The Arizona Cardinals enter the 2023 offseason in a position they have not found themselves in since 2013, that is being under control of a new GM. Monti Ossenfort has his work cut out for him following a poor 2022, and the moves he makes during FA and the draft will be crucial in ensuring his regime is more successful than Keim's ill-fated tenure. It starts, of course, with the Head Coach hire which remains unresolved as of writing.
If there is one lesson the Cardinals can take from the ongoing playoffs, it is the importance of the draft. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs aim to become the team with the most expensive QB to win a Super Bowl. While it helps to have Mahomes on your team, the Chiefs have filled out their roster brilliantly through the draft, around half of their defensive starters are rookies. It's a well-established fact that the best time to compete is when your QB is on their rookie contract, but Kansas City have shown that once your QB gets paid, there is still a pathway to success. All that is too say, Ossenfort and Assistant GM Dave Sears have to nail this draft. The Cardinals wasted Kyler Murray's affordable years, so they have to find studs each day in order to build this roster into a contender.
This mock is a combination of my own opinions and a prediction of what will happen. I'm only going to draft prospects I am a fan of, but I will try and stay in-line with the philosophy I think our new FO will go by. Both Ossenfort and Sears talked about changing the culture and the importance of hard work, so I imagine that will be reflected in the character of the guys we bring in. Furthermore, both the Titans and Lions have a history of drafting lots of linemen, which lines up well with the Cardinals needs, so I'll have somewhat of a focus on those positions.
The simulator I'm using is the PFF Mock Draft Simulator as it is the most realistic, but there are still some players who will go higher than they predict. So if you think any of these picks are unrealistic, don't blame me. I also took control of the Colts and had them move up to number one, as I think that it is unlikely Chicago are pick #1 on draft day. Final thing before I get into the draft, I made two trades before the draft started. I sent Deandre Hopkins to Tennessee for pick 41, and Colt McCoy to Houston for a 7th.
Round 1-Will Anderson Jr, EDGE, Alabama
The Cardinals have a very tough decision to make almost immediately in the draft, that being Will Anderson Jr vs Jalen Carter. Both prospects have their merits. Carter has the higher ceiling between the two, and there are some moments on tape where he blows any other prospect in this class out of the water. That being said, Anderson is an excellent prospect in his own right. Anderson is such a well-rounded prospect, I really struggle to find a weakness in his game. While he may not have the technique of Nick Bosa, nor the athleticism of Travon Walker, he just solid at everything. He is excellent against the run, plays a lot stronger than his size (although he is by no means small), has good explosiveness off the line, and has good technique for a player of his age.
What really sells me on him over Carter is is reported character. By most accounts, Anderson is a perfect fit for Ossenfort and Sears' Cardinals. His motor runs hot, and he never stops working. This commitment to improvement would make me feel really safe making him the first draft pick of this regime. I have a hard time seeing him end up a flat-out bust.
Round 2-John Michael Schmitz, IOL, Minnesota
With the Rodney Hudson experiment seemingly over, the Cardinals now have a gaping hole in the middle of their offensive line. Centre needs to be addressed this offseason, and hopefully more of a long term fix compared to Hudson. Lo-and-behold, the best centre in the draft was available at 34. Schmitz is not a flashy pick, but he does his job well. He is tough and consistent, exactly what you want from an IOL.
Round 2-Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
This is a case of a pick which could definitely change closer to the draft, but as it stands, Arizona have a pretty big question mark at outside corner. Byron Murphy is a free agents, and there are questions over whether he should be back in 2023. Even if the Cards opt to brinh him back, Marco Wilson could be upgraded, so this pick makes sense.
Forbes is pretty great value at 41. While he is not perfect, any flaws he has are not abnormal for a player of his age. Besides, his positive traits are pretty enticing. Forbes had 6 interceptions in 2022, with 3 being taken back for touchdowns. That is great production, and isn't too much of a surprise given his history at WR. While he has a tendency to be over-aggressive, I think that is fixable enough as to not overshadow his incredible ball skills.
