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Arizona Cardinals Mock Draft 1.0: Cards land a playmaking wide receiver opposite DeAndre Hopkins

Cardinals go offense heavy in my 2022 Pro Football Focus mock draft approach

NFL Draft Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With the conclusion of the East-West Shrine Bowl and Reese’s Senior Bowl earlier this month, all eyes are now set on the 2022 NFL Combine that has a total of 324 prospects invited.

The combine workouts are scheduled to take place this week on March 3rd through the 6th on the NFL Network with specific position groups assigned to each day.

As we look at the Arizona Cardinals, they currently have five draft picks that excludes picks in the fourth round due to their trade up for Marco Wilson in the 2021 draft and a fifth rounder due to the acquisition of Zach Ertz from Philadelphia. They are, however, projected to have three compensatory picks late in day three of the draft.

Using the Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator and making a few adjustments that reflects the Cardinals’ currently projected comp picks correctly, here is my 2022 Cardinals Mock Draft 1.0 with trades on Revenge of the Birds:

2021 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Round 1 (23): Jameson Williams - Wide Receiver, Alabama

It is quite unfortunate that Jameson Williams suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter of Alabama’s national championship game against Georgia in January considering the timing of it all near the combine and the NFL Draft. The 20-year-old went on a statistical tear in 2021 with 79 catches, 1,572 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns as the best deep threat in college football. He has elite speed and foot quickness with length (6’2’’) to take the top off of any NFL defense. The Alabama wide receiver lineage is elite with the likes of Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, and Calvin Ridley in the NFL. Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle are no slouches either. Is Williams the next Alabama great in the NFL? He might not be available to play right away but once he is fully healthy, he will be a game changer.

Northwestern v Wisconsin Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Round 2 (57): Leo Chenal - Linebacker/EDGE, Wisconsin (from Bills)

Mock Trade (trade down): Cardinals’ 2022 second-round pick (No. 55) for Bills’ 2022 second-round (No. 57) and fifth-round pick

I already know what people are thinking but please hear me out.

Here, I am taking a bit of a gamble banking on Leo Chenal to excel as a pass rusher from his strengths and weaknesses as an inside linebacker. He was essentially a brick wall in the Badgers’ front seven with 115 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss last year. Chenal was one of the best linebackers in the blitz, easily shedding blocks from interior offensive lineman with ease for a total of eight sacks in 2021 and bursting through the gaps to stuff the run with his quick ability to read the quarterback. Teams that draft him should take advantage of his strength and physical nature with limited coverage duties. Chenal can drop into zone coverage if need be but not a player that should be in coverage every down. He has enough sideline-to-sideline speed and superb power to be a force on the edge. Chandler Jones likely walks in free agency.

Penn State v Ohio State Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Round 3: Jeremy Ruckert - Tight End, Ohio State (from Dolphins)

Mock Trade (trade down): Cardinals’ 2022 third-round pick (No. 87) for Dolphins’ projected third-round compensatory pick and fourth-round pick

Ruckert did not put up any worldly numbers in his collegiate football career at Ohio State but he never had to with the likes of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson on the roster. Ruckert is a solid run blocker and is a reliable pass catcher when his number is called upon. The 21-year-old pass catcher was targeted only 42 times this season and hauled in 26 for 309 yards. He lacks explosive athletic traits but has an NFL frame at 6-feet-5 250 pounds. Ruckert really does remind me of Maxx Williams in every way that I can think of which is why I believe he is very underrated. And speaking of Williams, him along with Zach Ertz are scheduled to be free agents.

Tulsa v Cincinnati Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Round 4: Jerome Ford - Running Back, Cincinnati (from Dolphins)

The running back out of Cincinnati had a monstrous 2021 season as he led the Bearcats with 1,319 rushing yards, 220 receiving yards, and 20 total touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He is an explosive running back with real homerun speed used often in inside zone run formations that Kliff Kingsbury loves to dial up. Cardinals can retain their thunder in Conner and pair him up with lightning in Ford. At 5-feet-11 220 pounds, he is bigger, faster, and stronger than Chase Edmonds who is an impending free agent. With only 319 carries in his college career, Ford does not have much mileage either.

