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You've Got Mail: Draft Prep In Final Stages

Topics include Zach Allen's comeback, draft possibilities and Big Red's status

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Hard to believe the draft is only a week-plus away. Then again, it's hard to believe it's only April 14 -- it seems like six months since the Rudy Gobert-sports-halting positive COVID-19 test. This and one more mailbag before the Cardinals will choose No. 8 overall. As always, you can leave a question for a future mailbag by going here.

From Lloyd Perrett via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren, why do the top-four OL candidates in the draft 2020 get ranked so differently as to who is the best by the experts? Some say Thomas, some Wirfs, some Wills and then others Becton? Which one of these top four OL do you think fits the best for the Cardinals?"

I won't pretend to know which would be the best. It certainly seems there is no true consensus. Which immediately gives me concern when you are talking about potentially trying to find a Pro Bowl-quality guy at No. 8. Finding someone athletic -- who probably is Wirfs, and maybe Becton -- seems to make sense for this offense.

From Dean Ynata via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. I saw the article you posted about Zach Allen wanting to get back at it this season after missing much of last season. Very interesting. I have 2 questions regarding that article. What was Allen's injury? What does 'neck' injury mean? It somewhat reminds me of Adrian Peterson, who also had a mysterious 'neck injury' and only far late discussed it and we found out it was very serious. He said he was almost paralyzed. What game was it? Maybe we can go watch a replay and see what happened. Also, Allen was a third-rounder. That ain't cheap. So it bothers me a little bit that hes already becoming a depth guy. A 3rd rounder should be penciled in as a starter going into their 2nd year."

I do not know exactly what the injury was, but Allen said he was having trouble with the strength in there. He got hurt in the fourth game of the season. It was not a season-ending injury per se; he was nearing a return once before suffering a setback in practice, and eventually they decided to shut him down to get the roster spot. As for a third-rounder and his spot, as of now, Allen would be a starter. But if they were to take a defensive lineman at No. 8 overall, and you have Corey Peters and you sign Jordan Phillips for $10 million a year, who would you bring off the bench? It's not like four defensive linemen won't be used a lot in a rotation.

Out of those two scenarios, I think I would say trading down to get the lineman. You don't list what I think is the most likely scenario -- OL at No. 8. Funny enough, I'd think trading down might actually make it more likely the Cardinals take a WR with the first-round pick, depending on who is on the board.

From Marty AZ via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren! Hope you're staying safe and thanks for all the work you guys are doing. Two questions if you don't mind. Any plans on having a video press conference with Nuk? I'm re-watching 'All Or Nothing' and remembered how Rashad Johnson was always one of the smartest players in the NFL. Do you know what he's been up to and whether he's coaching somewhere? Thanks!"

At some point we will hear from Hopkins, but first, that deal has to be officially finalized, and with the draft closing in, that also could delay it. As far as Rashad Johnson, he is working with the University of Alabama. He actually appeared on the Big Red Rage last week.

From Richard Scott via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. With all the praise earned post-draft after this last year's class, it seemed like the results were somewhat of a mixed bag. I'm just curious what kind of vibe you got as to how some of these guys came along during the year. For example is Gaillard a guy they're looking at as a potential starter-in-waiting? What about a guy like Dogbe at DT? Are Keesean and Isabella over 'doing their own thing' as Kliff suggested later in the year? I know all these guys aren't going to be All-Pros but it would be great to get contributions from some of the deeper guys in our draft class other than just Kyler and Murphy."

Well, that's one of the reasons not having on-field work in the offseason would hurt. They are hopeful Gaillard can become that guy, yes. Dogbe probably has a ways to go as starter potential. But there's no way to know where any of the young receivers are because we haven't seen them and we likely will not, at least in the offseason. Judging the draft class after a year is never good, both with slow starters out of the gate or even someone like RGIII once upon a time.

I'm curious, what price exactly were fans paying? Coaches make decisions all the time, fourth down and otherwise. To me, if you think the coach is making poor decisions, you're saying he shouldn't be coach. Is that what you're saying? To say he's not considering other options is simply untrue and probably disingenuous. Also, if you look up the numbers, the Cardinals were more successful on fourth downs than not.

From Hewidar Hasso via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, is it realistic or a possibility that the Las Vegas Raiders would give up their 12th and 19th Pick for the 8th Pick in the draft? A few day ago a read a scenario like that. Would a team do that? I think the Raiders would give their 12th Pick and a second rounder."

No, the Raiders are not giving up two first-round picks to move up four spots.

From Joe DeVoe via azcardinals.com:

"I know you're probably not a contract/cap expert, but is there anything that concerns you about the structuring of some of the deals the Cardinals have made this offseason (specifically Jordan Phillips, Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell). They seem (extremely) back loaded and have 'dummy years' that result in dead cap in the future. Will this put them in the 'cap hell' you refer to? Thanks."

Will they absorb cap hits in the future? Yes. But some of it is about gambling on jumps in the future salary cap, and in a year where the cap did not go up a ton, this was a way to collect all the players you hoped to put on this team to make it immediately competitive. It's not going to mean "cap hell," necessarily. It'd be better if they could put it all in this year, but to really set contracts up like that, you have to be bad for multiple seasons and roll over a lot of cap room to make it work.

From Matt O'Brien via azcardinals.com:

"Nearly every mock draft I have seen has Isaiah Simmons going to Carolina at No. 7. With Matt Rhule/Joe Brady bringing in players that have played for them in the past (Teddy Bridgewater was backup QB while Brady was in N.O.; P.J. Walker and Robby Anderson played for Rhule at Temple) is there a possibility that the Cards would be willing to trade No. 8 overall and Haason Reddick (who played for Rhule at Temple and fills that LB need) to move up one spot and select Simmons at No. 7 if he's available?"

