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Cardinals’ Grigson: Pass rusher one of deepest positions in NFL Draft

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - SEPTEMBER 19: Malik Cunningham #3 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball while defended by Quincy Roche #2 of the Miami Hurricanes at Cardinal Stadium on September 19, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Over the past two seasons, rookie wide receivers have made splashes around the NFL, but this year a different position group could lead the charge.

Arizona Cardinals director of player personnel Dru Grigson believes the pass-rusher pool is one of the deepest in this year’s draft class.

“It’s a very interesting draft for pass rusher,” Grigson said during Wednesday’s Big Red Rage on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “It’s just because there are so many bodies, and it’s never pass rushers now. I don’t think it’s as deep up top but it’s like the second, third round. It’s gonna get real interesting.”

While the Cardinals don’t necessarily need a pass rusher, especially after adding J.J. Watt this offseason to a defense that already sports Chandler Jones, Grigson didn’t completely rule out the possibility of adding another rookie to the mix given the right situation.

Recently, Pro Football Focus had the Cardinals selecting Miami Hurricanes edge rusher Jaelan Phillips in the first round with the No. 16 overall pick. Most mock drafts have the Cardinals selecting a cornerback or receiver.

While the Cardinals may opt to go in a different direction in the first round, they hold the No. 49 overall pick in the second round, leaving the door open to the possibility of adding another pass-rusher to the defense.

“It’s very cliche to say but it is so true, that you just can’t pass on the good players,” Grigson said. “No matter what position and even if you feel full at that spot like if we have a guy up with a high grade … you still got to take them. … You’ve heard me say your needs in April aren’t the same aren’t gonna be the same in October. So you just need as many good players on your roster as possible.”

Grigson added that the talent at the top of this year’s group of edge rushers isn’t as spectacular as years past, but the depth is what will make the class so valuable after the first round.

Players like Michigan Wolverines defensive end Kwity Paye, Phillips and Penn State Nittany Lions edge rusher Jayson Oweh are likely first-round picks but the Cardinals will still have options in round 2.

Some edge rushers who could be available for the Cardinals later in the draft include Miami’s Quincy Roche, Pittsburgh Panthers’ Rashad Weaver, Washington Huskies’ Joe Tryon and Oregon State Beavers’ linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr.

Of that group, Roche had the most productive collegiate career. Roche spent his first three years of college at Temple where he recorded 26 sacks. He was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 after tallying 13 sacks and six pass deflections.

In 2020, Roche transferred to Miami, where he recorded 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Roche lacks some of the athleticism that other prospects have, but his pass-rushing technique and ability to defend the run make up for any physical traits he lacks, according to Joe Marino of the Draft Network.

“There’s a lot of talented guys in the second, third and fourth rounds that are gonna fly off the board,” Grigson said. “There’s gonna be a run for them at some point because it’s a very, very good group.”


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