A Look at the Cardinals NFL Draft Targets and Team Needs

Mason Kern

Team needs by Andy Benoit; draft targets by Gary Gramling of SI MMQB.

Last season, Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who loves to play with four wide receivers, learned that in the NFL, you need at least one, and preferably two, quality tight ends. In Arizona’s case, those quality options must factor as run-blockers, too, since the ground game was largely why Kingsbury eventually eschewed some of his four-receiver sets in favor of more traditional personnel packages. And considering that DeAndre Hopkins and especially Larry Fitzgerald so often operate near the middle of the field, the Cardinals don’t necessarily need a versatile stud tight end. A serviceable receiver with sharp blocking tools (like what the Ravens have in Nick Boyle, for example) could do the trick. Incumbent tight end Maxx Williams is really more of a No. 2.

More important than rounding out the offense is improving a defense that last season gave up the most yards in the league. The quickest fix for a defense is almost always to add pass rushers. The Cardinals already have a great one in Chandler Jones, and they added a good one in free-agent defensive end Jordan Phillips. But after that, things drop off. Getting the right pass rusher will require an early-round pick, but one route the Cards may want to consider is drafting a mid-round linebacker and moving incumbent backup linebacker Haason Reddick into a full-time pass-rushing role. Reddick played off the edge at Temple and has struggled with play recognition as an NFL linebacker, especially against the run.

Another fast way to improve the defense is to add either a versatile safety or a pure man-to-man corner. Both methods create more options for coverage disguises and blitz packages. Arizona has space available here, too, as Jalen Thompson should be challenged for his starting job, as should nickel corner Robert Alford, who showed hints of decline in 2018 with the Falcons and missed all of 2019 with a fractured tibia.

Top-100 Targets (Arizona owns picks No. 8 and No. 72): If there’s a scenario where Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah or Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons falls to 8 (due to three QBs and three OTs going in the top seven), that would be ideal. Otherwise, they’ll likely have to reach for a speed rusher like LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson (who might be a force down the line but enters the league quite raw). When they come up again in Round 3, the defensive backs should be enticing. One of the Utah safeties—raw but rangy Julian Blackmon and polished, versatile Terrell Burgess—could upgrade the secondary. Undersized CB Javaris Davis of Auburn, who can play inside and possibly the boundary, could be on the board. If they prefer a big corner to complement Byron Murphy long-term, Cameron Dantzler of Mississippi State and Florida State’s Stanford Samuels would fit.

For MMQB's look at the entire NFC West click here.

Note: The video states Max Garcia instead of Marcus Gilbert as the player the team signed for depth at right tackle. It should be Gilbert.

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Great video and analysis! If Simmons falls to 8 that would be huge and would be significant addition to this defense. I would love to see a TE added and utilized into the run game, plus he can be a easy check down for Murray.

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