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Will Cardinals’ Stars Play Like 2021 Stars?

Houston Texans v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

When the 2020 Cardinals, after a brisk 2-0 start, went into a two game tailspin losing to the Lions at home and the Panthers on the road, GM Steve Keim said on Doug and Wolf:

“Our stars need to start playing like stars.”

If you go and look at the Cardinals’ highest paid players in 2020, the majority of them did not play like stars. Good for Steve Keim for telling it like it was.

Clearly, this off-season Steve Keim has been on a mission to sign veteran leaders, ones whom he believes will act like stars, lead like stars and play like stars.

The 6 Pro Bowlers whom Evan Kaplan is alluding to are:

  • DE JJ Watt
  • WR AJ Green
  • C Rodney Hudson
  • K Matt Prater
  • CB Malcolm Butler
  • RB James Connor

Not only have these players made Pro Bowls, they all pass what I have been calling “The Tillman Test” in terms of leadership, work ethic and toughness.

Cardinals’ Returning Pro Bowlers:

  • QB Kyler Murray
  • WR DeAndre Hopkins
  • DE Chandler Jones
  • S Budda Baker
  • P Andy Lee

Cardinals’ Players Who Could Be in the 2021 Pro Bowl Conversation?

  • T DJ Humphries
  • G Justin Pugh
  • LB isaiah Simmons
  • S Jalen Thompson
  • ST Ezekiel Turner
  • ST/OLB Dennis Gardeck
  • ST Charles Washington

Imagine —- if the 2021 Cardinals’ star players play like stars.

Star Power in Draft?

#16

#49

2021-22 Offensive Rookie of the Year (per Jimmy Shapiro at BetOnLine)

  • Trevor Lawrence 11/4
  • Justin Fields 9/2
  • Zach Wilson 9/2
  • Kyle Pitts 15/2
  • Mac Jones 10/1
  • Ja’Marr Chase 12/1
  • Trey Lance 12/1
  • DeVonta Smith 14/1
  • Jaylen Waddle 14/1
  • Najee Harris 14/1
  • Travis Etienne 14/1
  • Javonte Williams 16/1
  • Kadarius Toney 18/1
  • Rashod Bateman 18/1
  • Terrace Marshall Jr 18/1
  • Kyle Trask 25/1

ROTB Question 1:

Of the players highlighted above who have the best chance to be on the board when the Cardinals’ draft at #16, which one do you think has the most brilliant star power?

  • Top 25 defensive players in CBS Sports’ player rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft class as of March 26:

25. Nick Bolton, Missouri (50)

24. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (48)

23. DE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest (46)

22. DE Joe Tryon, Washington (45)

21. LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky (44)

20. DB Aaron Robinson, UCF (42)

19. DB KELVIN JOSEPH, KENTUCKY

Overall CBS rank: 41

After sitting out the 2019 season as a transfer from LSU, Joseph started the first nine games of the 2020 season for Kentucky, recording 25 total tackles and ranking tied for eighth nationally and second in the SEC with four interceptions before opting out prior to the season finale vs. South Carolina.

18. DT DAVIYON NIXON, IOWA

Overall CBS rank: 40

Nixon led the Big Ten in tackles for loss (33), tied for the conference lead in sacks (5.5), and had the most tackles by a Big Ten defensive lineman (41). Nixon was the only player in the country to be named a finalist for the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Trophy, and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik award.

17. DE GREGORY ROUSSEAU, MIAMI

Overall CBS rank: 36

Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus. He spent the fall improving his strength while adding weight to his frame while also refining some of his pass-rushing technique. In 2019, Rousseau led the ACC in sacks with 15.5 on the year, which only trailed the No. 2 overall pick, Chase Young, in the 2020 draft from a national perspective.

16. CB JAYCEE HORN, SOUTH CAROLINA

Overall CBS rank: 35

Horn, at South Carolina’s pro day, posted a 41.5-inch vertical leap, a broad jump of 11-foot, 1-inch and a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds. Those testing numbers are elite, and combine the numbers with the game film, and Horn is sure to have a short wait in April when the NFL Draft comes around. This past season, Horn earned second-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches and third-team honors from Pro Football Focus, and started each of the first seven games at cornerback.

15. DL CHRISTAN BARMORE, ALABAMA

Overall CBS rank: 34

Barmore’s impact was certainly felt during Alabama’s run to a national championship in 2020, as he recorded 37 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, six quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, and three forced fumbles. Barmore’s speed was on full display recently too, as the departing Crimson Tide defensive lineman reportedly clocked times of 4.93 and 4.95 seconds at the school’s pro day.

14. LB JOSEPH OSSAI, TEXAS

Overall CBS rank: 33

Ossai played in all 36 games with 24 starts, and racked up 165 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions during his three seasons with the Longhorns. After leading Texas in (90), tackles for loss (13.5) sacks (5) and quarterback hurries (9) in 2019, Ossai finished his college career with a team-leading 16 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles in nine starts in 2020.

13. DL LEVI ONWUZURIKE, WASHINGTON

Overall CBS rank: 32

Onwuzurike landed first-team All-Pac 12 honors after a strong 2019 football season that saw the defensive tackle put up 45 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks and a blocked kick. The former four-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite had 95 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, seven sacks and one blocked kick over his Washington career.

12. LB ZAVEN COLLINS, TULSA

Overall CBS rank: 28

During his three seasons at Tulsa, Collins played in 32 games totaling 236 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, seven and a half sacks, five interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two touchdowns. In his final year at Tulsa, Collins was simply unstoppable making impact plays on a weekly basis which led to him receiving the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player.

