The Arizona Cardinals had a strange 2022 NFL Draft. It was a divisive one, with many people disagreeing with the trade for Marquise Brown. Despite the question marks raised about the class initially, the rookies played a solid role in the team this year. Indeed, the 2022 draft class has been more impactful in their rookie year than previous classes have been. That is despite the fact that the team was without a first-round pick.
With the 2023 NFL Draft around the corner, it seems a good time to take a look at Arizona’s 2022 selections. They have the number three overall pick in the upcoming draft. It will be interesting to see how Arizona’s new regime chooses to approach its mini-rebuild. Regardless, they have some good young players to work with from the 2022 haul.
READ MORE: Cardinals Head Coach Update
Arizona Cardinals Rookie Review
Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State (Round 2, #55)
Trey McBride was the Cardinals offensive rookie of the year without a doubt. He finished the season with 265 receiving yards and one touchdown on 29 receptions. Those numbers are far from impressive, but it should be noted that McBride was only getting more volume toward the end of the season. His game against the Atlanta Falcons was a particular highlight.
Trey McBride remains a bright spot for the Arizona Cardinals.
TOUCHDOWN FOR #85 pic.twitter.com/6emFdPq1vh
— PHNX Cardinals (@PHNX_Cardinals) January 1, 2023
Many questioned the selection of McBride at the time. Given that the team had Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams, McBride’s selection was puzzling. However, when Ertz landed on IR, McBride’s value was instantly heightened. He was the immediate replacement for Ertz and slotted in as the TE1 admirably. While his blocking was only so-so, McBride showed good route-running, secure hands, and excellent run-after-catch ability.
Tough. Trey McBride holds on for the catch. 👏
📺: #NEvsAZ on ESPN
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/UKeBTYKCRY pic.twitter.com/H27guw8Uxg
— NFL (@NFL) December 13, 2022
With McBride showing a lot of promise, he can be expected to play a prominent role in Arizona’s offense next season. The return of Ertz and, eventually, Kyler Murray, should aid his production.
Cameron Thomas, EDGE, San Diego State (Round 3, #87)
The Cardinals lost Chandler Jones to the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency last year. It meant that the team was in desperate need of adding pass rushers. The first of the pass rushers to be added was Cameron Thomas.
Thomas was an interesting prospect. His weight and athleticism made him a strange fit for Arizona’s 3-4 system. Indeed, many thought he would have to put on some weight and fill in as a 3-4 defensive end. However, the team moved to more of a 4-3 look, using Thomas as an edge rusher. He fit in well and was particularly effective in stopping the run.
Thomas managed 18 tackles, three sacks, three TFLs, and six QB hits in 2022. His pass-rush style was reminiscent of the recently-retired J.J. Watt, allowing for a lot of comparisons between himself, Watt, and Zach Allen.
Cameron Thomas bringing the HEAT on third down.
Rookie primed for a big jump! pic.twitter.com/ghxWzfJ4vi
— PHNX Cardinals (@PHNX_Cardinals) October 16, 2022
Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati (Round 3, #100)
The second pass rusher that the Cardinals selected was Myjai Sanders. Between Sanders and Thomas, Sanders seemed like the better fit for Arizona’s system. Indeed, many compared his build and playstyle to the departed Jones.
Sanders had a very similar season to Thomas, but he demonstrated a bit more pass-rush upside. In 2022, Sanders had 17 tackles, three sacks, three TFLs, one forced fumble, and five QB hits. He was used effectively as primarily a pass rusher and showed good speed and explosiveness. He also showed some versatility when Vance Joseph used him in coverage. With Sanders and Thomas, Arizona has a good set of rotational edge rushers. While both have room to develop, Arizona will want to add a bonafide pass rusher in the draft or free agency.
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT MYJAI 😤@MyjaiSanders x #BirdCityFootball pic.twitter.com/iDDkBZtL8m
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) November 13, 2022
Keaontay Ingram, RB, Southern Carolina (Round 6, #201)
Arizona had a period in the season when James Conner was out injured. With their feature back absent, the team turned to the tandem of Eno Benjamin and Keaontay Ingram. Ingram looked solid in that span and, against the New Orleans Saints, had 37 total yards and a score.
That @keaontay_ingram kid is elusive. 😯#NOvsAZ on Prime Video
Also available on NFL+ https://t.co/aKjbRcE0ca pic.twitter.com/zjHc728fks
— NFL (@NFL) October 21, 2022
He failed to build on that momentum, however. The sixth-round rookie lacks top-end speed and agility, and this severely limited his production. Even when the team waived Benjamin, Ingram stayed as RB3 behind new signing Corey Clement. By the end of the season, Ingram saw very few reps and finished the season with just 2.6 yards per touch.
For a sixth-round selection, Ingram has been alright. If he wants to stick around, however, he will need to show some improvement this off-season.
Lecitus Smith, OG, Virginia Tech (Round 6, #215)
When the Cardinals selected Lecitus Smith, many pundits believed it was a steal. He fulfilled this prophecy early in camp when he impressed coaches with his physicality and versatility (he took a lot of snaps at center).
Despite the early promise, Smith had a quiet season. He started just two games, although he was impressive against Aaron Donald in Week 10. Smith proved to be a capable depth piece but nothing more. His versatility should mean that the Cardinals will keep him around.
Before Lecitus Smith's first NFL start…
"Y'all think they're gonna cut me some slack 'cause of Aaron Donald?" @Lecitus_54#HardKnocks In Season @AZCardinals available now on @HBOMax pic.twitter.com/fa7PxTD5G7
— NFL (@NFL) November 17, 2022
Christian Matthew, CB, Valdosta State (Round 7, #244)
Most people were not impressed with the selection of Christian Matthew. Despite being prototypical size, Matthew was from a small school and was one of the older prospects in the draft. However, he has shown that he deserves a roster spot.
Due to the countless injuries (and thin depth) the Cardinals had at cornerback, Matthew was thrust into a starting role on several occasions. Indeed, in some of these, he was even matched up against some of the NFL’s top receivers. While he struggled in some matchups, Matthew proved that he has what it takes to be Arizona’s CB5 at worst.
Jesse Luketa, EDGE, Penn State (Round 7, #256)
Jesse Luketa was partly drafted due to his character. The edge rusher showed all his passion when he was drafted, and took that energy with him on the field. Luketa played in just seven games but managed two TFLs. The rookie seemed strong and was particularly effective at setting the edge. He flashed some versatility as Joseph used Luketa in an off-ball role at times. He also proved his worth as a special teams ace. While it was a quiet season, Luketa ought to be kept around as a depth piece. He has earned that right after showing some good football.
Leave it to a Canadian to make plays on special teams…
Jesse Luketa delivers a BLOW in his NFL preseason debut💥#NFL #Cardinals #RedSea pic.twitter.com/j9QC1cMCIh
— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) August 13, 2022
Marquis Hayes, OG, Oklahoma (Round 7, #257)
Despite the Cardinals’ countless offensive line injuries, Marquis Hayes never saw the field. An exciting prospect coming out of the draft, many believed Hayes was a borderline plug-and-play left guard. However, he did not play a single snap for the Cardinals this season despite their woes up front. Hayes will get another chance to prove himself this off-season.