The upcoming NFL Draft looks to be a tricky proposition for the Arizona Cardinals. General manager Steve Keim has turned two of Arizona’s 2021 picks, a third-round and fourth-round selection, into Pro-Bowl talents DeAndre Hopkins and Rodney Hudson, respectively. However, the Cardinals are now left with limited options when it comes to this year’s draft. With complications surrounding the talent available at sixteen, there is a possibility that the Cardinals trade down in the draft.
Making the Case For Arizona Cardinals Trading Down in 2021 NFL Draft
The Cardinals’ biggest need is undoubtedly cornerback. Although the team acquired veteran Malcolm Butler via free agency, the team is still in need. Byron Murphy is going to play in the slot, a sentiment reiterated by Keim in a recent press conference. As for their other options, the only viable choice is Robert Alford, whose injury history is disastrous. With Murphy entrenched inside and Alford not being a reliable option, the Cardinals need another outside cornerback.
The Draft As It Stands
The Arizona Cardinals’ first pick in the NFL Draft at sixteenth overall. Although they are highly likely to select a cornerback with this pick, there are significant barriers as to who will be available to them. There are a consensus top three cornerbacks. The first, Patrick Surtain II, will be far out of the Cardinals’ reach at sixteen. He has been mocked to be off the board as high as fourth overall. Aside from his talent making him a ‘best player available’ selection, there are several teams ahead of the Cardinals in the draft that also have a need at cornerback. The team with the biggest need at cornerback is the Denver Broncos at ninth overall, with the Dallas Cowboys also in the mix at tenth. To get Surtain II, the Cardinals would have to go beyond this group, which is a difficult proposition.
Next is South Carolina prospect Jaycee Horn. An under-the-radar option early in the draft process, Horn wowed at his pro day, besting Surtain II in all measurable categories. However, with Surtain remaining the top option, Horn has regularly been mocked to the Cardinals at sixteen. A big factor in this is the trade between the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins that saw the Niners move up to third overall. Previously they were expected to be in contention for one of the top corners at twelfth overall. If Jaycee Horn is available at sixteen, there is a strong chance he becomes an Arizona Cardinal.
The theory behind the Cardinals choosing to move back revolves largely around Virginia Tech standout Caleb Farley. Farley has a tremendous upside as a prospect. Favourable size and athleticism, combined with tremendous playmaking ability, gives him the potential to be a gamechanger in the NFL. However, he is a polarising option due to his troubling injury history. Farley underwent a back procedure that saw him miss his pro day, reigniting concerns about an injury history that includes a torn ACL in 2017. Back problems also saw Farley miss the end of the 2019 season.
These concerns have caused Farley’s draft stock to plummet. Some have even speculated that it may cause him to fall out of the first round. If the Cardinals want him at sixteen then he will likely be there. However, the doubts surrounding him may ultimately be a blessing in disguise for the Cardinals. There may be a situation where Arizona can still get their guy, if the team covets Farley and is not dissuaded by his injury woes and gain some much-needed draft picks in the process.
There are two main instances where the Cardinals could select Caleb Farley. Either the team has a higher grade on him than Jaycee Horn, or Horn simply isn’t available. The latter is overwhelmingly possible, given the need for corner ahead of the Cardinals. As previously mentioned, Arizona could just take Farley at sixteen but, mocked by Lance Zierlein as late as thirtieth overall, there is a growing chance that he would be available even later.
Moving Back for Caleb Farley
Currently, the Cardinals have six picks in the 2021 draft. However, four of these picks come in the final three rounds, including two seventh-rounders. Farley’s tumbling down mock drafts across the league offers an opportunity to see the Cardinals trade down and reacquire some of the capital lost via trades whilst still gaining a top cornerback prospect.
What supposes to be a particularly competitive portion of the draft comes from 18-25, where many expect there to be a run on premium edge rushers such as Kwity Paye and Gregory Rousseau. What the Cardinals offer teams in this section of the draft is the opportunity to leap to the front of the queue and take their pick of the draft’s best pass rushers, rather than taking the best available. In return, the Cardinals would remain in a position to snag Caleb Farley and gain a valuable mid-round draft pick.
Will the Cardinals Trade Down?
if the Cardinals trade down, it would be because Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn are unavailable at sixteen. Although Farley is a top prospect in terms of talent, his durability makes him a less attractive prospect than Surtain II or Horn. If either is available at sixteen, with Horn being the more likely to get there, then expect Arizona to pull the trigger. It is again still possible for Arizona to take Farley with the sixteenth pick, but the negativity around him offers the Cardinals the potential to exploit the situation.
However, despite reports that Farley could fall to the second round, it is unlikely that the Cardinals would be able to make a play for him. Farley is a first-round talent. He has the potential to be a dynamite pick if selected in the second. Farley would go in the early parts of the second round, before Arizona pick again. If Farley is to be a Arizona Cardinal, then they must take him in the first round. Yet, Farley’s situation may present the Cardinals with a way to bolster their options in the later rounds and still gain a viable NFL talent in the Virginia Tech star.
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