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Arizona Cardinals Up Front With Day 2 Draft Picks

Trey McBride. Cameron Thomas. Myjai Sanders. The Arizona Cardinals Day 2 picks are in, and some major needs have been addressed.
Cardinals Draft

Heading into the second day of the draft, the Arizona Cardinals hadn’t yet made a pick. They had, however, satisfied a need by trading for Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. That trade also netted the Cardinals a further third-round pick, setting the Cardinals up for a big Day 2.

Arizona addressed their biggest need, netting two pass rushers for a defense that lost Chandler Jones this off-season. However, their choice at #55 overall, in the second round, was a perplexing one, loading up a position that has seen more reinforcement than any other this free agency.

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Arizona Cardinals Day 2 Draft Picks Address Biggest Need

Tight End Was Not A Need

Heading into Day 2, the Cardinals had cleared arguably their biggest need with the acquisition of Hollywood Brown. Attention, therefore, shifted to their other needs; pass rusher, corner, and interior defensive line were Day 2 targets. What no one expected to be targeted was a tight end. Yet that was the direction that Arizona went at #55, taking Colorado State tight end Trey McBride. McBride graded out as the best all-around tight end in this class by some margin and represents a ‘best player available’ approach from the Cardinals. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was surprised that McBride was there at #55; he was the highest player on their board at that spot.

Arizona is committed to avoiding the offensive slumps that castrated the team last season. This offense now has a plethora of weapons and a multitude of potential looks; Kingsbury has the arsenal to refresh and evolve his scheme throughout the year. However, with the holes that the Cardinals have elsewhere, the pick is still an unexpected one. Even more so since Arizona invested heavily in tight end in free agency, bringing back Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams while adding Stephen Anderson. Granted, the group will cost less than $5m collectively in 2022, but there are only so many snaps. McBride is a good pick and will be a useful weapon for a team desperate for wider options offensively. However, the Cardinals have other more pressing needs that this pick could have, and should have addressed.

Re-Drafting J.J. Watt

Thankfully, the Philadelphia Eagles picked before the Cardinals got another bite of the apple, selecting sliding linebacker Nakobe Dean and removing the temptation for Steve Keim to do so. So when it came to the 87th pick, the Cardinals selected San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas, addressing their glaring need for a pass rusher in this draft. At #87, the player they got was excellent value; drawing comparisons to some guy named J.J. Watt, Thomas was attributed a second-round value before the draft. It wasn’t a loud pick, but the Cardinals bagged themselves the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year down there in the third, and he projects well into this defense.

Thomas is regarded as an all-around defensive lineman. He has notable pass rush ability but combines it with a run-stuffing proficiency to really complete his portfolio. Some schematic projections foresaw a role as a 4-3 defensive end for Thomas. However, Steve Keim confirmed that Thomas will come to Arizona as an outside linebacker and edge rusher. This isn’t a stretch, as Thomas’ versatility has been noted as one of his biggest upsides; capable of playing in various fronts, the Cardinals could even pack some weight onto Thomas and shift him inside to 3-4 defensive end. For now, though, the Cardinals have got themselves a much-needed pass rusher with an exciting prototypical comparison attached to him.

Cardinals Day 2 Picks Double Up On Edge

The Cardinals had a further selection on Day 2 of the draft, pick #100, acquired in the Hollywood Brown trade. With that pick, Keim chose once again to select an edge rusher, bringing Cincinnati edge Myjai Sanders to Arizona. If nothing else, this selection underlines Arizona’s overwhelming need for pass rushers, selecting two in the same round. Again, like Thomas, not exactly a household name, but Sanders brings a different, complementary skillset that means Arizona’s Round Three selections ticked multiple boxes as Day 2 closed out.

Keim confirmed that both Thomas and Sanders would stand up on the edge for Arizona. For Sanders, this was always more likely in a 3-4 scheme; both projected as 4-3 defensive ends. However, long and lean, Sanders is going to be a pure speed rusher for the Cardinals, whereas Thomas represents a more power-oriented prototype. There have been some concerns about weight fluctuation in Sanders, who is a little narrow at 6’5″, 240lb, but if the Cardinals can stabilize that weight without compromising his 4.67 speed, then the Cardinals have filled their biggest pass rush need with a true pass-rushing edge.

All in all, the Cardinals came out rosy on Day 2. The second-round pick of Trey McBride is certainly a peculiar one, but, if the Cardinals can fill their numerous holes through other means, then Arizona have acquired yet another versatile weapon to help sustain their offensive output across a full season. Round three, though, was excellent for Arizona. Picking up two edge defenders with skillsets that cover the spectrum of pass-rushing ability, Arizona have now addressed perhaps their biggest off-season need. The jury is still out on the tight end selection, but Keim has drafted so excellently in the third round that the luxury pick of McBridge might just be afforded.

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