The Arizona Cardinals were a popular sleeper pick in 2020, but their bid for the playoffs fell short after a rough end of the season. Now they turn to the NFL draft. They’ve been aggressive this offseason, signing big names like JJ Watt, James Connor, and Malcolm Butler, but they’ll need to nail the draft to compete for a division title in a stacked NFC West.
Here are some directions in which the Cardinals could go in the first round.
Cardinals NFL draft options: Caleb Farley
It’s impossible to know where Farley will go in the draft. A few weeks ago, he was regarded as a solid top ten pick, but he recently got a back surgery that could scare teams off. Farley also started only a small handful of games in his college career and opted out of the 2020 season. He’s a wild card who could join the Cardinals.
He is as raw as raw gets. His 2019 numbers are jaw-dropping, though, and the Cardinals might spring for him. He was targeted 43 times, allowed 12 catches, broke up 10, and had four interceptions. That works out to a passer rating allowed of 17.2. That is the definition of lockdown. Farley is the ideal size for a corner at six-foot-two, and he has athleticism to spare. He’s relatively new to the position, sometimes getting beat due to poor technique, but his makeup speed is so great he was able to make a play on the ball anyway. He’s an ex-wide receiver, so his ball skills are well above average as well. The traits are compelling, but the sample size and injury history are terrifying.
The Cardinals brought in some free agent corner talent in Malcolm Butler and Robert Alford, but neither have very high ceilings.
Surtain and Horn will most likely be gone by the time the Cardinals pick. If Farley is available, he’s a worthy gamble.
No team lines up with four wide receivers more than the Arizona Cardinals. They attempted 157 passes with four wideouts in the formation last year, by far the most of any team. Their receiver room is uninspiring for a team that uses so many of them. DeAndre Hopkins is obviously one of the best in the league, but Christian Kirk is just average, and AJ Green was one of the worst wide receivers in football last season.
Cardinals wide receivers only broke five tackles last season, the second-fewest in the league. Having a YAC monster like Toney would add a new dimension to that offense. Because the offense is so spread out, Toney would have plenty of one-on-one chances, and he’s going to get by his man on a lot of those changes. Toney forced 20 missed tackles in 2020 alone. Picking him at 16 might be seen as a reach, as he currently is being projected in the late first round, but it would be a sneaky-good pick for Arizona.
EDGE is not seen as a significant need for Arizona since they have JJ Watt and Chandler Jones, but it very much is a hole they need to fill. JJ Watt isn’t going to fill the void that Haason Reddick left; he’s more of an inside guy. He’ll most likely take over the role that Zach Allen held for the Cardinals last season.
Chandler Jones is 31 years old, coming off a significant injury. Reddick is gone. Isaiah Simmons could take over the Reddick role, but the safest move would be to fill the void with Ojulari. Ojulari is surprisingly strong for his size and led the SEC in sacks. Ojulari was also a team captain at Georgia… As a freshman. He’s a great player on and off the field. Betting on a player with a high game IQ, production, and athleticism seems like a safe one to me for the Cardinals.