As the 2024 NFL offseason unfolds, the Arizona Cardinals aim to fortify their roster and mount a formidable challenge in the forthcoming season. Following a lackluster 2023 campaign marred by a disappointing 4-13 record, the Cardinals are now tasked with uncovering hidden talents in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft. This article explores four relatively unheralded prospects who possess the potential to ignite the Cardinals' resurgence.

The Cardinals' 2023 Season

The 2023 season marked the Arizona Cardinals' inaugural campaign under new head coach Jonathan Gannon and general manager Monti Ossenfort. Despite matching their 4–13 record from the previous year with an upset victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17, the Cardinals experienced a season filled with disappointment.

Following a Week 11 defeat against the Houston Texans, the Cardinals faced their second consecutive losing season. Another loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the subsequent week solidified their second consecutive season with double-digit losses. The Cardinals' playoff hopes were dashed after a Week 15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It marked their second straight year of postseason absence.

Action shot of Cardinals quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Kyler Murray

The Cardinals' 2024 Draft Context

Arizona has numerous gaps to address and $42 million in available cap space. As such, the Cardinals have the means to shore up their roster. The potential release of running back James Connor and linebacker Kyzir White could bolster the available funds to $66 million. That's alongside the decision to decline the team option for safety Budda Baker. Marquise Brown, the team's primary receiver, faces unrestricted free agency as well. This presents an opportunity for the Cardinals to utilize the increased cap space to retain him. Armed with 12 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, including eight within the first four rounds, the Cardinals are poised to capitalize on opportunities to strengthen their lineup around Kyler Murray. He remains a cornerstone of the team's future.

Here we will look at the four sneaky good players whom the Arizona Cardinals must take during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Christian Haynes, OL, UConn

Paris Johnson stands firm at tackle, and DJ Humphries offers solidity. However, the interior offensive line presents glaring deficiencies. That's a critical concern given the stature of our 5'9 quarterback. In 2023, the team yielded 42 sacks. Opting for UConn's Christian Haynes addresses this issue.

Haynes, measuring 6'2 and weighing 318 pounds, showcases proficiency in both run blocking and pass protection. Over his tenure at the University of Connecticut, he conceded merely one sack across 1,538 snaps. His adeptness in the run game extends to executing initial blocks before progressing to secondary assignments. He was also recognized by Pro Football Focus with impressive grades of 80.1 in pass blocking and 82.5 in run blocking last season. Haynes exhibits raw potential poised for refinement under skilled coaching.

Junior Colson, LB, Michigan

The Cardinals would also do well to address the linebacker position. This is why they should select Junior Colson from Michigan. Drawing parallels to esteemed players like Jack Campbell and Pete Werner, Colson boasts elite tackling prowess. He also has a keen sense of ball pursuit. Standing at 6'3 and weighing 247 pounds, he exhibits agility. Many anticipate him to clock around 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine.

Despite a slight decline in total tackles from the previous year, Colson's performance remains formidable with 95 tackles in 2023. A stalwart in run defense, he amassed 58 stops over the past two seasons. That just showcases his adeptness in reading counters and disengaging blockers.

Colson's impact resembles a force of nature. He often emerges from clusters of players with possession of the ball carrier. While demonstrating impressive closing speed, his role as a pass rusher remains underutilized. This could potentially lead to occasional over-pursuit tendencies.

Austin Booker, EDGE, Kansas

In the middle rounds, the Cardinals could bolster their pass rush with Austin Booker from Kansas. Standing 6'4 and weighing 240 pounds, Booker's agility and technique make him a threat on the field. He also had notable statistics, including 34 quarterback pressures and eight sacks in 2023. Booker's knack for disrupting opposing offenses could provide the Cardinals with a valuable defensive weapon.

Kansas redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Austin Booker (9) reacts after a sack in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State inside David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium
Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sataoa Laumea, OT, Utah

Despite strength on the offensive edge, the Cardinals opt for depth with Sataoa Laumea, transitioning him from tackle to guard. Laumea's size and agility make him a promising prospect for interior line play. Yes, he excels in the run game. That said, he needs refinement in pass protection and endurance for sustained performance at the NFL level.

Looking Ahead

In summary, the Arizona Cardinals enter the 2024 NFL Draft with clear objectives and strategic considerations. They need to fortify the offensive line, bolster the linebacker corps, and enhance the pass rush. Each selection aims to address these areas of improvement for the team. With a mix of seasoned talent and promising prospects, the Cardinals seek to carve a path towards redemption after a challenging 2023 season. As the draft approaches, the anticipation mounts. Their fans eagerly await the unveiling of the next generation of Cardinals poised to make an impact in 2024.