Round 3-Gervon Dexter Sr, IDL, Florida
Back to the trenches to open the 3rd, and we get a guy who will take up a lot of space in those trenches. Dexter is 6'6 and 320 lbs, but he doesn't move like it. He is much faster and athletic than most people his size, and that creates a pretty terrifying combination should it be harnessed properly. That said, Dexter lacks consistency, and he needs a guiding hand in order for him to harness his potential at the pro-level. He is undoubtedly a low floor-high ceiling pick, but once you get to the third round some risks are going to have to be taken.
Round 3-Steve Avila, IOL, TCU
I wasn't lying when I said that we would have a focus on the trenches. Avila, like Schmitz, stood out at the Senior Bowl and his performance may make this pick slightly unrealistic. One can hope he falls though, as his combination of toughness of and versatility makes for an enticing pick at the end of the 3rd. While he isn't the most agile, I think at guard that won't be too big of a deal. To me Avila can compete for a starting job day one, and be very important depth due to his versatility.
Round 4-Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State
Another pick, another guy who probably wont be there by the time were on the clock. If he is off the board by this pick, I would take AT Perry, but if Hutchinson is still available at the start of Day 3 I would run the pick in. His lack of top end speed is what is most likely to drop him this far, but his weaknesses are scarce aside from that. He has good hands, runs nice routes, and can play outside or in the slot. He does that all at 6'3 as well, providing some much needed height to our receiver room.
Round 5-Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia
As we find ourselves a bit later on Day 3, most of our picks will be focused more on depth. McIntosh provides a nice contrast to what we already have at the RB position. His best traits come in the passing game, where he has a legitimate argument for being the best pass catching RB in the class. He is no slouch on the ground either,, but his receiving ability is what makes me think he could be a great fit in rotation with James Connor.
Round 6-Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati
Hopefully our 2nd round pick last year, Trey McBride, can take over as TE1 in 2023, but we need some depth behind him regardless. Enter Whyle, another guy who impressed during the Senior Bowl. Whyle has great size (6'6, 245 lbs) and movement ability for the TE position. His game needs refinement, but the makings of a contributor is there. The main area in need of improvement is blocking, but he has shown a pretty steady improvement there in college, so hopefully that carries over to the pros. He also shows nice versatility to be able to succeed in the slot or in-line which can help allow him and McBride be on the field at the same time, should the both develop.
Round 6-BJ Thompson, EDGE, Stephen F Austin
From a Senior Bowl standout to a Shrine Bowl standout, a month ago this position would seem like a reach, now it is a steal. Thompson is perhaps the rawest prospect here, but his ceiling is only really dwarfed by Anderson. Thompson is an EDGE on paper, but has showed the ability to do almost everything at the Shrine Bowl. He looked equally adept rushing the passer as he did dropping into coverage, and that kind of versatility will b every enticing to whoever we hire as DC. There will be a learning curve, as is the case for any guy coming from the FCS, but guys who are 6'5 simply shouldn't move the way Thompson does.
Round 7-Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
Arizona find itself in a somewhat unique spot regarding there QB situation going into 2023. Kyler Murray is injured, and his return date is indefinite, so the Cardinals need to reinforce the QB position. Hall could be a nice gamble to compliment a veteran from FA. In a lot of ways, Hall is a budget version of Murray. Like Murray he is somewhat undersized but is mobile and has a great arm. He needs polish, and time is working against him (he will be 25 when drafted) but he is also a 7th round QB so you're going to have to expect some drawbacks. Hall also reportedly has a great character, so he could be a positive addition to the QB room, and maybe his work ethic will rub off on Murray.
So there we have it. I would be very happy with this draft. 3 guys look like locked on starters, and the rest will either compete for a job, or act as key depth pieces. It may not catapult us into Super Bowl contention, but I think this draft could lay the groundwork for the upcoming rebuild.