NFL mock draft carousel: 4 ways the Cardinals can add an edge rusher
It’s been a slow roll for the Arizona Cardinals this offseason.
After watching a handful of contributors head elsewhere in free agency, the Cardinals have stayed patient in their roster reconstruction compared to other teams around the NFL.
And while there’s still time to address team needs through free agency, Arizona will also need to utilize the upcoming NFL Draft to fill the voids left behind.
Taking that into account, I went back to work on Pro Football Focus’ draft simulator and zoned in one specific positional need: Edge rusher.
And although it appears to be a deep draft class at the position, there are a few defenders that stand out above the rest.
With outside linebacker Chandler Jones and his 47 QB pressures last season off to Las Vegas, the Cardinals are in desperate need of finding that next dynamic playmaker to line up opposite Markus Golden. As of Monday, the Cardinals have Golden, Dennis Gardeck, Devon Kennard and Victor Dimukeje as the only outside linebackers under contract through 2022.
The rules: Each mock was simulated at random outside of the Cardinals’ pick and trades were encouraged.
A look at some potential draft scenarios that could help remedy Arizona’s edge-rusher issues:
1. George Karlaftis (trade)
Right off the bat, I went searching for a trade partner and found one just outside the top 10 in the Washington Commanders.
Shipping off this year’s 23rd and 87th picks and a 2023 second-rounder, the Cardinals received the 11th pick, opting for Purdue’s George Karlaftis. Arizona also received a 2023 fourth-rounder in the deal.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Karlaftis, who was drafted by the Cardinals in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft of the offseason back in January, marked the fourth pass rusher taken in the draft behind Aidan Hutchinson (No. 1), Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5) and Travon Walker (No. 10).
In 12 games played with the Boilermakers last season, the junior tallied 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Feedback: PFF gave the Karlaftis pick an A grade and the trade a C-.
2. David Ojabo
Standing pat at No. 23, I chose Michigan’s David Ojabo in the first round for the Cardinals.
Ojabo made the news for the wrong reason this offseason, tearing his Achilles during Michigan’s pro day earlier in March. And although ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Ojabo to be around the six-month mark in terms of recovery, his draft stock remains relatively high given the circumstance and his potential at the NFL level.
Last season as a junior (13 games), Ojabo racked up 11 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and three passes defensed.
Ojabo marked the sixth edge defender taken the mock draft.
Feedback: PFF gave the Ojabo pick a B.
3. Jermaine Johnson (trade)
It’s clear edge defenders are a hot commodity in this year’s draft class.
With that knowledge, it was time to get aggressive once more, opting to trade No. 23 and a 2023 third-rounder to the Los Angeles Chargers for No. 17.
The 17th pick was then used on Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II.
After spending two season with the Georgia Bulldogs, Johnson wrapped up his collegiate career at FSU. In 12 games as a senior last year, the edge defender recorded 11 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed.
Johnson was the fifth edge defender taken in the first round.
Feedback: PFF gave the Johnson pick a C+ and the trade a C-.
4. Travon Walker (trade)
One last mock, one last trade.
The goal of this one was to get inside the top 10 to have my pick at any of the top three projected options in Hutchinson, Thibodeaux and Walker.
After watching Hutchinson and Thibodeaux go first and third overall, respectively, Walker was the still sitting there at No. 8.
In order to get there, I traded away Nos. 23 and 55 in this year’s draft along with a 2023 second-rounder to the Atlanta Falcons for Nos. 8 and 114 (fourth round).
In 13 games as a junior last season at Georgia, the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder recorded 6.0 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and two passes defensed.
Feedback: PFF gave the Walker pick a C+ and the trade a C-.