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Arizona Cardinals Trade Down Targets in 2023 NFL Draft

Arizona Cardinals Trade Down Targets in 2023 NFL Draft: Arizona want to trade down this year. Benjamin Allbright names two players to watch.
Cardinals Trade Down

It is no secret that the Arizona Cardinals are looking to trade down in the 2023 NFL Draft. With the team undergoing a mass rebuild under Monti Ossenfort, acquiring more draft picks for this year and next year’s draft are crucial to reshaping Arizona’s roster.

According to NFL insider Benjamin Allbright, who correctly predicted the appointment of Jonathan Gannon, the Cardinals will trade down and draft either cornerback Christian Gonzalez or edge rusher Tyree Wilson. If Allbright is correct, this confirms the previous reports of Arizona seeking a trade into the 6-12 range of the draft. Allbright’s report is far from gospel. Between now and the draft, a lot can happen. However, it is clear that Ossenfort and Gannon have their eyes on a few players in a trade down scenario.

There is also another rumor floating around that Arizona is not infatuated with Will Anderson Jr. currently. As it stands, Anderson is the favorite to be Arizona’s selection at third overall. However, some pundits and insiders have suggested that Arizona do not view him as a generational prospect and that the team needs more first-round talent to plug their roles rather than one blue-chip prospect. Indeed, per Allbright’s prediction, the Seattle Seahawks end up landing the Alabama pass rusher at fifth overall.

Rumored Targets if Arizona Cardinals Trade Down

Christian Gonzalez

Coming out of Oregon, Gonzalez is currently considered among the top two cornerbacks in this year’s draft class. The highly rated prospect has prototypical size, excellent athleticism and high football IQ. He is a very polished prospect who will be a top-10 selection in this year’s class. Should the Cardinals trade down into the range of picks 6-9, there is a decent chance that they will be able to land Gonzalez.

A fun fact that also links Gonzalez to Arizona is that David Blough, last year’s starting quarterback to finish the year, is Gonzalez’s brother-in-law. According to the former Oregon cornerback, Blough has spoken highly of Arizona to him.

How Gonzalez Fits in Arizona

The Cardinals are down bad at cornerback currently. As it stands, the only two NFL-level cornerbacks on the team are Antonio Hamilton Sr. and Marco Wilson. The team’s best cornerback the last few years, Byron Murphy Jr., signed with the Minnesota Vikings this off-season. As such, the Cardinals are desperate for a player like Gonzalez to join the team.

Gonzalez is best suited to being a boundary cornerback. Thus, if the Cardinals draft him, he would likely play opposite Wilson, who had a mini breakout year in 2022. Hamilton, meanwhile, would be able to rotate in as a depth piece or play in the slot. He has versatility in terms of playing inside or outside. The Cardinals will, however, still need to add more quality and depth even if Gonzalez is drafted.

Should Arizona draft Gonzalez, their starting trio of cornerbacks could look like this:
CB1: Christian Gonzalez
Marco Wilson
: Antonio Hamilton Sr./Free Agency Addition/Rookie

Tyree Wilson

Wilson is a divisive prospect. However, it is believed that Arizona are keen on him because of how well he projects into Nick Rallis’ scheme. Wilson is a physically imposing defensive end who is considered the second-best edge rusher in this year’s class, behind Anderson. He played his college football with Texas Tech University and his athleticism, size and fundamentals all project well to the NFL. Wilson also has the versatility to have an impact along every spot on the defensive line.

Despite all the positives, Wilson has some injury concern currently. While his foot injury was recently cleared, for the sake of full recovery, he did not participate at the Texas Tech pro day, and also sat out most of the NFL Combine. Is Wilson’s foot injury a cause for concern for Arizona? According to Allbright, seemingly not.

How Wilson Fits in Arizona

Edge rusher is probably Arizona’s top need right now. The team lost J.J. Watt to retirement this year. They also cut Markus Golden and saw Zach Allen sign with the Denver Broncos. Last year, the team lost Chandler Jones via free agency and, the year before that, the same happened with Haason Reddick. As such, their defensive line and edge group are absolutely depleted.

