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It is the offseason of lists and rankings, and this is the time of year where projections are made. Pro Football Focus has been ranking players at each position entering the 2021 season.
When they ranked the top 32 linebackers, two Cardinals players made the list.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Hicks barely makes the cut at No. 31 overall. However, this is an interesting ranking, considering he is losing his starting job and place in the playing rotation.
Jordan Hicks enjoyed years of impressive play in Philadelphia before landing in Arizona and struggling hugely over the past two seasons with PFF grades of 61 and then 50.4. If Hicks was stuck in Arizona again, he might not make the list. But with the arrival of first-round pick Zaven Collins after Isaiah Simmons joined the team in 2020, the Cardinals have given Hicks permission to seek a trade, and he seems primed for a bounceback campaign elsewhere in 2021. Even with his struggles in the desert, Hicks has four picks and four pass breakups over the past two seasons.
This ranking makes sense if he gets traded somewhere he will start. He was not the same player in 2020 that he was in 2019. He looked slower and was not the playmaker he was. With the addition of Zaven Collins, the Cardinals are ready to move on from the veteran, although he still has something in the tank and can be productive if he is healthy.
Simmons is right behind Hicks and is the last of the top 32 linebackers, coming in at exactly No. 32.
Simmons was mercilessly attacked by Kyle Shanahan's 49ers last season, but he showed down the stretch that he was beginning to put things together at linebacker having played a brand of positionless football at Clemson. If he can develop in Year 2 after that baptism by fire, he could shoot up the rankings.
Simmons' playing time was frustrating for fans who believed he could have an impactful rookie season, but the lack of on-field work and a preseason really kept him behind. However, his final numbers were quite respectable across the stat sheet, especially considering he played in only 34% of the Cardinals' defensive snaps. He is being counted on to be a major playmaker this coming season. He needs to be a top-32 linebacker. They are counting on him being one of the better ones. Paired with rookie Zaven Collins, the Cardinals hope they can develop into a more modern and taller version of Seattle's Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.