While mock draft season is heavy with the NFL Draft a week away, I wanted to take a bit of a different approach using a tried and true method.
Rather than picking which players the team might take in a mock draft scenario....I decided to do the opposite.
Pick the players who will NOT be selected by Arizona for one reason or another and then see which ones are left due to process of elimination.
There were four categories I decided to use for this process...looking at top 10 talents who will be gone made the most sense.
But what if the Cards traded up? That would have to be a longshot, either to fall all that way or for the team to trade up so it’s not realistic. Even if it’s possible!
To help with some of this, looking at a trade value chart can help determine the cost of Arizona making a move up, with the number of picks each having a point value per the Rich Hill Trade Chart that seems to be close to what the NFL actually uses. Future picks (2024) are valued a full round lower than the current status.
From this value, if the Cards did decide to give up a 1st in 2023 and in 2024, the highest they could get up to would be into the range of Pick 12-14:
For a leap THAT high?
It would likely need to be one of the cornerstone franchise pieces for Arizona: an Edge rusher, a shutdown cornerback or they would need to REALLY like a receiver they’d view as a superstar and it’d cost them a 2024 1st, maybe more. So it’s not impossible, just a stretch.
The other would be based on fit and need. A player might fill a need, but isn’t a fit for the Cardinals’ scheme or would fail a requirement to go that high (health, low production, etc.)
Here’s the 4 categories of players they would NOT draft:
Top 10 Talents (No Way, Jose)
Unlikely To Fall Far Enough (Longshots/would need to trade up)
Not A Need, Or A Need but Not a Fit (Ruling out as a fit for the team or it’s a QB, LB, etc)
A Fit But Lower Need/Lower Talent (Probably not in the first round)
This leaves my final list of the players who I could NOT rule out.
If you want that as a spoiler, it’s at the bottom of this article just underneath the next time you see this horizontal rule:
And with that, let’s kick off with the players you’d LOVE to see Arizona have but there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that they’ll be able to get them:
Tier 1: Top 10 Talents
The players that aren’t going to fall out of the top part of the draft, and the cost to trade up would be prohibitive (with a team saying NO most likely). This is probably the easiest of the tiers to rule out for the Cardinals despite the fact they’d be drafted in a heartbeat if the team had a shot at them:
-Edge Aiden Hutchinson
-Edge Travon Walker
-Edge Kayvon Thibadeaux
-OT Evan Neal
-OT Ikem Ekwonu
-CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
-CB Derek Stingley Jr.
-WR Garrett Wilson
-S Kyle Hamilton
In the vast majority of mock drafts, all of these players have come off the board in the Top 10 and they’re probably closer to “game changing talents” who won’t be there...and the team won’t be able to trade up high enough to get them.
This doesn’t mean all of them WILL go in the top 10 of course...some of these guys could go a bit later, but it’s unlikely that they’d fall very far out of the top 10.
FWIW...I want to put Hamilton in the “not a need nor a fit” category but given his poor athletic testing and how we have seen some safeties fall, it might be he belongs as a longshot. But with how he seems to be a top 10-15 lock, I feel good in saying that he won’t be a viable option for Arizona, nor do I see them trading up for him.
It’s possible, also, that one of the next guys on this list could qualify for this group as the first wide receiver off the board potentially:
Tier 2: Longshots (Possible in a Trade Up?)
These are the players who are basically off the board or the Cardinals would likely need to leap up in the NFL Draft to get.
-WR Jameson Williams
-WR Drake London
-DT Jordan Davis
-DE Jermaine Johnson
-CB Trent McDuffie
I’ve yet to see any mocks with these players going to the Cardinals, with the exception of McDuffie. He’s fallen to 23 a time or two but most likely? You’d see him go earlier. There’s a dropoff after the top 2 cornerbacks and a good chance that he could even be gone before the Ravens pick at 14.
These are players that I won’t rule out fully but let’s say these are a 1% chance of happening. The Jim Carrey “so you’re saying there’s a chance?!?”