11. CB ASANTE SAMUEL JR., FLORIDA STATE

Overall CBS rank: 27

In an eight-game season that was impacted by COVID-19 postponements and cancelations, Samuel started all eight games, recording 31 tackles, one for loss. When it came to being a cover corner, Samuel totaled three interceptions and had six pass breakups, along with a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. That earned him a First Team All-ACC selection and Samuel became just the third Florida State player since 2000 with at least three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in a season. The 2020 season was by far Samuel’s best in pass coverage, as he had just one interception total in the previous two seasons.

10. CB TYSON CAMPBELL, GEORGIA

Overall CBS rank: 26

Campbell left Athens with 22 games of starting experience, 83 career tackles, three tackles for loss, one interception, 10 pass breakups, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, two of which he returned for a touchdown. He was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2018, making 11 starts opposite of that year’s Thorpe Award winner in Deandre Baker. He would make 45 tackles and one pass breakup, recovering two fumbles, one of which he returned 64 yards for a touchdown against Missouri. He would be hampered by injury in year two, playing in nine games and making three starts, with 15 tackles, four pass breakups, and another fumble recovery.

9. S TREVON MOEHRIG, TCU

Overall CBS rank: 25

Regarded as one of the top safeties in the 2021 NFL Draft Class, Moehrig saw considerable action as a true freshman in 2018 before emerging as a stalwart of Gary Patterson’s secondary the past two years. He registered 30 solo tackles, 9 pass breakups and a pair of interceptions this past fall en route to becoming the first TCU player to win the Thorpe Award, annually presented to the nation’s top defensive back.

8. LB JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH, NOTRE DAME

Overall CBS rank: 23

The departing Notre Dame star racked up 62 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception, three pass breakups and three forced fumbles over 12 games this past season en route to being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He was Notre Dame’s first unanimous All-American since Quenton Nelson in 2017, and the first Irish defender to receive the honor since Manti Te’o in 2012.

7. DE JAYSON OWEH, PENN STATE

Overall CBS rank: 21

Oweh displayed flashes in his Penn State tenure. He has seven career sacks including five during the 2019 season. He also silenced questions regarding his run defense, as he graded out as one of the best defenders against the run in 2020. On Thursday, the edge rusher dazzled during the Nittany Lions pro day when clocked a time of 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

6. DL JAELAN PHILLIPS, MIAMI

Overall CBS rank: 20

As a redshirt junior, Phillips erupted onto the scene. He led the Hurricanes with 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks while starting all ten games. The 6-foot-5, 266-pounder was named a first-team All-American by the AFCA and second-team by the Associated Press and FWAA. The defensive end did not miss any action due to injury during his one season at Miami in 2020, but during his two-year stint at UCLA, Phillips reportedly dealt with wrist injuries and missed games due to concussion protocol.

5. LB AZEEZ OJULARI

Overall CBS rank: 16

Ojulari had already been mentioned as a likely first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft heading into Georgia’s Pro Day last week. After measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 1/4 inches, weighing in at 249 pounds, with an 83.5-inch wingspan, 10.5-inch hands, and 34 and 3/8 inch arms, Ojulari seemed to secure that status by running 4.62-4.66 40-yard dash times and recording a 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump.

4. CB PATRICK SURTAIN II, ALABAMA

Overall CBS rank: 15

The departing star Crimson Tide cornerback recently had an impressive pro-day performance that was highlighted by an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds. That time would have been tied for the fifth-fastest for a corner at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound corner also bench-pressed 225 pounds 18 times and recorded a vertical jump of 39 inches and a broad jump of 10 feet and 11 inches. The junior was targeted just 48 times in the Crimson Tide’s national title-winning season this past fall and allowed only 21 completions for a combined 273 yards.

3. DL KWITY PAYE; MICHIGAN

Overall CBS rank: 12

Paye played four years at Michigan, and in that time he accumulated 97 total tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. As a senior in 2020, Paye started four games and made 16 combined tackles, including 12 solo stops, four tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks. Paye’s senior season numbers didn’t necessarily jump off the page, but that hasn’t stopped NFL scouts from falling head over heels for him.

2. S CALEB FARLEY, VIRGINIA TECH

Overall CBS rank: 11

The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Farley reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in the low 4.3’s. He finished his two years in Blacksburg (23 games) with 56 total tackles, 43 solo tackles, one tackle for loss, six interceptions, one touchdown and 19 passes defended. A big debate leading up to the NFL Draft is who has the edge between Farley and Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II when it comes to the position.

1. LB MICAH PARSONS, PENN STATE

Overall CBS rank: 6

Parsons proved himself to be among America’s most impactful defenders as a sophomore, earning 2019 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, Cotton Bowl MVP recognition and consensus All-American status before opting out of the yet-to-be-finalized 2020 season last August. Considered the premier draft prospect at his position, he led Penn State in tackles during each of his collegiate campaigns. On Thursday, Parsons clocked a time of 4.39 in the 40-yard-dash at Penn State’s pro day.

ROTB Question 2:

Assuming Micah Parsons, Caleb Farley, Kwity Paye and Patrick Surtain II are off the board (all ranked by CBS as top 15 picks), which one of these defensive players do you think has the most brilliant star power?

Fascinated to hear your answers!

ROTB Question 3:

Most importantly, how confident are you that this year the Cardinals’ star players will play like stars?