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How the Cardinals can facilitate drafting an offensive tackle and big receiver in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft

Signing UFAs at DT, Edge and CB would be a good start

Syndication: USA TODAY Mandi Wright / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s no secret that the Arizona Cardinals would like to draft an offensive tackle and big wide receiver as early as they can in the 2024 NFL Draft, being held this year in Detroit (as pictured above).

In order to facilitate those priorities, imo, the Cardinals need to come out of free agency with:

  • a veteran DT
  • a veteran Edge Rusher
  • a veteran CB

According to the Pro Football Network, here are the top 10 DIs:

1) Chris Jones (KC)

2) Christian Wilkins

3) Justin Madubuike

4) Leonard Williams

5) DJ Reader

6) Fletcher Cox

7) Grover Stewart

8) Denico Autry

9) Sheldon Rankins

10) Javon Kinlaw

Analysis:

The Cardinals have connections with Christian Wilkins (MIA — Cards’ Derrick LeBlanc DLC), Fletcher Cox (PHI —-JG/NR), Grover Stewart (IND —-JG) and Denico Autry (TEN —- MO).

Of those four, only Christian Watkins has a better than 50/50 chance of being tagged. Wilkins, 28, would be an ideal addition, but if he is tagged, the Cardinals, in this stage of their rebuild, cannot afford to give up a first round picks for him, plus pay him $20M a year.

Justin Madubuike, 26, (36 tackles, 75.1 PFF, 13 sacks) would be a major coup for any team, which is why the Ravens will undoubtedly slap the tag on him.

At 33, it’s difficult to imagine that Fletcher Cox would play anywhere other than in PHI.

Grover Stewart has previous ties to JG with the Colts . He is 30 and is coming off another solid and productive season as one of the more consistent run stopping DTs (41 tackles, 76.2 PFF, 15 QB pressures, 0.5 sacks) in the NFL.

Denico Autry, 33, remains an impressive pass rushing threat (38 tackles, 61.2 PFF, 53 QB pressures and 11.5 sacks), but is not a classic run stopper.

It’s possible that both Grover Stewart and Denico Autry could agree to terms with the Cardinals, each likely in the $6-7M range.

Here are PFN’s Top 10 Edge Rushers:

1) Josh Allen

2) Brian Burns

3) Chase Young

4) Danielle Hunter

5) Bryce Huff

6) Jonathan Greenard

7) Jadeveon Clowney

8) Andrew Van Ginkel

9) A.J. Epenesa

10) Josh Uche

Analysis:

The only player in the top 5 who is perhaps not likely to be tagged is Chase Young. Young, 24, has 25 tackles and 7.5 sacks and a PFF pass rushing grade of 75.5. Spotrac has Young’s market value at $13.6M a year. He should be the Cardinals’ #1 edge target. Imagine how thrilled Paris Johnson Jr. would be to suit up with his fellow Buckeye.

Chase Young Contract Breakdowns, Salary Cap Figures, Salaries, Bonuses | Spotrac

If not Chase Young, the other edge rusher here who makes the most sense is A.J. Espeneza, 25, of the Bills. He has 20 tackles, 28 QB pressures and 6.5 sacks for a PFF grade of 80.3.

The Wild Card could be Bryce Huff, NYJ. (15 tackles, 67 QB pressures, 10 sacks, 79.7 PFF grade), that is, if Huff is not tagged by the Jets, or is the Jets would be willing to take a 2nd or 3rd rounder for him.

Here are PFN’s top free agent CBs:

1) Jaylon Johnson

2) L’Jarius Sneed

3) Kendall Fuller

4) Chidobe Awuzie

5) Stephon Gilmore

6) Kenny Moore

7) Tavierre Thomas

8) Kristian Fulton

9) Jeff Okudah

10) Steven Nelson

Analysis:

It’s most likely that Johnson, Sneed and Fuller will be tagged.

The Cardinals have ties to Kenny Moore II (IND - JG, 30, 77.4 PFF), Tavierre Thomas (HOU, former Cardinal, 27, 72,2 PFF), Kristian Fulton (TEN -- MO, 25, 46.4 PFF) and Jeff Okudah (ATL/DET —- Dave Sears, 24, 50.5 PFF).

Adding a savvy veteran like Kenny Moore II who is always around the football would be a superb move.

Top Receivers in the 2024 NFL Draft:

  1. Marvin Harrison Jr., 6-4, 205, Ohio St. —- Mel’s #2
  2. Rome Adunze, 6-3, 215, Washington —- Mel’s #5
  3. Malik Nabers, 6-0, 200, LSU —- Mel’s #6
  4. Brock Bowers, 6-4, 240, Georgia —- Mel’s #7
  5. Keon Coleman, 6-4, 215, Florida St. —- Mel’s #13
  6. Brian Thomas, Jr., 6-4, 205, LSU —-Mel’s #17

Top 5 Offensive Tackles in the 2024 NFL Draft:

  1. Olu Fashanu, 6-6, 319, Penn. St. —- Mel’s #8
  2. Joe Alt, 6-8, 315, Notre Dame —- Mel’s #9
  3. Troy Fautanu, 6-4, 317, Washington —- Mel’s #15
  4. Taliese Fuaga, 6-6, 334, Oregon St. —- Mel’s #22
  5. JC Latham, 6-6, 360, Alabama —- Mel’s #24

Analysis:

With Paris Johnson saying this week that he will be training to be prepared to play left or right tackle, the Cardinals could decide to take one of the top 3 receivers with the first pick and take Fautanu (LT), Fuaga (RT) or Latham (RT).