I'm not sure, if the Panthers want Simmons, why they would prefer to take Reddick? That makes no sense to me. I'm guessing you'd say, well they got a linebacker plus another player instead of just one player, but Reddick didn't play linebacker for Rhule and that coach is going to know his limitations.

From Drew Pollman via Twitter:

"Would you trade the 8th pick for Tampa's first-round pick if they sent O.J. Howard and a future pick along with it?"

Would I take Howard, a future pick and No. 14? I guess I'd have to know what the future pick was, but I'd certainly listen. Don't see the Bucs doing that.

From Jaille Finstrom via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, did you see the Bucs and Falcons both got new uniforms? The interesting thing is both of them went for a stripped down, simple look. That's what we fans have been asking for the Cards uniforms for awhile. I really hope the league is trending in that direction. Its just such a great look. My actual question is a different topic. I always thought Deflategate was so silly. To say that's cheating or an unfair advantage is ridiculous when you consider some receivers wear gloves that are so sticky, they may as well cover their hands in glue. QBs (like Kurt Warner) wearing a glove gives them notable advantages. I dont know. What did you think about deflategate and 'equipment cheating?' It's just silly to me."

To me, the rules are the rules. I don't know enough about the specifics of Deflategate, but if the footballs are supposed to be a certain psi, then they should be. If players are allowed to wear gloves that are pseudo-sticky, then they should be allowed to wear them. It's easy to fix, change the rules.

He's been healthy for a while. But funny you should ask now, since he just talked about his status this week.

From Tom Salvas via azcardinals.com:

"Be truthful, how many people contact you claiming to be an offensive line savant? From Nate Solder to Garrett Bradbury I pick guys that are winners. This year it will be Ezra Cleveland who will make teams regret passing on him . My question is do you think he is on the Cardinals radar?"

Oh Tom, perhaps you aren't paying close enough attention, but it sure seems like the vast majority of those who contact me about potential picks feel they are a savant. Please don't feel like it's a special quality. Cleveland is a nice prospect who many are thinking goes high in the second round. I am sure they are considering him. But if they take a lineman in the first round, they won't need him, and unless they make a trade, he'll be long gone by the time they pick again in Round 3.

From Robert Malicki via azcardinals.com:

"Our GM has put the Cardinals in the envious position of multiple options for the upcoming draft. It is my contention we must take full advantage of this by choosing a playmaker with our high draft pick. What's the point of being in the No. 8 slot if you fail to get an impact player? Yes even missing a second-round draft choice. What say you, Darren? In the modern era of the NFL the Cardinals have had renowned offensive lines none composed strictly of high draft choices. ... The key ingredient of them and the line Jake played behind was coaching."

I say the same thing I have always said: At No. 8, you need to take the best player you can, the guy who will turn out to be the best guy long-term, the one who you think could be a multi-time Pro Bowler. Maybe that's a wide receiver. Maybe that's a linebacker. Maybe that's an offensive lineman.

From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. Looking back at the free agent signings we made, is there someone still available or someone we are still talking to now that you think might sign at a need position, i.e. EDGE, OLB, DB? I'd love to grab OL Ezra Cleveland or LB K'Lavon Chaisson in rounds three or four -- any chance? Thanks."

I do not think Cleveland or Chaisson will make it to the third round. I could be wrong. As for any other free-agent signings, there won't be any more until after the draft so they can see who they pick, and even then, I don't see them looking for anyone but depth at this point. They have their expected starters.

I don't know if there is added pressure. Actually, having Hopkins will mean Kirk should have a lot more room to roam against lesser defenders. Kirk is only halfway through his rookie deal, he has considerable talent and he's excellent in the locker room and the community. He also fits Kliff's offense well. I think they are certainly hoping he's around long-term.

From Stevie Henderson via azcardinals.com

"Is the trade with the Texans considered finalized? Hopkins jerseys in the team shop sounds like the Cardinals are pretty sure there will not be any glitches with David Johnson's physical to nullify the trade. How can they be sure? Is it possible there is an understanding between the teams even though contracts haven't been signed? I find it difficult to get too excited about Hopkins until we are sure the trade is finalized and contracts are signed."

I can't speak to the contracts -- those actually might have been signed to be executed only after physicals are done -- but there was already news this week that Hopkins passed a physical and Kliff Kingsbury seemed pretty confident this will be fine. No one will ask you to be prematurely excited. Feel free to have those emotions at your own pace.

From Jesse Arrieta via azcardinals.com:

"I am sure many on here would like to know what your mock draft for the first 8 picks would be. Please fill in the blanks with your mock (assuming no trade downs):"

I'm not sure people are just dying to know. And any mini-mock I make is the same crapshoot anyone else does, especially since I don't have any particular insight for other teams. That said, here's some spitballing:

1. Bengals: Burrow
2. Redskins: Young
3. Lions: Okudah
4. Giants: Simmons
5. Dolphins: Tua
6. Chargers: Herbert
7. Panthers: Brown
8. Cardinals: Wirfs. Or Wills. Who knows. Given that how a lot of people have guessed this is how the top 8 will go, it will almost certainly not go this way.

From Tyler Gilkinson via azcardinals.com:

"No question, just some feedback. I've read most of your stuff for a long time now. The way you responded to Rhonda Smith's question in last week's mailbag stood out to me, in a good way. (Last question here.) A little empathy can go a long way, it's just hard to measure. You never know what difference it might make for a person or an observer. I do see empathy all over the place in your writing, but this was exceptional work. Thanks for that."

Tyler, I don't know your situation and I'm hoping you just noticed for empathy's sake and not because you are going through something difficult. But I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

Clearly, at his nest, which he currently protecting. He's not unfamiliar with being careful in such situations, having avoided the bird flu a few years back.

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