The Arizona Cardinals still have quarterback Cheap Kyler Murray Jersey under his rookie contract, and must be in win-now mode as they seek roster upgrades in the 2021 NFL Draft.
With the 16th overall pick, Arizona is in decent position in Round 1 to land an instant-impact contributor, and could even enhance some key positions with its next couple of selections on Day 2.
Let’s take a look at where the Cardinals’ top draft picks fall, and break down some ideal prospects for them to target as they attempt to keep up in the hyper-aggressive, super-competitive NFC West division.
Related: 2021 NFL mock draft – Blockbuster quarterback trades shake up 2021 NFL Draft.
Arizona Cardinals draft picks: Best prospects to target in three-round mock
First round, 16th pick: Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina), Gregory Rousseau (EDGE, Miami), Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL, USC)
Arizona Cardinals draft picks: Best prospects to target in Round 1
Oct 12, 2019; Athens, GA, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Israel Mukuamu (24) reacts with defensive back Jaycee Horn (1) after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Many mock drafts have Horn going to the Cardinals, and it makes a lot of sense — especially after word has surfaced that long-tenured franchise cornerstone Cheap Patrick Peterson Jersey is bound to be gone this offseason in free agency. Peterson denies he’s made his decision, yet even if he stays, it’s still worth the investment in the future of this important position group.
In addition to being the son of former New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn is a phenomenal player in his own right. He no doubt understands the main tenets of being an NFL player, but his play can stand on its own and speak for itself. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Gamecocks star played in the SEC and didn’t have it at all easy week in and week out. Nevertheless, he remained tough, competitive and took each opponent’s best shot even as the program around him suffered from subpar play.
Per Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks completed only 33% of 24 passes thrown Horn’s way in 2020 for 116 yards. He picked two of them off, and also recorded six pass breakups in seven games.
As obvious of a fit as Horn is, there are other mock simulations where he was off the board, which would force Arizona to think differently. Rousseau is a fascinating target to pursue, considering he can rush from the inside and also function well on the edge. He had 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks in 2019, which is the type of one-year wonder stuff dream prospects are made on.
Alijah Vera-Tucker is almost certain to be available at this juncture, and he could really help the Cardinals up front. As we’ll see in the next section, though, there could be an even better personnel fit later in the draft for the team, and he’d definitely be a third resort if both Horn and Rousseau are waiting at No. 16.
Related: NFL QB rankings – Tom Brady soars after Super Bowl LV, Joe Burrow eyes huge Year 2 leap.
Second round, 49th pick: Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma), Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina), Trey Smith (OL, Tennessee)
Arizona Cardinals draft picks: Best prospects to target in Round 2
Jan 30, 2021; Mobile, AL, USA; National offensive lineman Creed Humphrey of Oklahoma (56) looks for a block in the second half of the 2021 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
Cheap Mason Cole Jersey was Pro Football Focus’ 31st-ranked center in 2020 and could justifiably be released this offseason despite his very modest salary cap hit, since he’s just not been able to cut it at the center position. There’s a really good chance Oklahoma’s Humphrey is still available, at which point the Cardinals should run to the possibly virtual podium and turn in the card with his name on it.
Humphrey was actually teammates with Murray as a Sooner for a short time, so he’s familiar with Arizona’s signal-caller, which makes his unusual left-handedness not as much of a deterrent for the Cardinals to draft him as opposed to many other teams. The fact that Humphrey was also in a spread Oklahoma offense and Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury uses a similar Air Raid system to accentuate Murray’s strengths in the NFL also makes him an ideal fit.
Other prospects to consider here are an additional playmaker in the backfield in Williams and a bulkier presence in the offensive trenches in Smith. Either one would be great for Murray, because Williams is a powerful, contact-embracing tailback who scored 19 touchdowns on 157 carries last season. He’d take a burden off Murray to run the ball in the red zone.
As for Smith, he’s a mauling, massive guard who’s surprisingly quick for his size. The interior of the offensive line should be addressed in Arizona either way within either the first two rounds of the draft or via a marquee free agent. Smith is a great choice if Humphrey and Williams already have their names called by this point.
Related: We‘ve already got our 2022 Super Bowl pick, along with next year’s NFL playoff teams.
Third round, 79th pick: Demetric Felton (RB/WR, UCLA), Michael Carter (RB, North Carolina), Benjamin St-Juste (CB, Minnesota)
Arizona Cardinals draft picks: Best prospects to target in Round 3
Oct 31, 2020; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Michael Carter (8) carries the ball as Virginia Cavaliers defensive back Antonio Clary (14) chases in the first quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Not long ago, Arizona was considered to have the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, at least on paper. With Cheap Larry Fitzgerald Jersey closing in on retirement, Cheap Christian Kirk Jersey entering a contract year, Cheap Andy Isabella Jersey proving to be a draft bust thus far and Cheap DeAndre Hopkins Jersey being the only go-to option, there’s a need for the Cardinals to explore ways to acquire superior skill players.
If Arizona doesn’t go with Williams in Round 2, it’s possible to get another Tar Heels ball-carrier in Carter, who’s not as big but is a hard-nosed runner who’s more explosive in the open field and averaged a ridiculous eight yards per carry this past year. Carter can also catch out of the backfield, which suits Murray’s penchant for getting the ball out fast in the quick screen game
Felton is an interesting case and perhaps a better fit in that regard, though. The UCLA product actually played in the slot as a receiver during his time with the Bruins, but then moved to the backfield. During his last two seasons in 18 games, Felton had 999 yards rushing and six touchdowns to go with 77 catches, 753 yards and seven more scores. That type of versatility and all-around production is uncommon in most draft prospects.
Since he doesn’t have a clear-cut position, Felton could be the new version of Antonio Gibson, who fell to the third round of last year’s draft before bursting onto the scene as one of the NFL’s best rookies for the Washington Football Team.
St-Juste is the classic toolsy prospect who has excellent length at 6-foot-3 and can break on the ball really well. He’s just a little raw, but if the Cardinals can mold him in the right way, they may be able to really enhance their secondary in the wake of Peterson’s departure by selecting two corners within the first three rounds.