Needing to rebuild their defense, the Arizona Cardinals have selected Clemson linebacker and former Olathe North standout Isaiah Simmons with the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
The Cardinals were expected to take an offensive tackle or a defensive lineman with their first selection, but the prospect of adding the versatile Simmons proved too good an opportunity.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder was a do-everything defender for the Tigers who had 104 total tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions in 2019.
Simmons will join a Cardinals defense that was among the worst in the NFL last season and gave up the most total yards in the league.
But they do have some talented players returning, including two Pro Bowl selections, linebacker Chandler Jones and safety Budda Baker.
Arizona had the No. 1 selection last season and took quarterback Kyler Murray, who had an encouraging rookie season in first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. This time, the Cardinals decided to help the defense.
The Cardinals have already had an active offseason after trading for elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins, re-signing running back Kenyan Drake and adding several potential defensive starters, including linebackers Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips.
Simmons is likely the Cardinals’ only chance to make a big splash early in the draft. Arizona traded its second-round pick to the Houston Texans in the trade that brought Hopkins to the desert. The team’s next pick will be the 72nd overall in the third round.