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Arizona Cardinals Prioritize Premium Positions in Mock Draft

Arizona Cardinals Prioritize Premium Positions in Mock Draft: In Rounds 1-3, Kashuba has Arizona focusing on premium positions in his mock.

The Arizona Cardinals focused their picks on premium positions in Mike Kashuba’s latest three-round mock draft. With their four total picks between the first and third rounds, Kashuba has Arizona drafting Will Anderson Jr., Broderick Jones, Nathaniel Dell, and D.J. Turner. With the 2023 NFL Draft fewer than two weeks away, how realistic is Kashuba’s mock? Would Kashuba’s mock draft be good for Arizona?

Cardinals Grab Premium Positions in Mock Draft

Round 1, Pick 3: Will Anderson Jr. (Edge, Alabama)

Despite ‘at least six teams’ being interested in Arizona’s third overall pick, Kashuba has the Cardinals staying put and grabbing one of the draft’s top non-quarterback prospects, Anderson. Last Word On Sport’s scouting report provides a good overview of the Alabama prospect:

“Anderson is a high-floor prospect. Teams know what they will be getting with Anderson: a high-effort, tried-and-tested pass rusher. His ceiling is, however, slightly limited by his smaller size and lack of generational athleticism. But, evidently, ‘potentially not being generational’ fails to amount to any real criticism of Anderson: he is essentially as flawless a draft prospect as they come at a valuable position.”

There is no doubt that, amidst their rebuild, the Cardinals will target premium positions (and players) in the draft. Despite Chris Simms’ analysis, Anderson is widely considered to be in a tier of his own at the top of the draft (besides the quarterbacks). He would be an excellent player, and leader, to kickstart a new era of football in Arizona. Indeed, Arizona met with Anderson at the Combine.

Having lost Zach Allen, Markus Golden, and J.J. Watt, the defensive line is a desperate need for Arizona. However, it is unclear whether Anderson projects as a scheme fit for Nick Rallis’ defense. Haason Reddick thrived under Jonathan Gannon’s Philadelphia Eagles system, but Anderson is no Reddick yet. It is believed that the team has Anderson graded similarly to Tyree Wilson, who projects well into Rallis’ scheme. Therefore, Arizona could prefer to trade down to select Wilson. Some pundits even believe Arizona would pick Wilson over Anderson even if they stick and pick at 3. The Cardinals have had a private visit with Wilson after meeting him at the Combine too.

Round 2, Pick 34: Broderick Jones (Offensive Tackle, Georgia)

In the second round, Kashuba has the Cardinals drafting Jones, the former Georgia tackle who went toe-to-toe with Anderson in the 2022 National Championship game. At pick 34, Jones would be an excellent value given that he has first-round talent. Lance Exley provides the down-low on Jones in his scouting report:

“Broderick Jones perfectly embodies the physical style of football that led the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championships. […] Although he has over 1,000 snaps under his belt, Jones still has room to grow into his role as an elite left tackle in the NFL and the tape is more than encouraging. […] His mentality and physicality make him a sure-fire starter from day one.”

The Cardinals have had a top-30 visit with Jones. They have, however, had top-30 visits with several first-round tackle prospects (Paris Johnson Jr., Anton Harrison, Darnell Wright and Jones). Despite this, many fans have wondered why the Cardinals would draft a tackle so high up. Their starting offensive line currently looks like this:
LT – D.J. Humphries/Josh Jones
LG – Josh Jones
C – Hjalte Froholdt/Lecitus Smith
RG – Will Hernandez
RT -Kelvin Beachum

While it is not a pretty sight, tackle does not seem like an issue. After all, Humphries had a standout year in 2021 and Kelvin Beachum recently re-signed. However, this is a fallacious conclusion. Arizona’s bookend tackles are both over 30 years old and are easily cut candidates in the next year or so. Indeed, Humphries has no guaranteed money after 2023. A player like Jones could be drafted to compete in year one and start in year two. As Exley notes, Jones has experience playing right tackle too, meaning he provides value through versatility. In Jones, the Cardinals would acquire another premium player via the draft.