Getting Wilson solves some of the issues. He would be the team’s primary edge threat and be an immediate starter. His size and athletic profile make him ideal to play as a 4-3 edge rusher. However, he also showed some versatility during his college career, which will allow him to play on the inside if needed too. While Wilson does not complete Arizona’s defensive front, he would certainly be a needed addition.

If Ossenfort and the Cardinals opt for Wilson, this is how the defensive front might look:
DE: Tyree Wilson
Rashard Lawrence/Free Agency Addition/Rookie
Leki Fotu/Free Agency Addition/Rookie
Myjai Sanders/Cameron Thomas

Paris Johnson Jr.

Of the Cardinals trade down targets, Paris Johnson Jr. is the player that stands out for a few reasons. Firstly, he is the only offensive player. Secondly, he is projected to go after pick 10 (currently). And, lastly, he was not listed by Allbright. However, there have been many rumours that link the Cardinals to Johnson currently, and the selection could make a lot of sense.

Johnson is a physically dominating tackle. With good college pedigree, an excellent level of athleticism and sound fundamentals, he has all the traits of being the top tackle in this year’s draft. His high football IQ and demonstrable leadership traits at Ohio State also project well into the NFL and, specifically, for a team like the Cardinals that are undergoing a culture overhaul.

How Johnson Fits in Arizona

As it stands, the Cardinals’ staring offensive line looks something like this:
LT: D.J. Humphries
LG: Josh Jones
C: Hjalte Froholdt/Lecitus Smith
RG: Will Hernandez
RT: Kelvin Beachum

Not a pretty sight, is it? Johnson would supplement that wilting offensive line vastly. Some might wonder why Johnson would be added if the team already have two adept left tackles in Humphries and Jones. Well, the answer is simple, neither Humphries nor Jones have a long-term future with Arizona and Johnson has excellent versatility. Humphries’ recent restructure guarantees him no money after the 2023 season and Jones enters a contract year next year (and could be the team’s long-term left guard anyway).

As Editor Drew Crabtree writes in Johnson’s draft profile, Johnson has “experience on both the right and left side of the line”. Therefore, the team that drafts him could “start him on the right side, refine his game even further, and then move him to the left side in a year or two” which, as Crabtree notes, is what the Detroit Lions did with Penei Sewell not too long ago.

Johnson’s fit in Arizona would make even more sense if Arizona drafts Luke Wypler, the former Ohio State center, on the second day of the draft. Pro Football Network’s NFL insider, Tony Pauline, recently revealed that he was told outright at Ohio State’s pro day that Arizona would be drafting Wypler. If Arizona acquire both Wypler and Johnson, their offensive line will immediately look better.

This is how the Cardinals’ offensive line might look in 2023 if Johnson and Wypler are both drafted:
LT: D.J. Humphries/Paris Johnson Jr.
Josh Jones
Luke Wypler
Will Hernandez
Paris Johnson Jr./Kelvin Beachum

Is Will Anderson Jr. out of the Question if Arizona Cardinals Trade Down?

If the Cardinals trade down, it is not a foregone conclusion that Anderson is out of the picture. First, if the Cardinals trade down with the Indianapolis Colts, Anderson is still on the board. In which case, he would probably still be Arizona’s pick (provided they do not trade down again). Indeed, the assumption is that, if Anderson is available, Arizona would still select him ahead of all the aforementioned prospects.

However, with that said, it seems that Arizona are prepared to miss out on Anderson. Despite the Alabama prospect being one of the only sure things in the draft this year, Arizona are in desperate need of much more than just one blue-chip player. What is aiding this is probably the general belief that Anderson is not a generational prospect in the same sense that Nick Bosa or Myles Garrett were. His production speaks for itself, but his measurables and athleticism suggest that his ceiling is not as high as either of those edge rushers.

In addition to this, it may be hard to find a good role for Anderson in Arizona’s new defense. The expectation is that the team will run a base 4-3, in which Anderson’s lack of size and power could be a hindrance. While Gannon made it work with Reddick on the Philadelphia Eagles, the safer option could be to prioritise players that project better into the scheme while Rallis seeks to implement his defensive philosophy.

Main Photo: Chris Pietsch – USA Today Sports


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