How the Cardinals can have the perfect NFL Draft in four steps, starting with protecting Kyler Murray

The Arizona Cardinals already had a tremendous offseason, even though there’s still plenty of work to be done. Arizona acquired All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and got out of the albatross known as David Johnson’s contract in the process. The Cardinals also shored up their defense, stabilizing their linebacker group with the additions of Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell while also aiding their pass rush with the signing of Jordan Phillips and Trevon Coley on the defensive line. 

Arizona has transformed its roster from among the worst in the NFC West to a team that can potentially compete for a playoff berth in Year 2 of the Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray era. The Cardinals have their franchise quarterback in Murray and have surrounded him with skill players for instant success in the league. 

The Cardinals still have a ways to go if they want to take the next step and help Murray become one of the top quarterbacks in the game. Arizona has just six draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, making the selections even more paramount toward Murray’s future. 

Below we’ll make sure the Cardinals take advantage of all of their picks and earn an A+ grade, which would be a continuation of their impressive offseason.

1. Draft an OT in the first round

This is the biggest no-brainer for the Cardinals, a franchise that has to protect Murray at all costs. Arizona allowed 50 sacks last season (tied for fifth-most in the NFL), which would have been more if not for Murray’s ability to escape from the pocket and extend the play. In a sense, Kingsbury’s Air Raid attack somewhat hid the Cardinals’ biggest weakness: their ability to protect Murray. 

Arizona re-signed Marcus Gilbert to a one-year deal, and he’s the leader to start at right tackle for the Cardinals in 2020. However, the position is still the major concern in the long run. D.J. Humphries was signed to a three-year, $45 million deal this offseason, locking him into protecting Murray’s blindside for the foreseeable future. 

The Cardinals have to get one of the top tackle prospects with this pick. Gilbert isn’t a long-term solution and Humphries had 13 penalties in his first season playing all 16 games at left tackle (he played just 14 games in 2017 and 2018). Mekhi Benton would be the best fit for Arizona’s offense and has the most upside, but Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs are good picks. All would likely start over Gilbert at right tackle and could move over to the left side down the road if needed.

The Cardinals need to get a tackle at No. 8 overall. They can’t ignore the top tackles in this draft. 

2. Find an TE in the middle rounds

Protect Murray at all costs. See the common theme here? The Cardinals don’t have a draft pick until the third round (No. 72) after their first-round selection. The franchise can’t afford to trade down with so many talented offensive tackles, but they also need to improve at tight end. 

Charles Clay was the leading tight end for the Cardinals with 237 yards last season — and Arizona did not bring him back this offseason. Maxx Williams is the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart, but the Cardinals must immensely improve the position. 

The tight end class isn’t that strong, and that could allow the Cardinals to select one of the top prospects at the position with that third-round pick. Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet may be off the board by No. 72, but if the Cardinals want him, they could try to deal their third-round pick (No. 72) and their first fourth-round pick (No. 114) to get up to No. 60 (Ravens pick) and grab Kmet in the second round. Or they could hang back and take another tight end at 72 or possibly a little later in the draft.

Protect Murray first, then give him an extra pass catcher and blocker at tight end. 

3. Double dip at OL 

The Cardinals need more than one offensive lineman in this draft. If Arizona decides to stay at No. 72, they’ll have two fourth-round picks to use, one of which should go toward rebuilding the offensive line. 

This time the Cardinals tackle the interior of the offensive line, looking at a guard position that starts Justin Pugh (29) and J.R. Sweezy (30). Arizona will have to get younger at guard, finding players that hold value in the middle rounds. Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz is an ideal selection for Arizona; same with Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson. 

The Cardinals need a guard that can challenge Pugh and/or Sweezy. That’s what they have to find on Day 3, particularly in the fourth round. 

4. What about an edge rusher?

Thanks to Chandler Jones, this isn’t a premium for the Cardinals, who did add to their pass rush this offseason. Arizona could use another edge rusher to pair with Jones, as the Cardinals were only tied for 17th in sacks last season (40). Zach Allen is the projected starter at defensive end, which just isn’t good enough for a defense that has made strides to improve across the board. 

Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor has the power the Cardinals covet in a 3-4 scheme, but perhaps Arizona looks for more speed to pair with Jones. Syracuse’s Alton Robinson is worth taking a flyer on in that category. 

Source link