Round 3, Pick 66: Nathaniel Dell (Wide Receiver, North Carolina)

With their first third-round pick, Kashuba has Arizona drafting Dell. With DeAndre Hopkins expected to be traded, Arizona will need a wide receiver sooner rather than later. Their current receiver room stacks up like so (without Hopkins):
LWR – Marquise Brown
SLWR – Zach Pascal/Rondale Moore
TE – Zach Ertz/Trey McBride
RWR – Rondale Moore/Greg Dortch

Dell is an impact player with good ball-carrier skills. He offers a unique skill set, which assimilates with Arizona’s current receivers. Arizona must rebuild through premium positions and, with receiver more important than ever, grabbing Dell in the draft would be a solid building block. Jacob Kreisman’s detailed draft report provides a good analysis of Dell’s playstyle and NFL projection:

“At his short height and small frame, Dell could have difficulty staying healthy […] in the NFL. However, Dell is electric with the ball in his hands and has shown the ability to produce in a wide variety of offensive positions and formations. With his fluid route-running and receiving skills, Dell has the talent to be a real impactful player in the NFL..”

Perhaps, though, Dell’s similarity to Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch is a hindrance to his prospects with Arizona. While Moore and Dortch have found success, that was under Kliff Kingsbury. With Drew Petzing running the offense, more of a west coast offense with 11 and 12-personnel and two tight ends is expected. How would Arizona fit four sub-6’ receivers in Petzing’s scheme?

However, for every Moore, there is an accompanying Andy Isabella. Couple this with the fact that Kyler Murray has traditionally been more effective at throwing to big targets. Indeed, Dell is not the kind of receiver that Arizona like anymore, just look at the Zach Pascal signing. Indeed, the Cleveland Browns, Petzing’s former team, did not play a single sub-6’ receiver in 2022.

Round 3, Pick 96: D.J. Turner (Cornerback, Michigan)

The Cardinals are in desperate need of cornerbacks, another premium position they will target in the draft. Arizona lost Byron Murphy Jr. to the Minnesota Vikings via free agency, leaving them even thinner at cornerback. Their current corners consist of Marco Wilson, Antonio Hamilton, Christian Matthew, Rashad Fenton, Nate Hairston and Kris Boyd. Turner is Arizona’s final pick in Kashuba’s three-round mock draft.

Grabbing Turner late in the third round would be a solid value. He was named a good fit for the Cardinals by PFF’s Michael Renner in Renner’s article entitled Day 2 Fits for all 32 Teams. Renner makes the following claim:

“Turner would give the Cardinals one freakishly athletic cornerback duo. The Michigan product ran a 4.26-second 40-yard dash with a 38.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-11 broad jump at the combine. He also allowed only 45.4% of his targets to be completed in his college career.”

The pecking order of Arizona’s cornerback room is yet to be determined. Turner would be placed in a situation where he could compete for a starting job. His excellent athleticism and decent college production suggests that Turner could be a starter for Arizona come the 2023 season.

Cardinals Value Premium Third Pick Over Trade-Down in Kashuba’s Draft

Kashuba’s mock draft makes enough sense if those are the picks that Arizona has. However, as discussed, Arizona is likely to make two trades that will impact the draft. The first is trading down from the third overall pick. With plenty of suitors (and the third pick looking like fool’s gold of late), Arizona will surely trade down. Reports have even suggested that they have players they are targeting in a trade-down. These players are Tyree Wilson, Christian Gonzalez, and Paris Johnson Jr., meaning Monti Ossenfort is looking to move into the 7-11 range.

The second trade that affects the draft is Hopkins’ one. While trading Hopkins could supply Arizona with a player at a position of need, the likelihood is that Arizona will only receive picks. With Odell Beckham Jr. now unavailable, this means that Hopkins’ trade is closer, and his value is increased. He could, after the entire saga, net Arizona a second or third-round pick. With another top-100 pick, Arizona could fill look at another premium prospect in the draft.

Will Cardinals Really Value Premium Positions in the Draft?

While Kashuba’s mock draft makes sense, is it realistic? Will Arizona really value these premium positions in the draft? Largely, yes. But they could do so in a different order.

Ossenfort’s previous time on the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans provides some insight into his potential draft strategy. Traditionally, the Patriots have prioritized offensive line, defensive line, and secondary. A receiver, therefore, appears unlikely (a 5’8” receiver even less so).

Should Arizona trade down from third overall, they are likely to either draft Wilson or Gonzalez. With the second-round pick, Arizona could target either edge or cornerback, depending on whether Wilson or Gonzalez are drafted in the first (perhaps Will McDonald or Emmanuel Forbes, if available).

However, Kashuba is right that Arizona is keen on the offensive line. So far, they have hosted seven offensive linemen in their top 30 visits. Jones was a good pick by Kashuba, though the interior offensive line would make sense too. Steve Avila might be a name to watch, as is Luke Wypler. PFN’s Tony Pauline recently reported that Arizona will select Wypler, though he mentioned that they would do so in the third round (in Kashuba’s mock, Wypler was drafted in the late second).

Main Photo: Mark J. Rebilas – USA TODAY Sports


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