It’s likely that Jameson Williams would be “unattainable” but if the Cardinals see a great fit for him (as we’ve heard from Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro on the radio and others such as Johnny Venerable & Albert Breer (see below)
There are a lot of unknowns ahead of next Thursday's first-round, but one thing remains clear...— Johnny Venerable (@JohnnyVenerable) April 20, 2022
The Arizona Cardinals are infatuated with Alabama's Jameson Williams. They view him as a superstar level prospect in every sense. A true future number one receiver.
So yeah...there’s enough love they’d have that I won’t rule out the team moving up, or that MAYBE his ACL being enough of a factor for him to slip...but like the rest of these guys he’s a longshot.
He might be the longest longshot outside of the next guy, too:
Jermaine Johnson, in most places, doesn’t seem to fall past the Eagles (and goes top 10 in most others, even as early as top 5) and as Gambadoro’s radio reporting has him & Travon Walker as two Edge Rushers the Cardinals would consider giving up a future 1st for, it’s possible that the team could look to jump up to Pick 12-14.
Or, in a rare scenario, we see him fall past that to a “floor” of the 17th pick, one ahead of the Edge-Rusher needy Eagles and Arizona lucks out.
My guess is that he might go top 10 and thus even if the Cardinals could get a trade lined up to fill Chandler Jones’ spot that it won’t matter, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s possible, just not very likely.
It wouldn’t shock me if Steve Keim loved the giant defensive tackle Jordan Davis (if Arizona was looking at Panthers DT Derrick Brown with the 8th pick in 2020 I’d imagine they could adore a freak like Davis), but he could go in the top 10 potentially too.
Now, for what might be my most controversial category...
Tier 3: Needs, but not a Fit for the Cards
This is the harder category to project, but in some cases it...probably will be self-explanatory as to why. In others, there might be some fans who would take the talent of the player over the Cardinals’ grades or possible ideas
-Edge George Karlaftis
-WR Treylon Burks
-CB Andrew Booth Jr.
-DT Devonte Wyatt
-OG Kenyon Green
-Edge David Ojabo
-WR Christian Watson
-S Dak Hill
-C Tyler Linderbaum
And now for some explanations...Arizona Sports’ Gambadoro has mentioned that he doesn’t believe Karlaftis is someone Arizona would be very high on...and I can see it after looking at other pass-rushers in the class I like him, but if you’re looking at his production and how he rushes the passer and look at a lengthier/quicker Chandler Jones who has more of the tools and traits of a top-notch edge rusher, I think it’s easier to say that he won’t be the pick.
Hill is a safety who could cover the slot (which Arizona might like) but I think there’s a player who’d be available at 23 or even possibly later who would fit better and...would be closer connected to Kingsbury.
Ojabo is even easier in this regard because he is injured and likely won’t play for this entire season after a torn achilles at his pro day.
Defensive Tackle Devonte Wyatt has had some off-field concerns (that were dropped) but there’s another concern for him: age. He’ll be 24 at the time of the draft and the Cardinals have never selected a player that old with a first round pick under Steve Keim...usually those guys wait until the second round. (See: Daryl Washington who was 24 when drafted, or a Markus Golden)
Booth Jr. seems unlikely. He might be a good fit but has struggled to stay healthy, and we have seen how the Cardinals’ selection of Marco Wilson last year showed that there is probably a healthy corner that they could prefer.
The last two might be minutia, but I think that I feel confident in saying neither would be a fit for schematic reasons:
WR Treylon Burks has visited the team several times but given that his athletic testing and usage has been predominantly behind the line of scrimmage and all from the slot, it begs the question of how he projects to the next level, especially with how Rondale Moore was a 2nd round pick just a year ago and despite being smaller, is a much better athlete. Gambadoro has ruled him out in the radio show.
