The 2023 NFL Combine is just around the corner which means it is time to release my first mock draft of the year.
Who will be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft? Who will fall to the Cardinals?
To cut quick to the chase, here is my five-round Arizona Cardinals mock draft:
Round 1 (4): Jalen Carter - Defensive Tackle, Georgia (from Colts - mock trade)
AZ receives: No. 4 overall (1st), No. 35 overall (2nd)
IND receives: No. 3 overall
Jalen Carter is the best interior defensive lineman in the draft and is widely considered the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. Impactful as a run stuffer and a disruptive pass rusher as he was often double-teamed. The Cardinals get J.J. Watt’s replacement here along the defensive line as he becomes Monti Ossenfort’s first-ever draft selection as a general manager.
Round 2 (34): John Michael Schmitz - Center, Minnesota
The Cardinals’ interior offensive line struggled this past season in large part because of starter unavailability due to injuries and players that were past their prime. Former Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson agreed to reduce his base salary in early January and could be well on his way to retirement, a decision the 12-year veteran contemplated last offseason. That means the Cardinals will be in need of a new center and there is no better option in the draft than John Michael Schmitz. He was the Gopher’s team captain and made the reads and calls up front in the trenches. Schmitz will be a quality center for Kyler Murray for the next decade.
Round 2 (35): Emmanuel Forbes - Cornerback, Mississippi State (from Colts - mock trade)
Though he will be criticized for his slender frame, Emmanuel Forbes’ high football IQ and instinctiveness as a cornerback cannot be denied. His production at the college level is attention grabbing. This past year with Mississippi, Forbes had 10 passes defensed and six interceptions, three of which he returned for a touchdown. He had 14 career interceptions the last three years and his six career pick-sixes is an SEC and FBS record. This ball-hawk cornerback would be a tremendous addition, especially with Byron Murphy’s impending free agent status with the Cardinals.
Round 2 (42): Felix Anudike-Uzomah - EDGE, Kansas State (from Browns - mock trade)
AZ receives: No. 42 overall, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
CLE receives: DeAndre Hopkins
Reason: Teams will inquire about the Cardinals’ All-Pro receiver. Hopkins reunites with Deshaun Watson in Cleveland as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator Drew Petzing reunites with Peoples-Jones
Anudike-Uzomah is part of a loaded draft class with an abundance of edge rushers. He has a relentless non-stop motor in his pursuit of the quarterbacks. He could have sat out the Sugar Bowl to maintain his draft stock but he opted to play. That is what team-players do and I believe that is the kind of player Ossenfort will covet. From a production standpoint, he had 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles the last two years. At 6-feet-4 255 pounds, he has the frame to be a 3-4 outside linebacker and can hold up as a 4-3 defensive end. Anudike-Uzomah should test well at the Combine if he participates.
Round 3 (66): Sydney Brown - Defensive Back, Illinois
Sydney Brown is simply explosive. His versatility speaks for itself as he lined up in the box and in the slot at Illinois. Just like the selection of Forbes, Brown is coming off a six-interception season and is instinctive. The one area of weakness for him is tackling. Outside of that, Brown has almost everything you want in a defensive back.
Round 3 (96): Michael Wilson - Wide Receiver, Stanford (Compensatory Pick - Christian Kirk)
Michael Wilson’s statistics at Stanford is not going to impress anyone but the performance of his quarterback was a bit shaky. However, his draft stock most certainly improved after an impressive showing at this year’s Senior Bowl. Wilson has the size (6-feet-1, 216lbs) and displayed his rather impressive route-running skills against some of the best college football players in Mobile. Maybe it is early but Wilson has the makeup to be a quality No. 2 wide receiver in the NFL.
Round 4: Karl Brooks - EDGE/Defensive Tackle, Bowling Green
Karl Brooks primarily played edge at Bowling Green State but he certainly packs a punch anywhere on the defensive line. He had 46 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks the last five years. The hybrid-style Brooks dominated in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Round 5: Eric Gray - Running Back, Oklahoma (Compensatory Pick - Chandler Jones)
Gray is one of the more elusive and shifty running backs in the draft. He had a breakout senior season with 1,366 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He is a well-rounded running back as a ball carrier and pass catcher out of the backfield. Gray simply finds ways to get extra yards with his impressive ability to make tacklers miss. He would pair well with James Conner.