Analysts Unanimous in Their Acclaim for Cardinals Draft

Howard Balzer

Well, the grades are in, and yes, you all know how much I hate them! However, I defer to all of you that love seeing them.

The reaction to what the Cardinals did during the three days of the draft is unanimous in their acclaim.

Below are the grades and analysis from a group of national writers. There were many more, but we wanted to make sure you were able to finish reading them by summer time!

Andy Benoit:

Grade: B+

The Isaiah Simmons pick does not address a major need for Arizona, but it was a chance to add supreme, diverse talent. The question is: Where will he play? We know the uber-versatile Clemson star can operate at almost any position; that’s why he was drafted as high as he was. Pairing him with Budda Baker gives Arizona two dynamic movable chess pieces, which will help a defense that has struggled mightily on third down. (Editor’s note: The Cardinals have said he will be mostly a linebacker).

Offensively, if we treat DeAndre Hopkins as Arizona’s second-round pick, that boosts their draft by a whole letter grade. And it shouldn’t be a bad grade to begin with considering they found a new right tackle in Josh Jones. The third round is much later than many expected the Houston product to go. With Marcus Gilbert being 32, having some injury history and entering the final year of his contract, Jones was a no-brainer selection for Cardinals GM Steve Keim.

It was also a no-brainer to restock Arizona’s defensive line depth, which Keim did in the fourth round, taking Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence.

Chad Reuter:

Overall grade: A

Picking up a stud defender in Simmons and a value in Jones made the first two days of the Cardinals' draft memorable. And don't forget, this team used its second-round pick to acquire DeAndre Hopkins earlier this offseason.

Adding Fotu and Lawrence should give the Cardinals one of the biggest defensive lines in the league, although perhaps at the cost of building depth at other positions. (Evan) Weaver is limited in coverage but should be a solid reserve 3-4 inside linebacker and special-teamer. (Eno) Benjamin is a low-center-of-gravity back who adds needed depth at his position.

Doug Farrar: USA Today Touchdown Wire

Grade: A+

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has had his share of detractors through the years, but it's hard to see the Cardinals' 2020 draft as anything but one great move after another. With the eighth overall pick, they got Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons, the perfect distillation of the modern “linebacker” who can do all kinds of things.

It’s a perfect fit for Simmons, who might have been lost with the wrong coaching staff that may have miscast him as a traditional linebacker.

Arizona wasn’t done, though. They sent their second-round pick and running back David Johnson packing to Houston for receiver DeAndre Hopkins in Crazy Bill O’Brien’s Fire Sale, which is kind of a good deal. Then, in the third round, they absolutely stole Houston’s Josh Jones, perhaps the best pass-protecting offensive tackle in this draft class.

And then, with their two fourth-round picks, they nabbed Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, two of the sleeper defensive tackles in this group. This team is getting better in all the right ways, and if you believe as I do that 2020 will be the Year of Kyler Murray ... well, watch out for these guys.

Eric Edholm: Yahoo!

Grade: A

Simmons could be an outstanding antidote to the great NFC West tight ends (George Kittle, Tyler Higbee and Greg Olsen) while also providing a terrific blitzing option — it was his greatest skill in college, racking up sacks, pressures and tackles for loss. That back seven has great versatility and talent now, and we can’t wait to see the results.

They led off the draft with three straight home runs — Simmons in the first, DeAndre Hopkins as the de facto second-rounder and Jones a shocking fall to Round 3. We always saw Jones as an early second-rounder, not the top-20 pick some pegged him as in mock drafts. Fotu and Lawrence are terrific grunts up front, and the final selection of Benjamin even had us smiling.

What a tremendous weekend for the Cardinals, building on the excitement of the Kyler Murray pick one year ago. They’re contenders now.

Pete Prisco:

Grade: A

Third-round tackle Josh Jones will be a steal for the Cardinals. He will begin on the right side, but will eventually be a good left tackle someday.

The Cardinals had a great draft, especially if you count them trading a second-round pick to get DeAndre Hopkins and a fifth-round pick to get running back Kenyan Drake. They added bulk on both lines, which they needed to do as well.

Vinnie Iyer:

Grade: A

The Cardinals didn’t follow their expected script, but it was great improvisation from Steve Keim. They got their right tackle anyway after nabbing Simmons, their latest hybrid defender who will deliver big plays from Day 1. Fotu and Lawrence are ideal ingredients to keep improving the defensive line rotation. Don’t forget, DeAndre Hopkins is a spinoff of this class, too. They didn’t ignore helping Kyler Murray and still got to rebuild well on the other side. Benjamin is a good new potential backup to Kenyan Drake.

Nate Davis: USA Today

Grade: A-

Spending a second-round pick allowed them to import all-pro WR DeAndre Hopkins and dump overpaid RB David Johnson. That alone constitutes a pretty good draft. But the Cards also landed first-round LB/S Isaiah Simmons, one of the most intriguing defenders to emerge in years, and now just have to figure out how to maximize his unique versatility. Third-round OT Josh Jones could be a bargain.


GM Report