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Up, down, stay put?: Cardinals’ possible draft day scenarios

It’s draft day. What will the Cardinals do with the #16 pick? There are basically three possibilities: trade up, trade down, or stay put. Which would be the best option?

NFL: NFL Draft Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Draft day is here! It’s time to stop mocking and start making picks for real. The mocks have been all over the place for the Redbirds. Some have us trading up, some have us trading down, and plenty have us standing pat at #16.

What will—and should—the Cardinals do on draft day? Let’s run through each scenario, figure how likely it is, and briefly assess its potential impact.

Scenario #1: Trade Up

Possible Scenarios: The NFL Network’s Peter Schrager has been leading this train, as he’s had the Cardinals trading up in a couple of his mocks. In both mocks, he’s had us trade up to #7—one to draft Kyle Pitts (no chance he’s there), and one to draft Jaylen Waddle (who should be there). In both trades, he has us shipping #16 plus a 2022 1st and 3rd to Detroit.

Likelihood: Unlikely. GM Steve Keim has already dealt several draft picks away in deals for impact veterans like DeAndre Hopkins, Rodney Hudson, and Markus Golden. I don’t see him trading away even more picks for a complimentary offensive piece.

Assessment: The price to move into the top 10 is too rich for my blood. The idea of moving up to draft a receiver like Waddle is especially unappetizing to me. His size is a bit of a concern and he’s far from a sure thing. If you’re going to draft a WR, DeVonta Smith (another smaller WR who also, you know, won the Heisman Trophy) might be available at #16.

Moving up for Pitts is much more intriguing, but you’d probably have to move up to #4, and Atlanta’s asking price will be ridiculous. The 49ers traded #12, a 3rd, and two 1sts to move up to #3. Atlanta will probably ask for a similar package, and Keim should hang up the phone. Pitts looks like an incredible prospect, but the Cardinals have too many roster holes to spend that much draft capital on one player.

Scenario #2: Trade Down

Possible Scenarios: If the Cardinals don’t trade up for Pitts and they don’t like the WR/CB options available at #16, they could elect to trade down to stockpile midround picks. Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield has us picking up a 3rd in a trade with Washington to draft Caleb Farley at #19. Our own Johnny Venerable has us swapping 16 and 49 with the Ravens for 27, 31, and 94, then taking RashodBateman and Travis Etienne.

Likelihood: Somewhat likely. Straight from the horse’s mouth: “I think it’d be more likely to trade back than to trade up.” Like I said above, this roster still has a lot of holes that need filling, so, as Keim says, “accumulat[ing]more picks would be a real coup for us.” That said, Peter King did note that teams might have trouble trading down this year, so it’s no sure thing we’d find a willing partner.

Assessment: I like this idea a lot. It doesn’t look like either of the top two corners (Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn) is going to be there at #16, and I don’t love the idea of taking a WR there either. But picking up a 3rd-rounder or so to move back a bit and grab a player in the next tier? Sign up me.

I’d be fine with a WR like Bateman, Elijah Moore, or Kadarius Toney later in the round. Even better would be a CB like Farley or Greg Newsome (who’s been connected to the Cardinals a lot in the past few days). No thanks on a 1st-round RB, though (although if we can land two firsts like in Johnny’s mock, I’d be okay with it).

Scenario #3: Stay Put

Possible Scenarios: Of course, the Cardinals could just decide to stay where they are and take the top player on their board. Most of the recent mocks I’ve seen have the Cardinals going defense here: Jacyee Horn, ZavenCollins, Greg Newsome. However, I’ve also seen a few that have the Redbirds nabbing Heisman winner DeVontaSmith. They would also do something “boring” like take an offensive or defensive lineman.

Likelihood: Likely. Strictly speaking, teams are more likely to stand pat than make a trade. Trades require two things: 1) a willing partner, and 2) a deal that makes sense for both parties. Mock drafters *love* to project trades, but they almost never wind up happening.

Assessment: Staying put is kind of boring, but I’d prefer it to trading up. Maybe Surtain or Horn drops. (Don’t love Newsome at #16 but CB is a massive need.) Maybe Smith is there. Collins is an intriguing player. I could even talk myself into a “boring” lineman pick. (Just, again, PLEASE don’t go RB here.)

There are going to be talented players here: potential multi-year starters, possible Pro Bowlers. As our own esteemed editor recently found, there aren’t a ton of busts at #16 in recent years. Maybe Keim shouldn’t overthink things and just take their guy at #16, whomever he may be.

Final Thoughts

Here’s my order of preference for these scenarios:

  1. Trade down
  2. Stay put
  3. Trade up

Trading up just doesn’t make sense to me—adding a rookie playmaker doesn’t move the needle that much, to me. I don’t think Waddle or even Pitts would make the offense *that* much better this season. It’s not like Hopkins is Larry Fitzgerald’s age, and we could always land a WR if we trade down, which is my preferred option.We can still address a need later in the round and pick up another pick to address another need. Sounds like a win-win to me.

What do y’all think about these options? Who’s with me about trading down? Or who wants to stay put? I know there are a lot of trade up proponents out there, though. Everyone make their case in the comments.