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ENO!, Defense, The Big Picture And Post-Draft Aftermath

OK, so not a bad 2020 draft for the Cardinals:

  • First Round: LB Isaiah Simmons
  • Second Round: WR DeAndre Hopkins*
  • Third Round: OT Josh Jones
  • Fourth Round: DT Leki Fotu
  • Fourth Round: DT Rashard Lawrence
  • Fifth Round: RB Kenyan Drake*
  • Fifth Round: S Jalen Thompson*
  • Sixth Round: LB Evan Weaver
  • Seventh Round: RB Eno Benjamin

Yes, I'm taking some liberties. But from last summer, when GM Steve Keim spent the supplemental draft pick to pick up Thompson -- who right now is the starting free safety and flashed as a rookie -- it feels like these picks (and the couple of extras gained) could turn out to be a watershed draft "class."

Hopkins is Hopkins. Drake showed he could be tremendous in this offense (even if it is a short term situation, but that's a discussion for a later date.) Meanwhile, the Simmons pick has earned raves. It looks like the Cardinals benefited from a surprising drop by Jones into the third and could eventually have their long-term right tackle. We will see how Fotu, Lawrence and Weaver could fit into the defense, but with the linemen alone, I mean, that was a position that needed numbers. You hope both work out, but if one does, that's good.

Then there was the Benjamin pick, the situation that burned up my Twitter timeline for a couple of hours on Saturday. Benjamin thought he'd go in the third round. I thought he could be the second of the two fourth-round picks. But he dropped. And dropped. I know I went back and forth with some when the Cards passed on him in the sixth, but I feel -- as I said at the time -- the Cards needed to address a more serious hole at inside linebacker depth rather than running back once they drafted Weaver. And lo and behold, Benjamin was still there in the seventh.

Overall, Keim talked about his draft board. And yes, he always talks about his board, but this year, he wasn't wrong. "In the time I've been doing this, I really felt this board fell to us this year as good as it's ever fallen," Keim said. That was in terms of players they wanted combined with need.

We'll see. Every draft ends with happiness and satisfaction, until some or most wash out without an impact. Still, it feels like one heck of an offseason up until this point.

-- The Cardinals, before agreeing with/signing any undrafted free agents, have 72 players on the roster. I don't see them signing 18 UDFAs. I'm not sure, with the likelihood of no on-field work this offseason, how important it would be to get all the way to 90 at this point. (UPDATE: Judging by the various reports out there, the Cards may very well indeed sign 18 undrafted rookies -- there are 18 or 19 names floating around Twitter that say players have agreed to deals. I don't expect an official list until Monday at the earliest.)

-- When it comes to those UDFAs, "We'll see if we can recruit these guys here, and Coach (Kliff Kingsbury) has been using FaceTime and showing them his palatial estate and trying to recruit them that way," Keim deadpanned.

-- I could see a veteran or two or three still signing. Maybe bringing back someone like tight end Charles Clay. Or cornerback Kevin Peterson. Yes, I know there are some ex-Cardinals some have asked about, like a Markus Golden or Tony Jefferson. Maybe. A veteran safety makes sense. Medical is important, as will be price.

-- Kingsbury said the Cards will start their "virtual" offseason program but only have meetings. There will be no virtual workouts through the team.

-- After all that, in the greatest wide receiver draft class in recorded history*, the Cards did not draft a wideout. I'd expect one or two undrafted guys, but it says something about the 2019 draft trio of Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. Still all three have room to grow and need to show it when they have a chance.

-- (*perhaps hyperbole)

-- All six draft picks this season were team captains. And the majority of guys recently have been captains. It's a trait Keim loves.

-- ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. after the Cardinals drafted Benjamin: "He's the most entertaining running back, you can argue, in college football. ... I love this pick."

I don't know how this class will play out. I don't know what the offseason moves will mean. I do know the 49ers and Seahawks seemed to get better since the season ended, but so have the Cardinals. It's been productive. This season is intriguing already. Now, about actually being allowed to get back on the field ...

RB Eno Benjamin
RB Eno Benjamin

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