And just like that…the NFL Draft has come and gone.
The Cardinals ended up with six picks and selecting the following players:
Isaiah Simmons – Clemson defensive player – 8th pick
Josh Jones – Houston offensive tackle – 72nd pick
Leki Fotu – Utah defensive tackle – 114th pick
Rashard Lawrence – LSU defensive tackle – 131st pick
Evan Weaver – Cal linebacker – 202nd pick
Eno Benjamin – ASU running back – 221st pick
This is a draft where, according to Steve Keim, the board was in the Bird Gang’s favor, especially for the team’s first two picks in Clemson defensive player Isaiah Simmons and Houston offensive lineman Josh Jones – Pro Football Focus’ No. 14 player in the draft – who both fell to the Cardinals beyond where they were projected to be selected.
“In the years that I’ve been doing this, I really do feel that this board has fell to us this as good as it’s ever fallen,” Keim said in his post-draft availability.
The newest member of the o-line.
? #NFLDraft on ABC, ESPN & NFLN pic.twitter.com/uvl981k5Ja
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) April 25, 2020
On Saturday, the Cardinals added four more players, three of which play within the defensive front seven to help buoy the NFL’s worst defense last year. The team kicked off Saturday by selecting Utah interior defensive lineman Leki Fotu, who specialized as a run-stopper for the Utes and has “tremendous upside” according to Keim.
The Cards doubled up in the fourth round, following up the Fotu pick with another defensive lineman in LSU’s Rashard Lawrence. The three-year captain is described as an alpha-male and tough guy according to the Keim.
In the sixth round, the Cardinals selected Evan Weaver, who led the nation with 184 tackles in 2019, a Pac-12 record.
New Cardinals LB Evan Weaver: “I hit people as hard as I possibly can. (I like) really taking the soul out of people."
— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) April 25, 2020
Wrapping up the picks was Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin, who set the school’s single season rushing record in 2018.
“(He’s) a guy we thought would have gone much higher, so (he has) the value in the seventh round and a player that can do a number of things for us,” Keim said.
While the assumption entering this draft might have been to surround last year’s No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray with weapons and protection, the Cardinals selected four defensive players out of their six total picks.
This young talent infusion, combined with the free agents signings of Devon Kennard, Jordan Phillips and De’Vondre Campbell in the front seven, was a priority throughout the 2019 season.
“I walked away out of the press box every game and…I vowed we would fix this defense,” Keim said. “That’s what I feel like we did this offseason. We still have some work to do. We’re not there yet and we still haven’t played any football. I can’t tell you that it’s ultimately a success, but on paper, I feel like we’ve done some good things.”
RIP streaming any tight end against the Cardinals defense in fantasy, 2018-19
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) April 24, 2020
Benjamin, the lone offensive pick on Saturday for the Cardinals, was recruited by Kingsbury at Texas Tech and can provide depth to a position that was stretched thin at times for Arizona.
“He’s very durable and very productive, he’s a tough runner,” Kingsbury said of Benjamin. “Last year, we get to about Week 6 and we’re down to our third runner. That’s when we made the trade for (Kenyan Drake), so we wanted to bring in a young guy that can learn from two backs that we’re very high on and be a productive part of the team. We think Eno fits that need.”
The roster is not finished. The Cardinals can continue to add pieces through undrafted free agents and other available veterans, but in what is assuredly the NFL’s most unique draft, the team’s general manager feels destiny was on the Cardinals’ side.
“For whatever reason, I feel really, really at peace with what we did in this draft and really excited about the players we selected. (I) feel confident with all the names that I look at of the group of players that we drafted, that we just got really good football players.”