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#3 is the new #1: What will the Cardinals do with the third overall pick?

With the 2023 NFL draft just two weeks away, everyone is starting to turn their eyes to the Arizona Cardinals and what they will do with the #3 overall pick.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Alabama
Will the Cardinals regret passing on Will Anderson if they trade out of the top four?
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Although there are several stories swirling about the Arizona Cardinals right now, most of the chatter surrounding the team concerns their plans for the #3 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Consensus seems to be that GM Monti Ossenfort will trade back, but there are a number of scenarios in play for that #3 pick. Let’s take a look at them today, starting with the most simple.

Scenario #1: Stay put and draft Will Anderson

With the Panthers and Texans widely expected to take QBs Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud in some order with the first two picks, you can almost say that the draft truly starts with the Cardinals at #3. You could say that they… hold all the cards with teams looking to trade up to take the draft’s other touted QB prospects, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. Trading back seems like a foregone conclusion.

But what if the Cardinals elect to go with the ace in the hole, standing pat and taking Will Anderson, regarded by many as the top overall player in this draft class? If the Cardinals front office truly loves Anderson, this could be a “Vontae Mack no matter what” scenario. Although the likes of ESPN’s Bill Barnwell has argued all offseason that the Cardinals are more than one player away from contending, Anderson is the bluest of blue chips and could be a franchise cornerstone for a decade. Is it worth passing on a player like that to add a few premium picks to take players who may be good but are nowhere near Anderson’s class? That’s a tough question for Ossenfort. Fortunately, there’s an easy answer possibly right in front of him.

Scenario #2: Trade back with the Colts at #4 and still draft Will Anderson

This might be the ideal scenario for many Cardinals fans. Ossenfort might be able move back just one pick, nabbing at least a Day 2 pick this year and potentially another Day 2 pick next year (at minimum) while still being able to get his Vontae Mack at #4. This is the best of both worlds: pick up a few more quality assets while still adding a true blue chip like Anderson. That extra Day 2 pick this year could be used to add a big body in the trenches or perhaps a WR to replace DeAndre Hopkins (who might net the team another Day 2 pick himself). It all comes down to how the Colts value Richardson and/or Levis—and if there’s a sizeable difference in valuation between the two. Of course, another team could swoop in and blow this scenario up.

Scenario #3: Trade out of the top four and secure more future assets

There are a few other teams in the top half of the first round in need of a young QB—the Lions, Raiders, Falcons, Titans, and Commanders come to mind. Could any of those teams put together a package to entice the Cardinals to move further back than #4? You may already have seen Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft, which had the Cardinals trading back to the Titans’ #11 slot, picking a 2nd-rounder this year, a 2024 1st-rounder, and a 2025 1st- or 2nd-rounder. That’s a pretty massive haul.

It’s also a big drop from #3 (or #4) and Will Anderson to the likes of Tyree Wilson at #11. Wilson is a nice player, but he’s not the same kind of prospect as Anderson. But this is also a roster that could really use all those extra picks. So Ossenfort has some roster math to do. Anderson plus a couple Round 2/3 picks, or someone like Wilson and potentially two more firsts and some other assets? I don’t envy his position here. But there’s one last, albeit unlikely, scenario to explore.

Scenario #4: The Texans do something crazy

Last week, a rumor popped up that the Texans might eschew taking a QB at #2, instead grabbing Will Anderson there and potentially trading back into the top 5 to take one of the remaining top QBs. That would put the Cardinals in a very interesting position—demand for the #3 pick would be even higher with one of Young/Stroud still on the board. There would also be very little reason to not trade back. (Walter did explore the Cardinals perhaps drafting Young/Stroud there. I’d give that proposal an emphatic NO, for many reasons.)

In this scenario, Ossenfort might be able to get a similar haul as what the Bears got for the #1 overall pick, as there isn’t a large perceived gap between Young and Stroud (while most scouts/evaluators have Young as the top QB, there are some who prefer Stroud). Recall that the Panthers sent the Bears the #9 pick, a late 2nd-rounder this year, a 2024 1st-rounder, and a 2025 2nd-rounder, plus WR D.J. Moore. Could the Cardinals land something like 85%-90% of that package? Perhaps Cardinals fans should be rooting for the Texans do make a bold move.

Final Thoughts

Of these scenarios, I still think I prefer Scenario #2: trading back with the Colts and still being able to draft Will Anderson. I know all draft picks are just prospects and there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but Anderson just seems like such a difference maker, both on and off the field. I understand the temptation to trade back and secure more assets, but I’d rather have a dollar bill and some change than an entire pocketful of spare change. You know? But that’s just me.

How about you, RotBers? You know the drill: vote in the poll and jump into the comments section.


Assuming QBs go #1 and #2, what do you want the Cardinals to do with the #3 pick?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Stay put and draft Will Anderson
    (26 votes)
  • 65%
    Trade back with the Colts at #4 and still draft Will Anderson
    (315 votes)
  • 29%
    Trade out of the top four and secure as many premium picks as possible
    (140 votes)
481 votes total Vote Now