For example, Rondale Moore’s 4.3 time would allow the Cardinals to replace the downfield deep routes for Christian Kirk, and his 42 inch vertical at his height compared to Burks’ own low vertical means that...the best fit to take over in the slot is already on your roster. Moore at 5’7 can leap to the same place that Burks can with his:
For context this means that the 5’7 Rondale Moore can leap and touch the same spot that 6’2 Treylon Burks can with a 42” vert compared to this. https://t.co/c3SuVrMOSZ— Blake Allen Murphy (@blakemurphy7) March 3, 2022
I think that the Cardinals’ re-signing of a pass-catching Tight End in Zach Ertz means that the bigger inside-pass-catcher role is filled.
Speaking of athletes...why do I have Christian Watson here? Because I don’t think he gets drafted by the team (or should go first round) for reasons that might be more scouting based:
I think he’s a player who won’t hit thresholds for production in college. His routes need work, his hands have a higher drop rate and he’s from a small school, so I don’t think that he will be on their board at 23 despite some freakish athleticism...I feel like he’s a player that they could take at 55 but wouldn’t in the top ten especially after Arizona took a player with similar athleticism who was raw in Hakeem Butler...in the 4th round.
His best comparable is a 5th round receiver:
Christian Watson:— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) April 14, 2022
32 1/2" arms
Career: 104 rec, 2134 yd, 14 TD
Took end arounds (15 car, 114 yds)
Struggles with drops
32 1/4" arms
Career: 119 rec, 1832 yd, 12 TD
Took end arounds (8 car, 108 yds)
Struggles with drops
So Burks and Watson for opposite reasons would be players I would guess they pass on at pick 23.
-C Tyler Linderbaum*
Linderbaum is a unique player in that...he might fall into the strange category of being a top 10 talent in this class but there’s questions about his fit anywhere but the center position.
Arizona has a center in Rodney Hudson...but he’s old at age 32 and had the worst PFF grade of his career and spent some time being injured. He’s under contract through at least next year and it remains to be seen if Arizona would play Linderbaum at guard or sit him for at least a year before plugging him in.
There’s also the fact that he might be a guy who isn’t on this list at all and instead goes to the “not a fit” list because he might be considered a zone-only center schematically. That seems to be a big reason why he’s likely to fall to round 2. Personally, unless Arizona sees their board picked clean and Linderbaum IS a fit (and Zion Johnson is gone) that might be enough reason to pass and say he isn’t going to be taken.
If they do feel he’s a fit? I could see him move into the top 7 of this list.
But between the questions and overall commentary from those such as Dane Brugler and Lance Zierlein it just feels like he falls to round 2 in a similar manner to Creed Humphrey last year. But he’s also maybe the only one of these players that I might move to the list of guys they would draft if they do feel he’s capable of either fitting them AND playing guard for them.
I’ll put an asterisk here as a result.
Finally, there’s OG Kenyon Green.
Green’s short shuttle time of 5.12 is...really a bad time. There was some hoopla about D.K. Metcalf’s time but when comparing to the fact that out of 1200+ offensive guard prospects he falls into the bottom percentile, it’s worrisome. But there’s another reason, too...
Kenyon Green is a OG prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 5.85 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 505 out of 1215 OG from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/DFJdJKHsPd #RAS pic.twitter.com/OXyNUAkgaf— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 28, 2022
Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive scheme in running the ball at the NFL level is more than just a zone-blocking scheme. There are some large guards who are able to mow down opponents and move them out of the way despite not being as fleet of foot.
But Kingsbury’s power-run scheme involves a lot of linemen pulling in space, such as this game where Chase Edmonds scored 3 touchdowns:
Notice on how two of the touchdowns the guard got outside of the tackle in space and blocked for the running back?
A common scouting term that I’ve learned from talking to people who do it for a living is that if you want a guard running and pulling, you want a sub 5-second shuttle time...and Green didn’t run the 3-cone at all.
So I’m ruling him out.
I feel confident that Green wouldn’t be the pick because there are two other linemen who DID run their shuttles at sub-5 seconds...and both are most likely available.
A quick hitters list of the final category of players who we can probably rule out in the first round for Arizona who are not a need NOR a fit for the Cardinals...
-All The Inside Linebackers (Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker, Devin Lloyd)
-Running Backs: (Kenneth Walker, Breece Hall)
-Quarterbacks (should also be obvious!)
