PFF: Arizona Cardinals 2020 draft class value near middle of pack

Jan 31, 2021, 10:17 AM
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The success of a franchise is greatly affected by the impact and production they get out of their draft picks.

No matter where a player is picked, finding value above expectation can set franchises apart.

For example, if a player taken in the first round and a player taken in the fifth round have similar seasons, a team got more value out of the fifth-round pick’s production. This is calculated through the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for each position in the draft.

Using that metric, Pro Football Focus and ESPN compiled a ranking of all 32 NFL teams based on the value of their rookie class.

Landing at No. 20 were the Arizona Cardinals.

Only three Cardinals rookies played more than 50 snaps, one of which was eighth overall pick Isaiah Simmons.

Simmons made a name for himself at Clemson as one of the most versatile defensive players college football has seen. Simmons’ usage in Arizona wasn’t nearly as diverse as it was with the Tigers, but he played considerably well when dropping into coverage.

The linebacker ended his rookie campaign with 54 tackles, two sacks, an interception, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He played all 16 games.

The No. 8 overall pick recorded a 69.9 coverage grade that ranked 19th among all off-ball linebackers. His tackling was also superb; he had just four misses on 49 total attempts.

Outside of Simmons, the only other Arizona rookies to record at least 50 snaps were fourth-round picks Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence.

Both Fotu and Lawrence produced sub-50 grades last season. The two combined for 20 tackles, five of which were for losses, in limited playing time last season. Fotu also added a sack.

The Cardinals 2020 draft class ranked last in the NFC West in WAR rankings, as the Seahawks ranked 18th, the Rams 11th, and the 49ers 10th.

Current 49ers receiver and former Arizona State Sun Devil Brandon Aiyuk was the highest-graded rookie in the NFC West, earning an 80.1 overall grade.

Aiyuk was one of the five most valuable rookies in the 2020 class and was one of the 25 most valuable receivers.

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PFF: Arizona Cardinals 2020 draft class value near middle of pack