Cardinals take USC edge rusher Drake Jackson in PFF’s latest mock draft

Jan 24, 2022, 9:51 AM

The Arizona Cardinals have something that no other NFC West team has in the 2022 NFL Draft: A first-round draft pick.

The Seattle Seahawks didn’t have one last year and won’t again this time around after trading both away to the New York Jets for safety Jamal Adams.

Meanwhile, both the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers won’t have first-round selections this year or in 2023 in order to acquire QBs Matthew Stafford and Trey Lance, respectively.

After falling to the Rams in the NFC Wild Card round, the Cardinals have been locked in at the No. 23 overall pick, which PFF’s Trevor Sikkema sees Arizona using to select USC edge rusher Drake Jackson.

Chandler Jones could be on his way out, and Markus Golden and Dennis Gardeck are on expiring contracts. That leaves Arizonas depth at outside linebacker pretty thin for 2022.

As mostly a pass-rushing outside linebacker, Jackson didn’t take that leap to dominance like some (myself included) were hoping, but he still played very well and showed some elite speed-rush skills, including rare bend and flexibility. He has those athletic gifts you can’t teach, and I’m a big believer in his potential moving forward.

Should the Cardinals decide to part ways with Jones in free agency in March, it would leave Arizona with only one player on the team who had more than four sacks in 2021.

Golden led the team this past year with 11, while Jones came in second with 10.5 — five of which came in Week 1. Linebacker Jordan Hicks and defensive lineman Zach Allen added four apiece.

And from a financial perspective, both Jones (2022 free agent) and Golden (2023 free agent) will both be 31 years old as they look for new contracts.

The Cardinals will have to manage that cap space balancing act as they are in win-now mode with Kyle Murray’s rookie contract heading into its final two years before Arizona will be forced to shell out the going rate for franchise quarterbacks.

Jackson was a two-time All-Pac-12 second-teamer in his last two years at USC, finishing his college career with 103 tackles (25 for loss) and 12.5 sacks.

This past season saw the outside linebacker garner 37 tackles (23 solo), five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.

Jackson had one sack against the Arizona Wildcats and eight tackles (three solo) vs. the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2021.

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