With the new league year starting on March 17 and the NFL Draft just over two months away, mock drafts are picking up. The consensus is that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will go first to the Jacksonville Jaguars. After that, there are a lot less agreements.
One spot that does not have a consensus is the 16th pick, belonging to the Arizona Cardinals.
With various mocks coming out on Monday and Tuesday, let's take a look at some of the names who are believed to be prime candidates to become the next Cardinals rookie.
CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Both Cardinals starting cornerbacks from last year, Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick, are impending free agents, which leaves only Byron Murphy Jr. and Robert Alford under contract for 2021. Alford is a cut candidate, given that he has not played since 2018 and the Cardinals could save $7.5 million by letting the veteran go.
With corner being a need, the Cardinals could look to bolster the defense for the second consecutive year in the first round after taking linebacker hybrid Isaiah Simmons in 2020.
Horn has the physical traits to be a solid NFL corner at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds.
Per The Draft Network:
After primarily playing in the slot in 2018, Horn played out wide in 2019 and 2020 where he projects best in the NFL. Horn has a long and stocky frame that is built for competing with X-receivers in the NFL. His size, length, and physicality show up in coverage where he is highly disruptive in press and ultra competitive at the catch point. The concerns with Horn show up primarily as a tackler and playing off-man coverage . . . there are too many missed tackles on film. Additionally, Horn can be guilty of guessing when mirroring routes, leading to false steps.
Horn had two interceptions in seven games last season.
CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash had this projection. Surtain is a top-10 pick on various mocks, considering he was a first-team All-America selection as a junior in 2020.
Despite being tasked with playing on an island more than any cornerback in the country, Surtain came in at No. 1 at his position in PFF grade this year (89.7). He allowed less than 15 yards in coverage in exactly half of his games played, and he never allowed any more than 60 in one outing.
Surtain had 10 pass deflections and no penalties last year. His tracking and ball skills allowed him to knock away passes on all types of routes.
Like Horn, he has a strong frame at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds.
Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
The Athletic's Dane Brugler and Pro Football Network's Ian Cummings had the Cardinals go with Ojulari, who picked up 8.5 sacks and 35 pressures last year in 10 games.
The Cardinals will be getting edge rusher Chandler Jones back from his 2020 season-ending biceps injury suffered in Week 5. On the other side, the Cardinals have some decisions to make, which is where Ojulari may come in to play.
Arizona could use the franchise tag, which will be expensive, or try to re-sign Haason Reddick, who had a career year in place of Jones last season. Devon Kennard is under contract, although his spot was taken over by mid-season acquisition Markus Golden, who is also a free agent.
A point that Cummings made was that Jones is 31 and in a contract year if he doesn't agree to a contract extension. Ojulari could be someone to come in and learn from the All-Pro, while potentially providing stability at the position as Jones gets older or signs elsewhere.
About Ojulari's skill, Cummings said this:
Like Reddick, Ojulari is an undersized rusher, but he offers similar burst and torso flexibility off the line, and his motor always runs hot.
Ojulari is 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. His speed is a weapon, as he dusted offensive linemen in college en route to the quarterback.
Edge Kwity Paye, Michigan
The Draft Network's Drae Harris has Arizona going with a different edge rusher.
Paye is more physically imposing than Ojulari at 6-foot-4, 272 pounds, and still has a high motor that allows him to get back into plays.
Unlike his Georgia counterpart, he only was able to play in four games in 2020, but his 22 pressures showed his ability to break into the backfield.
From The Draft Network:
There's an extremely high ceiling in Paye's game thanks to his athletic abilities; if his NFL team is able to continue to draw fundamental improvements out of him to allow him to continue to simply react to discard or defeat blocks, he'll be in line for plenty of explosive plays in opposing backfields.
WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
The Cardinals apparently are not locked into taking a defender, at least not to CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli. Arizona could use some help alongside wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and recent drafting at the position has largely not panned out thus far.
Bateman played just five games last year, but gained 472 yards on 36 catches to make the All-Big Ten third team.
In 2019, he won the Big Ten's Richter–Howard Receiver of the Year award.
Bateman doesn't have top-end speed, but that has never seemed to impact his ability to get open at the college level. That's largely due to how quickly he's able to reach his top speed. He has good hands, can win vertically, but also has the size to play over the middle and make an impact. I think he'd be an excellent complement to DeAndre Hopkins in the Cardinals offense.
He stands at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
He has great body control, which allows him to avoid contact and shed tackles. From his tape, he was a threat on all three levels at Minnesota.
There are lot of possibilities for what the Cardinals can do at 16, but it seems like cornerback, edge rusher and receiver are the areas most analysts are turning to.
The Cardinals have their second-round pick this year; last year Houston owned it as part of the Hopkins trade.
That could be where Arizona looks to fill a hole that was not addressed in the first round or free agency.