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2023 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper has the Arizona Cardinals moving down, drafting top defender in 2023 NFL Draft

NFL: MAR 01 Scouting Combine Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy Tuesday one and all.

The Godfather of draft coverage Mel Kiper Jr. has dropped his third mock draft and first of the post free agency period and has a message for Arizona Cardinals fans.

Projected trade: Indy moves up

Arizona’s pick at No. 3 is going to be coveted. It might now be the most important pick in the draft. That’s because we know quarterbacks are going to Carolina and Houston at the top of the board, but the Cardinals aren’t in the market for a passer. How far are they willing to slide down so a QB-needy team can move up? This scenario might be best for them, because they have to move down only one spot and could still get their choice of the top defenders. Go any farther down, and they won’t be so lucky.

Some on here have said that this Cardinals pick doesn’t have the same value now and it is clear that is wrong, this is the most important pick in the draft now.

However, we also need to understand what type of return they could get:

I mentioned last month the Mitch Trubisky trade from 2017, when the Bears moved from No. 3 to No. 2 in a deal with the 49ers. Chicago gave up the Nos. 3, 67 and 111 picks along with its third-rounder in the 2018 draft. That’s the comp for this move, though as we saw in Carolina’s trade up to No. 1, the asking price increases based on the competition. If Las Vegas or Seattle gets involved, Arizona could get much more. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona takes this deal down to when it’s on the clock on April 27; that’s when trading teams will know for sure who’s still available.

So, if Arizona moves down one spot it would likely be for 1.04, 3.79 and 4.106 and a third in 2024.

Except, that isn’t what Kiper has happen, he has the Colts paying a massive cost:

This trade down likely would give Arizona the Colts’ second- and third-rounders (Nos. 35 and 79) at the very least, giving it a bunch of capital to make upgrades.

I don’t see it, but Kiper hears much, much more than me and I have heard that the bidding for 1.03 is hot right now.

So, the Cardinals move down, add 1.04, 2.35. 3.79 and pick:

4. Arizona Cardinals (via mock trade with IND)

Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama

Once again, no change here from my two previous mock drafts. Anderson is the type of player new coach Jonathan Gannon can build around on defense. He’s versatile, productive — 130 pressures over the past two seasons — and has the tools to develop into an All-Pro. The problem for Arizona is who plays next to Anderson. J.J. Watt retired, tackle Zach Allen left in free agency and the Cardinals haven’t added any D-linemen over the past week. For a defense that struggled with consistency last season, there are still issues here.

So now I have to move through PFF with this trade down and finish up the first three rounds.

Cardinals trade: 1.03 for 1.04, 2.35, 3.79.

1.04 - Will Anderson Jr, OLB, Alabama
2.34 - Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
2.35 - Mazi Smith, DL, Michigan
3.66 - John Michael Schmitz, OL, Minnesota
3.79 - Jaylon Jones, CB, Texas A&M
3.96 - Mike Morris, DL, Michigan

Wonder if taking a corner instead of the value of Jones/Smith at 34 and 35 makes more sense?

I do like adding a ton of beef up front and then Jones, a big cover three cornerback who can help in the run game.

Obviously it is tough not having what Kiper did outside of round one, but if you add 2.35, I love the chance to add a Jones and Smith along the two fronts early.