Anyone who’s ever watched television knows about the “Will they or won’t they?” trope. Sam and Diane. Ross and Rachel. Jim and Pam. Many of the best TV shows of all time are built around one of these relationships.
Well, this offseason, the “Will they or won’t they?” relationship everyone in the NFL is talking about is the Arizona Cardinals and the #1 overall pick in April’s draft. Will the Cardinals stay at #1 and take Nick Bosa, as just about every mock has suggested they will? Will they throw the league a curveball and take Kyler Murray? (Probably not.) Or will they trade back to amass a few more draft picks? We likely won’t know until April 25.
But even if the Redbirds do trade down, they’ll almost certainly remain in the top 10. That means they’ll also likely land one of the top 10 players on Mel Kiper’s latest Big Board. With that in mind, let’s go through the Big Board and take a quick look at each player’s fit with the Cardinals and the likelihood they’ll end up in the desert next season.
We’ll start with the #10 player on Kiper’s list.
10. CB Deandre Baker (Georgia)
Fit with the Cardinals: Cornerback is a perennial position of need for the Cardinals, who have yet to find a long-term CB2 opposite Patrick Peterson. Perhaps Robert Alford is that guy, but Alford is already on the wrong side of 30, so a young, talented CB should still be on the Redbirds’ radar. At 5’11”, Baker is a bit smaller than most teams prefer at CB these days, but he was a shutdown corner at Georgia and should be an impact player in the NFL.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Very unlikely. Baker is projected in the #8-12 range, which is about as low as the Cardinals figure to trade down to. I imagine we would target one of the top OTs behind Jonah Williams or one of the second-tier D-linemen if we wound up in that range. Adding a CB with our 1st-rounder after signing Alford seems like a stretch as well, given how many other needs we have.
9. CB Greedy Williams (LSU)
Fit with the Cardinals: Much of what I said above about Baker applies to Williams, but Williams is even more talented—not to mention 4 inches taller and a year younger. He has all the tools to be the league’s next stud corner. Think the Cardinals could use a player like that? Absolutely—and so could every other team in the league.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Unlikely. Again, with the signing of Alford, CB suddenly isn’t as pressing of a need. Williams is a better prospect than Baker, however, so it’s slightly more likely we’d take him. He’d be a decent fallback option in the event we trade down and miss out on some of our preferred targets.
8. QB Kyler Murray (Oklahoma)
Fit with the Cardinals: Ever since the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, many pundits have been intrigued by Murray’s potential fit here in the desert. It’s hard not to be intrigued, especially after watching what Baker Mayfield did in the second half of the season in Cleveland—and Murray was arguably better than Mayfield at Oklahoma. Of course, there are a couple big reasons to pump the brakes—Murray’s size and, oh yeah, the Redbirds spent a 1st-round pick on a QB last year. Still, don’t expect the buzz about this possibility to die down anytime soon, even given the team’s insistence that “Josh is our guy.”
Likelihood We Draft Him: Unlikely. Some around here think this idea is dead, but you can’t quite believe what NFL teams say this time of year. Is the team denying any interest in Murray just a smokescreen? Probably not, but you never really know. That said, drafting Murray at #1 and (likely) trading Josh Rosen is likely several shades too bold, even for the team that just hired a college head coach with a losing record.
7. DT Rashan Gary (Michigan)
Fit with the Cardinals: With the team switching back to a 3-4, they are in dire need of help at DE (especially with former 1st-rounder Robert Nkemdiche recovering from a torn ACL). And at 6’6”, 283 lbs, Gary is the closest thing in the draft to a Calais Campbell clone. The Redbirds have missed Campbell even more than they thought they would, so getting a ready-made replacement would solve a lot of issues on the D-line.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Somewhat likely (if we trade down). Gary won’t be in play at #1, but he’d be a fine target if we trade down into the #5-8 range—assuming a team like the Jets at #3 don’t snap him up first. He’s the last of the top-tier D-linemen, so it would be somewhat of a coup to trade down and still land a player like him.
6. OT Jonah Williams (Alabama)
Fit with the Cardinals: The offensive line was an undisputed disaster last year, and is arguably the biggest need on the team this offseason. A player like Williams, a 3-year starter at both tackle positions for Nick Saban, would go a long way toward stabilizing the unit in 2019. Kiper suggests that Williams could move inside for a year or two, which is even better news for the Redbirds, with guard an even bigger need than tackle. Wherever he plays, he’d be an improvement for the Cardinals.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Likely (if we trade down). Although he isn’t the generational-type of tackle that would put him in play at #1, he’d be a perfect target if we were to trade down a few spots. (Although we’d have to watch out for Bruce Arians and the Bucs at #5.) I think most Cardinals fans would be happy if we came out of the draft with a new stud O-lineman and a few extra draft picks.
