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Draft Primer 2024: Defensive Line

Room had makeover during free agency, could continue with draft


The Cardinals have been at the center of the NFL draft conversation for weeks, sitting at the top of the league with the most picks (six) within the first 90 selections of the draft. There's a lot of areas the Cardinals will look to address through the draft. General manager Monti Ossenfort's first draft was a success, adding multiple full-time starters and role players that played meaningful snaps. He will look to replicate that performance when the Cardinals are on the clock. Before the draft kicks off on April 25th, let's take a look at each position group and see how the Cardinals may use the draft to evaluate their needs.

Draft primer: Defensive line

Previous primers: WR, QB, TE, RB, OL, CB, ILB, Edge, S

Players under contract: Justin Jones, Bilal Nichols, L.J. Collier, Khyiris Tonga, Dante Stills, Roy Lopez, Ben Stille, Naquan Jones, Phil Hoskins

Need: High

The Cardinals' situation: We'll never know what the Cardinals starting defensive line could've been in 2023. The room was decimated with injuries and players like Roy Lopez, Naquan Jones, and Phil Hoskins were starting games despite not being on the Week 1 roster. Ossenfort added Justin Jones, Bilal Nichols, and Khyiris Tonga through free agency. Each boosts the talent level but also have a history of staying healthy.

The draft class: There are a handful of interior defensive lineman that have received praised throughout the draft process, specifically defensive tackle Byron Murphy II. The Texas product is a force to be reckoned with in the run game and has been mocked to the Cardinals on occasion. Illinois' Johnny Newton has also previously been linked to the Cardinals in mock drafts. Florida State's Braden Fiske has also burst onto the scene after a dominant showing at the Scouting combine.

The conclusion: This isn't the Cardinals highest need on defense, but it's an area that might be addressed through the draft with picks that aren't No. 4. There are prospects that could be available that would get the chance to earn snaps on a consistent basis. Considering how often defensive coordinator Nick Rallis rotates lineman and edge rushers, adding another young piece into the mix that can generate pressure and stop the run would be a bonus.

A look at some of the top defensive lineman entering the 2024 NFL Draft.