Cardinals Add Explosive Edge Rusher Compared to J.J. Watt

Steve Keim

Getty Images General manager Steve Keim looks on during a game in 2021.

With the Arizona Cardinals trading for wide receiver Marquise Brown and selecting tight-end Trey McBride in the second round, the team in the desert selected two defensive players in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft.

The Cardinals had two selections in the third round, with their second third-round pick coming from the Brown trade.

Arizona selected San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas with their third-round pick (87th overall).

Thomas won the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and was an AP All-American. He posted 11.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2021.

With the 100th pick, the Cardinals double-dipped at the edge rusher position, selecting Myjai Sanders.

The Cardinals visited Sanders on April 12, as first reported by Josh Norris.

Sanders recorded 31 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2020 and was a First-Team All-AAC Selection.

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Thomas’s Highly Touted

There’s only one J.J. Watt.

However, scouts have compared Thomas to second-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson and even Watt. The 267-pound Thomas ranked fourth in the FBS in tackles for loss at 20.5. He played at multiple positions in college but played inside during his sophomore year in 2020.

By the time he entered his 2021 campaign, he jumped to the outside role.

“This past season, my junior season, I was able to transition back out there and I just felt most natural,” Thomas said. “I think that’s really what made me kind of pop off this year, and just all the preparations all added up.”

Thomas told reporters that he even models his game after Watt, who’s also played in different spots along the defensive line.

“J.J. is another guy who was able to learn a lot of inside, outside and just dominate so I’m hoping to do the same,” Thomas said.

Thomas can now develop behind Watt at the defensive end. With the loss of Chandler Jones in free agency, Thomas will be an interesting player to watch heading into the 2022 season.


More on Sanders

Sanders joins Thomas as the two edge rushers that general manager Steve Keim drafted in the third round.

He was invited to the Senior Bowl in 2022 and was a standout in the eyes of the event’s director Jim Nagy, who said he, “could look like Day 2 steal in 2-3 years.” According to Nagy, Sanders had the fifth-fastest max acceleration among all players at the Senior Bowl.

At the NFL combine, Sanders ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, which put him among the top performers in his position. But The Draft Network’s analysts gave Sanders a consensus grade of 74.30 out of 100, which put him at a fourth-round value. In terms of measurements, negatives that still exist are his hand size and arm length.

CBS Sports analyst Chris Trapasso ranked third in the 2022 edge-rushing class.

The Cardinals have two sixth-round picks and three seventh-round picks on Day 3 of the NFL draft on April 30.

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