5. QB Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State)
Fit with the Cardinals: The only reason the Cardinals are being linked to the other top QB prospect is because our new coach once said he’d draft him at #1 overall. There is no such connection between Haskins—who is a far more prototypical passer and who, I think, has a lower ceiling than Murray—and the Cardinals.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Very unlikely. The Cardinals spent their 1st-rounder last year on Rosen, a player with a similar profile to Haskins. No way we do the same thing two years in a row. It’s far more likely that we trade the #1 pick to a team who drafts Haskins.
4. LB Devin White (LSU)
Fit with the Cardinals: The linebacker position is a bit unsettled at the moment, with Deone Bucannon’s future with the team up in the air, Haason Reddick still without a clear position, and Josh Bynes recovering from injury. A player like White, a sideline-to-sideline fiend, would be a boon to this unit—especially in coverage, where the Redbirds’ linebackers really struggled last season, in particular against opposing RBs.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Unlikely. Teams in rebuilding mode have no business taking a linebacker in the top 10, even one as talented as White. Perhaps there is some scenario where we end up with two 1st-rounders and White slips a bit, but even then I’m not sure we’d take a linebacker. Very doubtful we see this Tiger in the desert in 2019.
3. OLB Josh Allen (Kentucky)
Fit with the Cardinals: Allen profiles as an ideal pass rushing 3-4 OLB. The Cardinals already have one of those on their roster in Chandler Jones, but the depth chart behind him is perilously thin, especially with Markus Golden likely to depart in free agency. Imagine pairing Jones with Allen for a few seasons—with Allen ready to take over when Jones retires or moves on. It’s a tantalizing prospect.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Unlikely. This is more to do with draft position than anything. The assumption is the Cardinals would take Nick Bosa over Allen at #1, and there’s little chance of Allen sliding down to anywhere the Cardinals would trade down to. Most mocks have him going at #2 to the 49ers, so it’s doubtful he’d be there in the #5-10 range if we do trade down. Although I’d personally love to see it, I don’t think we’ll have much of a shot to draft Allen.
2. DT Quinnen Williams (Alabama)
Fit with the Cardinals: Although he projects better as a 4-3 DT, there’s no doubt new DC Vance Joseph could find a use for a wrecking ball like Williams. He’s equally adept at blowing up running plays in the backfield as rushing the passer and is the kind of player who would instantly make the entire defense better in all down/distance situations. Imagine him lining up next to Corey Peters with Jones over his shoulder. That’s the foundation of an elite front seven.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Likely (if we trade down). While he won’t be at consideration at #1, most mocks that have us trading down also have us taking Williams. The more I think about it, the more I think that would be my preferred draft-day scenario for the Redbirds—although I have to watch more film and read more scouting reports first. But snagging extra picks and still winding up with a potential All-Pro DT sounds mighty appetizing.
1. DE Nick Bosa (Ohio State)
Fit with the Cardinals: Like Williams above, Bosa would seem to be a more natural fit in a 4-3, but he’s got the size to play at 3-4 DE on some downs and the speed to play 3-4 OLB the rest of the time. He’s one of the elite pass rushers in this draft class but can hold up against the run too—he’d be a nice piece for Joseph to move around and keep the opposing offense on their toes. It’s hard to turn down the opportunity to draft a talent like this—which is exactly what the Redbirds would have to do if they trade the #1 pick.
Likelihood We Draft Him: Very likely (if we stay at #1). Barring a Kyler Murray shocker, we seem poised to take Bosa at #1 if we stay there. While the team would be ecstatic to get a foundational defensive player like this, you have to wonder if the drop-off to, say, Quinnen Williams is big enough to turn down the opportunity to stockpile extra picks. That is the key question Steve Keim will have to answer over the next 2+ months.
Whether we stay at #1 or trade down, I think we’ll be targeting one of these three players: Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, and Jonah Williams. Our secondary targets would likely be Josh Allen, Rashan Gary, and Greedy Williams, with Kyler Murray as the ultimate wild card.
At this point, 2+ months before the draft, my ideal scenario is trading down for extra picks while still being able to draft Quinnen Williams. That seems to be the right combination of adding impact talent and depth to the roster.
How about you, Cardinals fans? Do you see us staying put or trading down? Who do you see us targeting either way? Give us your best predictions/hopes in the comments.