Round 5: Noah Elliss - Nose Tackle, Idaho (from Bills)

Noah Elliss is the son of former NFL player Luther Elliss, a two-time Pro Bowler and former first-round pick in the 1995 draft who played professionally for 10 seasons. He is a massive human being, standing at 6-feet-4 and 359 pounds as a space-eating nose tackle in the interior of the defensive line. While Georgia’s Jordan Davis and UConn’s Travis Jones are drawing most of the attention at nose tackle after the Senior Bowl, Elliss might just be ahead of the two in NFL preparedness having been trained by his Pro Bowl father. Cardinals are in need of a true nose tackle and Noah possesses everything needed to be just that for them.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 San Diego State at UNLV Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 6: Matt Araiza - Punter, San Diego State

Andy Lee is an impending unrestricted free agent that turns 40 in August. There is no better time to draft his replacement than in the 2022 NFL Draft with a generational type punter in Matt Araiza. He averaged 51.2 yards per punt in 2021, the best in college football, and converted 50-of-68 field goals in his three years at San Diego State. Araiza can not only be the Cardinals’ long-term punter but a backup kicker as well.

NC State v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Round 6: Charleston Rambo - Wide Receiver, Miami (FL) (compensatory pick - Kenyan Drake)

Rambo transferred to the University of Miami after three seasons at Oklahoma and saw his college football career flourish. In his three seasons as a sooner, he had 76 receptions, 1,180 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. Rambo nearly doubled that in his one season at Miami. His receptions (79) and receiving yard (1,172) totals in 2021 are the most in a single season in Miami Hurricane history. However, the one constant issue that plagued him in his time at Oklahoma and at some points in Miami were his drops. He has good length (6-feet-1, 77-inch wing span), speed, and is a decent route runner but is lean and the drops prevented him from seeing much playing time in his few years as a Sooner. Nonetheless, this is a value pick and a target that Kyler Murray is familiar with.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 7: Zyon McCollum - Cornerback, Sam Houston State

A 6-feet-4 200-pound cornerback with 13 interceptions in five years at Sam Houston State. Cardinals need better depth at cornerback and there is too much intrigue in McCollum to not take him here. At this time in the draft, I took players from a pure production standpoint.

BYU v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Round 7: James Empey - Center, BYU (compensatory pick - Dan Arnold)

The Cardinals never had a true backup center on the roster when Rodney Hudson was out with COVID. Max Garcia played in his absence but never looked comfortable playing there with quite a few low and high snaps in that role. Here, the Cardinals get a former team captain and a four-year starter at center out of BYU in James Empey, who previously snapped to No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 05 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 7: JT Woods - Safety, Baylor (compensatory pick - Angelo Blackson)

I am still trying to figure out why JT Woods is projected to be a day three selection or go undrafted by Pro Football Focus but here we are. The ball-hawking safety out of Baylor nabbed five interceptions in 2021 and eight interceptions total the last two years. His lean frame and play strength might be a big factor in Woods’ low draft stock so he not the ideal safety to line up in the box or be counted on to stop the run. However, his knack for finding the football and forcing turnovers should be enough to get him drafted higher than this. Chris Banjo and Charles Washington are impending free agents.

Here is a shorter version:

Round 1 (23): Jameson Williams - WR, Alabama
Round 2 (57): Leo Chenal - LB/EDGE, Wisconsin (from BUF)
Round 3: Jeremy Ruckert - TE, Ohio State (from MIA)
Round 4: Jerome Ford - RB, Cincinnati (from MIA)
Round 5: Noah Elliss - NT, Idaho (from BUF)
Round 6: Matt Araiza - P, San Diego State
Round 6: Charleston Rambo - WR, Miami (FL) (compensatory)
Round 7: Zyon McCollum - CB, Sam Houston State
Round 7: James Empey - C, BYU (compensatory)
Round 7: JT Woods - S, Baylor (compensatory)