade: B

Reasoning: Coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t exactly roughing it in his scenic work-from-home environment, and he and the Cardinals did well. They took the draft’s coveted all-purpose defender, Isaiah Simmons, at No. 8. The only quibble with that is they could have addressed the offensive line issues for their prized second-year QB, Kyler Murray. But the Cardinals did circle back and use their next pick, in Round 3, on T Josh Jones.

It was also a no-brainer to restock Arizona’s defensive line depth, which Keim did in the fourth round, taking Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence.

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Draft grades: Cardinals pass draft test with flying colors