Today, we will be diving into a new series here on NFL Draft Lounge, as I take a deep dive into the 2020 draft classes for each of the 32 teams. We’ll start with the Cardinals draft.
The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone. 255 collegiate athletes have fulfilled their lifelong dream of hearing their name called to join an NFL roster. In this series, we will be looking at each NFL team’s individual draft and reviewing just how well the team did at adding the next wave of talent to their roster.
Let’s start with the NFC West’s Arizona Cardinals.
First Round, Pick 8 overall: Isaiah Simmons, defender, Clemson
Third Round, Pick 72 overall: Josh Jones, Offensive Tackle, Houston
Fourth Round, Pick 114 overall: Leki Fotu, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Fourth Round, Pick 131 overall: Rashard Lawrence, Defensive Tackle, LSU
Sixth Round, Pick 202 overall: Evan Weaver, Linebacker, California
Seventh Round, Pick 222 overall: Eno Benjamin, Running Back, Arizona State
Overall value against my board: +7 (1st overall)
Despite the fact that Isaiah Simmons was the number one overall player in this class according to my board, I have some concerns about his fit here in Arizona. Since selecting Haason Reddick in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, the Cardinals have not utilized his skill set well. They played him primarily as an off-ball linebacker rather than letting him get downhill and rush the passer. With a player as versatile as Simmons, Arizona will have to prove they can be creative in his utilization in order to maximize his potential. If Arizona is able to move Simmons around the field and keep offenses honest with him, the rewards will be massive.
Overall value against my board: +42 (30th overall)
Going into draft night, the clear weakness on this Cardinals roster was their offensive line. Arizona had to come out of this draft with at least one piece to put in front of last year’s number one pick Kyler Murray. And that is exactly what they did. Josh Jones is an enticing ball of clay for any offensive line coach to work with. The tools he possesses had many believing he could come off the board on night one. Falling all the way to No. 72 allowed the Cardinals to potentially snap up their tackle of the future at an excellent value. However, he will need some time to work out his technique before he is ready to take on NFL edge rushers.
Overall value against my board: +61 (53rd overall)
After passing on one of the top players in the 2019 draft, Quinnen Williams, in favor of grabbing their franchise quarterback, the Cardinals had a gaping hole in the middle of their defensive line to fill. They brought in a massive addition (both literally and figuratively) to fill said hole. Leki Fotu has excellent hand technique, which is common for Utah defensive lineman, and he will be an excellent player for this team as he eats up double teams on the interior. This should allow star pass rusher Chandler Jones to see even more one-on-one opportunities to rush the quarterback.
Overall value against my board: -16 (147th overall)
This is the only pick of the entire class that ended as a negative value in comparison to my personal board. But it‘s far from a bad pick in the fourth round. Lawrence was a solid player during his four year career with the Tigers, and showed steady improvement during that time. Lawrence will be a solid depth piece for the Cardinals early on, who could work his way into a starting role down the line as a run stopping defensive tackle.
Overall value against my board: +80 (122nd overall)
Evan Weaver was a polarizing player throughout the draft process, due to his extreme lack of overall athleticism. Weaver is a consistent tackler who seems to always be in position against the run. But that lack of athleticism hurts his overall coverage ability. This is a player who will provide solid depth for the Cardinals. He‘s unlikely to see consistent playing time on passing downs anytime soon.
Overall value against my board: +149 (73rd overall)
The Cardinals did a great thing here. We could end the evaluation there, but where is the fun in that? Anyone who follows me knows that Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin was my absolute favorite player in this draft due to his capability of performing in all three areas of the position (running, receiving, and blocking), as well as how fun it is to watch him make people miss in the open field. With Kenyan Drake on the franchise tag, this selection in the seventh round could allow the team to let Drake be the feature back in 2020. Meanwhile, Benjamin acclimates himself to the pro game before letting Drake walk and handing a more prominent role to Eno in 2021.
Overall Draft Grade: A
The Cardinals did a great job building out some key areas of their roster in the 2020 draft. Grabbing great value at nearly every pick is rare. However, adding late round selections that could realistically have real impacts by year two is incredible. GM Steve Keim made some decisions that not everyone agreed with in 2019, but those have paid off so far. This draft was excellent, and could set the Cardinals back on the road to prominence sooner rather than later.