Let’s take a look at the players left that qualify:
-WR Chris Olave
-WR Jahan Dotson
-CB Kaiir Elam
-OG Zion Johnson
-CB Kyler Gordon
-EDGE Arnold Ebiketie
Well look at that, there’s only 6 names, how convenient!
Each of these names seems to be pretty obvious as to why they’d be a pick and a fit for Arizona at pick 23.
Of note: as NFL Network’s Peter Schrager has pointed out, it might be that there’s only 3 players on this list if Arizona look to the offensive side of the ball after back-to-back 1st round selections on defense in 2020-2021. It’s not something to rule out yet though, but I can see giving the edge to the two receivers and Johnson here.
Olave’s a player who might legitimately fit into the “longshot” category. But when looking at how he measured up to the faster Williams, bigger London, and Wilson has seemed to go higher due to having better play strength/yards after catch...it might mean there’s a chance he falls. Perhaps he goes to Green Bay at 22 as his “floor” but I think he’s a player Arizona would draft.
What if the Packers took Dotson at 22 over Olave, for example? (Hmm...)
Jahan Dotson seems to be a smaller player who not only played bigger than his size but has carried his team and with the lightning smooth routes and great hands, he seems to be a better fit on the outside (having played there for 3 years) than a Burks who has only played in the middle. The Steelers took a player in Diontae Johnson who’s been a solid replacement for Antonio Brown and it’s possible that Dotson could be the a good #2 receiver to Hopkins.
Zion Johnson’s a unique fit because he’d have to beat out a veteran to start at guard, but I wouldn’t rule out an offensive line pick for the Cardinals. If the teams ahead of them make a run on receivers, the Cardinals have Justin Pugh and Will Hernandez on single-year only deals.
A single injury and Johnson’s starting...he’s an excellent athlete and might even be smart enough to play center and give Arizona either a top notch guard or a future past Hudson. And also...would you rather have the 5th best receiver or the best guard in a draft class?
Gordon is a guy that reminds me quite a bit of Byron Murphy...he’s maybe even a better overall athlete but is still learning some of the position (and doesn’t have the same ball skills) but could play outside or inside and is a physical tackler in the mold of his teammate, Trent MacDuffie. Not a bad consolation prize who could develop into a #1 corner with some seasoning.
CB Kaiir Elam is similar to his fellow former Gator-turned-Cardinal, with better speed and played very well against Jameson Williams and could pair with Marco Wilson as a fellow CB1 at most, or at the least, a replacement for Byron Murphy outside.
Normally I would rule out someone like Gordon but it’s really hard to argue against the past love for UW defensive backs and the league seems to have him cemented as a first-rounder so I think it’s worth putting him here, and if anything they qualify because we’ve seen Arizona already go to that well before, so why not again?
Below are two names that I think are likely available at 23 and would be fits, but might not be graded as highly as the players above for one reason or another and thus might NOT be the pick at 23...but I could see it.
-Edge Arnold Ebiketie
He feels like he’s a tier below the other 5 players because he’s been usually mocked in the second round...but edge is a big need for Arizona.
He’s the one player who seems to be the consensus “6th” pass rusher in this group, but when looking at his athletic testing one thing that stands out to me as to why he might be favored by Arizona ahead of Karlaftis is his tackles for loss numbers. With 18.5 TFL in his final season in addition to 9.5 sacks, his senior season looks a lot like another former Cardinal:
Fellow former Temple Linebacker Haason Reddick.
Reddick in his senior season at temple had 22.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks
Ebikete transferred from Temple and at Penn State had 18.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks.
He’s also not as undersized as Reddick being 253 lbs and I could see him being a rotational pass-rusher while learning how best to either gain weight or get stronger against the run, but he’s a more natural pass rusher and has some pass rushing moves, and stats, that Arizona will probably take notice of:
% of career pressures that were unblocked/clean-up:— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) April 16, 2022
Arnold Ebiketie (19%) !!
