GLENDALE, Ariz. — The NFL Draft is a little more than two weeks away. Time for me to pull out my GM hat and present to you my annual Cardinals Mock Draft.
I won’t be drafting a quarterback with the first-round pick as I have done the last two years. In 2018, I had the Cardinals taking Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Last year, my choice was Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals have six picks in this years draft including the 8th overall pick in the first round. Their offseason moves have addressed every area of need on the team, thereby giving them the flexibility to go in any direction with their top pick.
If they draft an offensive lineman at number eight the pick will be for value. I don’t see any of the top-rated lineman replacing the incumbents (D.J. Humphries, Justin Murray or Marcus Gilbert) at the tackle positions.
Instead, a rookie offensive lineman would offer value down the road, most likely securing a starting role in 2021.
So it makes more sense to draft for impact. On the defensive side of the ball, that would mean Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons and Auburn defensive lineman, Derrick Brown, provided both are still available when the Cardinals pick comes around.
Offensively, the impact players are the top-rated wide receivers CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III
The Cardinals are closer to being a dynamic offensive unit than they are a defensive one. So the smart move is to draft a receiver. But which one?
Well, the answer is simple. Take a page out of the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs book. Draft for speed.
The Chiefs have arguably the fastest receiver in the league in Tyreek Hill. But in the second round of last year’s draft, they selected Georgia receiver
Mecole Hardman, who clocked a 4.33, 40 time at last years combine. Hill and Hardman on the field at the same time created mismatches and opportunities underneath for Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Damien Williams out of the backfield. It was pick your poison for opposing defensive coordinators. Just ask the San Francisco 49ers.
1st Round (Pick No. 8): Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
With that said, my pick for the Cardinals at No. 8 is Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs, who posted the fastest 40-time at 4.27 during February’s NFL scouting combine.
Ruggs doesn’t even have to start to make an impact. Kliff Kingsbury can use Ruggs in packages to create mismatches and nightmare situations for opposing teams.
How about a 10-personnel look with Ruggs, Andy Isabella (4.31, 40 time) DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald with Kenyan Drake in the Backfield?
Or how about going empty with Christian Kirk, Hopkins, Fitz, and Isabella with Ruggs motioning out of the backfield?
Do Defenses run dime packages? Rush three and drop eight leaving Kyler Murray to run wild? The Cardinals have a golden opportunity to be special and dynamic by selecting Ruggs.
Now for the rest of my picks:
2nd Round (Pick No. 40): Pick goes to the Houston Texans as part of the DeAndre Hopkins trade.
3rd Round (Pick No. 72): Malik Harrison, OLB, Ohio State
Harrison is an active, athletic player with his best football still ahead of him. He had to wait his turn on a talented Buckeyes team but certainly turned some heads this past season with 75 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He also showed well at the Senior Bowl.
4th Round (Pick No. 114): Calvin Throckmorton, OL, Oregon
Throckmorton has shown both durability and versatility during his tenure with the Ducks posting 38 straight starts, which includes starts at every position on the line including center.
4th Round (Pick No. 131, from Houston): Alton Robinson, DE, Syracuse
Robinson has shown some pass rush ability totaling 19.5 sacks over the last three years with a season-high of 10, along with 17 tackles for loss, in 2018. He also turned in a good steady week of practice at the Senior Bowl.
5th Round (Forfeit pick) (Jalen Thompson 2019 supplemental draft pick)
6th Round (Pick No. 203): John Reid, CB, Penn State
At 5’10", Reid is a bit undersized but is feisty and shows good speed. He registered 37 tackles with 2 interceptions and 8 pass break ups this past season for the Nittany Lions. He might work best as a slot corner.
7th Round (Pick No. 223): J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona
Taylor is short (5’5") compact and runs with good balance. He’s more quick than fast and has shown decent hands as a receiver out of the backfield.
He plays faster than his 4.61 40-time at the combine.
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