The Arizona Cardinals hold a great amount of power in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. They hold the third overall pick, but unlike other teams at the top of the order, they don’t need a quarterback. This means they are in a fantastic position to trade back and acquire a ton of picks from another QB-needy team.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that the Cardinals hold onto the pick and draft their non-QB of choice. Frankly, though, them drafting someone other than Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. with that pick seems incredibly unlikely. To see a true curveball, we’ll have to go later in the draft.
Currently, Arizona’s next pick is in the second round at No. 34 overall. This pick should allow the Cardinals to get another capable rookie who could start right away. However, there are enough options where they could throw a curveball our way.
Without further ado, here are three players who could be under-the-radar options for Arizona at No. 34.
3. John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
Offensive line is one of Arizona’s biggest needs this offseason. The Cardinals allowed 46 sacks in 2022 and lost center Rodney Hudson and guard Justin Pugh in free agency. With Kyler Murray suffering a torn ACL and likely missing a good chunk of the season, the Cardinals have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback.
With both of their major losses coming in the interior of the line, it makes sense to target that area. In that regard, Schmitz out of Minnesota would likely be the best option available at No. 34. Many consider Schmitz to be the best center and second-best interior lineman behind Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence, a likely first-round pick, in the entire draft, and for good reason.
Schmitz was PFF’s highest graded FBS center in 2022, earning an astounding 92.4. He played 302 pass-blocking snaps, only allowing two sacks and five hurries. Just as importantly, he was the top blocker for a Golden Gophers rushing attack that averaged 207.5 yards per game, second in the Big Ten. If the Cardinals take Schmitz, he could be an anchor up front for years to come.
2. Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Cornerback is another of the Cardinals’ many needs this offseason. Their pass defense already wasn’t great in 2022, ranking 24th in the league with 230.3 yards allowed per game. On top of that, they lost their best cornerback in Byron Murphy to free agency. As it stands now, Arizona’s top two corners are Marco Wilson and Rashad Fenton, not exactly great.
So it makes sense that some have predicted the Cardinals will go corner early in the draft. Some of the more popular options that should be available are Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes and South Carolina’s Cam Smith. Ringo out of Georgia isn’t too far off, but would still be a slightly unconventional option.
For a long time, many saw Ringo as one of, if not the best corner in the draft. However, an up-and-down 2022 season caused him to slip down boards to the point where many see him going outside the first round. However, he is still an extremely talented corner with all the intangibles one could ask for. If the Cardinals can snag him in the second round, they could be getting a steal.
1. Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
At first glance, it may not seem like Arizona has a big need at wide receiver. The Cardinals currently have three quality receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, and Mondale Moore. However, Hopkins is likely on his way out, and Brown and Moore both missed significant time with injury last season, the latter missing the last six games of the season.
With that in mind, taking another receiver makes a lot more sense. It doesn’t have to be this early, but they should take one at some point. If they do decide to target one in the second round, though, they should have plenty of options to pick from.
Some of the more popular picks at this spot include Tennessee’s Jaylin Hyatt and North Carolina’s Josh Downs. Tillman, another Volunteer, is flying under the radar by comparison, but he could be a great pick as well.
Before the season, many considered Tillman to be Tennessee’s best receiver, even ahead of Hyatt. After he posted 64 receptions for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021, it’s easy to see why he had such hype. However, injuries limited him to just six games in 2022, in which he posted 37 receptions for 417 yards and three touchdowns.
Because of his injury-riddled year, most now see Tillman as a third-round pick. If there’s a run on wide receivers before him, though, Arizona could reasonably take him at No. 34 overall.