Poll

Would staying put at #4 and being able to draft the combo of MHJ and JCL be the ideal scenario?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Yes
    (444 votes)
  • 7%
    No
    (36 votes)
  • 4%
    Other
    (23 votes)
503 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If MHJ is off the board, which of these trade down scenarios (where we took the top-rated OL and WR available) would you prefer?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Alt and Thomas
    (179 votes)
  • 49%
    Nabers and Latham
    (236 votes)
  • 13%
    Other
    (64 votes)
479 votes total Vote Now

Opinion:

As you know, there are players I try to identify each year as special fits for the Cardinals.

The past two years I advocated to address the slot CB position where I felt the Cardinals have been inherently weak for what seems to be decades.

Thus, in 2022, I was hoping for Trent McDuffie (Washington) and in 2023 I was all-in on Brian Branch. (Alabama).

This pass coverage chart suggested that McDuffie and Branch were strong choices:

Turns out that the Cardinals would not have been able to draft Trent McDuffie had they not traded the #22 pick to the Ravens for Hollywood Brown, because the Chiefs took McDuffie at #21. That would have been fine because the offensive player whom virtually all of us coveted was C Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, who was taken at pick #22.

Dang.

The fact that the Cardinals this past draft could have had Brian Branch at pick #41 in the 2nd round, even after trading down from pick #34, is frustrating. However, I am hoping that year two will bring out the best in OLB B.J. Ojulari and SCB Garrett Williams.

This year two of my most favorite “special fit” offensive players for the Cardinals are:

  • TE Brock Bowers, Georgia

Broock Bowers is perfectly suited for Drew Petzing’s offense.

Some fans will get hung up on the fact that Bowers is listed as a TE and they will say the Cardinals don't need a TE because we already have a budding star in Trey McBride.

Yet, just as fans were insisting a few years back when I was touting RB Christian McCaffrey as a “special fit” for the Cardinals, McCaffrey is way more than just a RB.

Brock Bowers is way more than just a TE.

In essence, Brock Bowers is the Christian McCaffrey of tight ends. He is a “Baby Gronk.”

Bowers is a special fit because Drew Petzing loves a TE-centric offense that features a heavy employment of 12 and 13 personnel. That means 2 and 3 TEs on the field at the same time.

Therefore, to have a TE-centric offense with Trey McBride on one side and Brock Bowers on the other would be a defensive coordinator’s insomnia-inducing conundrum.

Typically, linebackers and safeties are assigned to cover TEs. Imagine the mismatches the Cardinals could exploit with a 1-2 punch of McBride and Bowers. Imagine having to defend both McBride and Bowers in the red zone. Against linebackers and safeties? Fugggettabbouit!

Imagine too what Petzing could do with McBride and Bowers as a tandem in “twins.” Or running mesh crossers from opposite slots. Again, Fuggettabboutit!

Here’s the clincher, though:

The fact that Kyler Murray clicked so well with McBride at all the key TE “hot spots,” short, middle, intermediate, seam, red zone and corner, suggests to me that Kyler could get more consistent production out of “Baby Gronk” as he could from any receiver in the draft.

Picture Kyler hooking up with Brock Bowers on these routes:

In today’s NFL, Brock Bowers will be the ace up his coach’s sleeve. Like Gronk was.

The Cardinals are —- for the first time ever —- running a Patriots’ style of offense. There were good reasons why Bill Belichick stockpiled TEs and RBs. These are the ultimate chain movers in 12 and 13 personnel.

  • T Troy Fautanu, Washington

Of all of this year’s offensive tackle prospects, Troy Fautanu is, imo, the most “special fit” for the Cardinals’ wide zone blocking schemes where all five of the offensive linemen flow laterally, pull, hunt downfield and trap. Fautanu’s combination of athleticism and strength at the left tackle position is unique. “Troy be nimble; Troy be quick.” I have rarely seen an offensive tackle who can counter an edge rusher’s spin move with a spin move of his own. Great football players have great feet. Man, watch this young man’s feet in this video —- and watch the way he leverages with power.

There are some coaches who prefer more athletic offensive linemen over long-armed behemoths, especially for coaches who love to put their linemen in motion in a diverse set of ways. Troy Fautanu can match an edge rusher’s feet and athleticism with those of his own —-and in the running game —- he will track defenders down and drive them like a one-man sled or flip them like pancakes.

Therefore, if Marvin Harrison Jr. is off the board when the Cardinals pick, I hope like mad that the Cardinals trade down a couple spots for a nice little haul and still be in a position to take Broock Bowers with their first pick —- and I hope that Troy Fautanu will be the Cardinals’ second first rounder.

Poll

In a trade down scenario for the Cardinals which combo would you prefer

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Alt and Thomas
    (36 votes)
  • 19%
    Nabers and Latham
    (66 votes)
  • 49%
    Bowers and Fautanu
    (171 votes)
  • 4%
    Olu and Coleman
    (17 votes)
  • 13%
    Odunze and Fuaga
    (47 votes)
  • 2%
    Other
    (8 votes)
345 votes total Vote Now

My Five: (UFA DT, ED, CB and 1st Round Draft Picks)

  • DT Grover Stewart
  • ED Chase Young
  • CB Kenny Moore II
  • TE Brock Bowers
  • T Troy Fautanu

Your Five?