Kayvon Thibodeaux (25%)
Aidan Hutchinson (25%)
Boye Mafe (29%)
George Karlaftis (30%)
Josh Paschal (30%)
Jermaine Johnson II (35%)
Kingsley Enagbare (36%)
Drake Jackson (39%)
Travon Walker (49%)
Essentially for 4 out of 5 of all of Ebiketie’s sacks, he was beating his man (or men) with his pass-rushing moves, rather than getting coverage sacks or not being blocked, like this:
Arnold Ebiketie's swipe move is one of the best moves in the class pic.twitter.com/WiXlMvgGhU— Mike (@bengals_sans) April 20, 2022
The reason he’s not higher or in the top 5 on this list is because it seems more likely that Arizona will take an offensive player, or wouldn’t “reach” on a edge rusher at pick 23.
Or that they’d see him as a tier below the other edge rushers and players.
So if you add Ebiketie and possibly Linderbaum (if they see him as a scheme fit) to the other 5 players of Olave, Dotson, Gordon, Zion and Elam you have my “Murf’s Seven” as it were. I’d rank them personally Linderbaum, Zion, Olave, Dotson, Elam, Gordon as the order (knowing Arizona’s likely different).
To me I wouldn’t “want” to include the cornerbacks but can I rule it out from happening should Olave, Dotson, Zion be off the board and they have the corners graded higher?
Not realistically, no.
Below are some players they’d maybe consider but not take for one reason or another and these would likely be more after trading back:
Tier 4: A Fit that fills a need...but probably not at 23
If the Cardinals trade back or “reach” a bit on a player, these might be a player they take in the first round:
-Edge Boye Mafe (lower production, less TFL but heavier at 260 than Ebikete)
-DT Travis Jones (nose tackle)
-WR George Pickens (freakish talent who’s struggled to stay healthy out of Georgia)
-S Jalen Pitre (small Honey-Badger like safety/slot cornerback who Kliff would know from the Big 12)
(This might be the category where Karlaftis fits in for Arizona as they might have a round 2 grade on him where they might take him but he wouldn’t be a priority)
If they take one of these players at 23 or after a first-round trade back, then it’ll be maybe a “shocker” pick so it’s less likely but should probably still be included.
Pitre might be really high on Arizona’s board.
Like...Budda Baker high with a first-round grade when it’s all said and done. He showed off great coverage at the senior bowl...he might be another Mathieu/Budda but unless the team moves on from Jalen Thompson it’s hard to see them take him at 23 over a bigger need)
I like Pickens’ potential enough that I wouldn’t mind a selection at pick 23 but given his health issues and a bit of fighting with other players, I wouldn’t be shocked if the team goes for a Dotson/Olave over him. He’s got a slighter frame but with some sensational catching ability and athleticism with his size, he reminds me a bit of what might be a plus AJ Green in this offense (obviously Green is 33 now and Pickens is younger) and a possible long-term “X” receiver opposite DeAndre Hopkins that could move him to the Z or slot role.
I think he goes before they pick at 55. Maybe if they “love” him and Dotson goes at 22, you could see them pivot to making him a move later, or if he is in their top 5 receivers, perhaps they jump back and pick him a bit early.
These might be players that the Cardinals could trade back for to fill a need potentially (and it wouldn’t shock me if one of these names was either the pick at 55 or if they liked one enough to jump up).
I’ve seen others. A few names to cover the bases below...
I’ve seen some mocks with DL/Edge Logan Hall and OT/OG Tyler Smith going round 1 so I’ll mention them but it would be a shocker to me at 23 OR in round 1.
A Bernhard Raimann or a Skyye Moore go in the late first round but these players in particular seem to have been to me the best fits for Arizona, just not as likely as some of the other names.
These players are easy to see as “lesser” fits because they are a step below each of the talents listed above...but it’s possible if Arizona moves back a ton or even might trade up from pick 55 if they like a player here enough.
So what do you think?
Olave. Zion. Dotson. Ebiketie. Gordon. Elam. And just maybe, Linderbaum.
Which player would you want? Or someone from lower on the list?
Sound off in the comments section!