The NFL playoffs are winding down, and the offseason draws ever closer. Even before the offseason officially begins, though, teams are already looking ahead to the NFL Draft in April. While fans would love to know who their favorite team is targeting, the insight of draft analysts like Mel Kiper Jr. will have to suffice.

As one of the top draft analysts in the game, Kiper has been perfecting his craft for decades. He is one of the fathers of the mock draft, and he continues to share his insight into his day. Naturally, when Kiper dropped his first 2023 mock draft on Wednesday, it got NFL fans buzzing.

One of the teams most invested in the 2023 NFL Draft is definitely the Arizona Cardinals. After making the playoffs in 2021, the Cardinals stumbled to a 4-13 record in 2022, and fired Kliff Kingsbury after the season. There is a silver lining, though, as they got the third overall pick in the draft and can get a great player to bolster the roster.

The question is, though, what should Arizona do with that pick? Without further ado, let’s break down who Kiper predicts the Cardinals will take with the third pick.

Arizona Cardinals Pick 3: Will Anderson Jr., edge rusher, Alabama

With the third overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Kiper has Arizona selecting Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson. The Cardinals are entering a rebuilding/retooling period, and need a cornerstone player for the future. If Kiper’s projection comes true, they would get just that in Anderson.

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“New Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort gets a premium pick to try to improve this roster, and he could luck into a Pro Bowl edge rusher right off the bat,” Kiper wrote. “Anderson was a tackle-for-loss machine in college — he had 54 over the past two seasons — and dominated offensive tackles in both the run and pass game. He was unblockable at times against SEC competition. For the Cardinals, who are losing the retired J.J. Watt, he could play some outside linebacker and move around the defense to create mismatches. This would be a home run pick for Ossenfort & Co.”

Anderson is a near-generational pass rusher, and easily the best in this class. In fact, he has the third-best odds to go first overall this year, according to FanDuel. If the Cardinals can land him at third overall, they would be getting an absolute steal.

In his time at Alabama, Anderson dominated in the brutal SEC. In three years, he racked up 34.5 sacks and 204 tackles, including 17.5 sacks and 101 tackles in 2021 alone. He won the Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defender in both 2021 and 2022, becoming just the second player ever to win it twice.

While the Cardinals need help at many positions, defense is easily the biggest need. The offense can at least be somewhat competitive with Kyler Murray leading the way. On the other hand, the defense needs major work.

This season, Arizona finished 31st in points allowed, 24th in sacks and 23rd in takeaways. The Cardinals’ defense wasn’t the worst in the league, but it was definitely below average. J.J. Watt retiring after the season only furthers the need to improve the unit.

Fortunately for Arizona, Anderson would be a perfect replacement and should be available at third overall. If Kiper’s prediction holds true, the Cardinals are getting a potentially generational pass-rusher to center their defense around.