Don't Count Out Cardinals Seeking an Edge Rusher in First or Second Round

Age of the group could have the Arizona Cardinals looking at an edge rusher in the first or second round of this week’s draft.
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The Cardinals have the 16th and 49th picks in the first two rounds of this week’s draft and don’t select again until the fifth round (160th overall).

So, unless they are able to trade down in the first or second round and acquire a third- or fourth-round choice, 110 players will be selected between their second- and fifth-round choices.

That, of course, makes it imperative they hit on the first two selections. It appears clear a cornerback will arrive with one of the two early picks.

But, who will the other be? A wide receiver? An offensive lineman? 

What about an edge rusher? That might sound crazy, but there is a case for one, even in the first round if the Cardinals don’t like the value of the cornerbacks on the board and Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari is available.

Ojulari is considered the top 3-4 outside linebacker available in the draft and he won’t be 21 years old until June 16.

To those who believe the Cardinals are fine at the position, consider that Chandler Jones is 31, coming back from injury and is in the final year of a hefty contract. Markus Golden is 30. Dennis Gardeck is coming back from an ACL injury and will probably always be a rotation player. Devon Kennard had a disappointing 2020 season that was affected by injury and COVID-19, and he will be 30 on June 24.

It would surely make sense to add youth to the pass-rushing group, whether it’s in the first or second round,.

While appearing on Big Red Rage recently on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, director of player personnel Dru Grigson said, “It’s a very interesting draft for pass rushers. It’s just because there are so many bodies. I don’t think it’s as deep up top, but it’s like the second, third round. It’s gonna get real interesting.”

As general manager Steve Keim said of the team’s philosophy last week, “What we've done is we look at free agency as filling and supplying our needs and then the draft is the best player available. Obviously, if two players are in a similar area and one is a positional need, you'd lean towards that player, but you never want to get into a position where you have your boards stacked and you have an 87- or a 90-type player and you pass them up for a positional need. Ultimately, your needs are always changing. I've said it many times: Your needs in April and May are much different than they are in October and November. Needs are always changing, but you can't have enough good players.”

Grigson echoed those words. He said, “It’s very cliche to say, but it is so true that you just can’t pass on the good players.”

The best edge linebackers after Ojulari are Joe Tryon, Washington; Joseph Ossai, Texas; Quincy Rioche, Miami; Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma; and Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State). There are also available rushers that could project better as 4-3 defensive ends but might be considered for the 3-4 defense.

The question is who will be there in the second round if that’s the direction the Cardinals might go.

As Grigson said, “There’s a lot of talented guys in the second, third and fourth rounds that are going to fly off the board. There’s goin to be a run for them at some point because it’s a very, very good group.”