Monday, October 2 2023

The Arizona Cardinals already have a franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray. That’s why, holding the No. 3 overall pick, new general manager Monti Ossenfort says he’s open for business should another team want to move up the draft board to select one of the top QB prospects.

“I’m open to hearing any conversation about anybody that’s willing to come up,” Ossenfort said during the NFL Combine last month. “With the No. 3 pick, it’s an opportunity to add a player. It’s an opportunity to potentially get some calls on that pick and ultimately, we’ll make the best decision for us at the time.”

If the Cardinals choose to stick at No. 3 and make the pick, it likely will be a defensive player to help new head coach Jonathan Gannon, the former defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. However, after finishing in the NFC West cellar at 4-13 last season, the Cardinals need talent upgrades all over the roster.

And Arizona still must resolve veteran receiver DeAndre Hopkins‘ status with the team. The Cardinals are still reportedly attempting to trade Hopkins, who has two years left on his contract — $19.45 million in base salary scheduled for 2023 and $14.9 million in 2024 — but so far have no takers.

Gannon said he’s moving forward as if Hopkins, who has requested a trade, will be on the roster for the upcoming season. 

“Right now, I’m operating under the premise that Hop is our starting X [receiver] and people are going to have to defend him,” Gannon said at last week’s NFL owners meetings. “That’s probably a better question for Monti, but he’s been great, and I’m looking forward to getting to work with him.”

Whether Hopkins stays or goes, the Cardinals have eight picks heading into this year’s draft, so let’s look at a seven-round mock draft for Arizona. 


Round 1, Pick 3: Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama

The Cardinals finished with 36 sacks last year while Gannon’s Eagles led the NFL with 70, so Arizona’s new head coach has a lot of work to do.

Grabbing Anderson at No. 3 is a good start to building a formidable pass rush. With 34.5 sacks and 58.5 tackles for loss in three seasons for the Crimson Tide, Anderson would give the Cardinals a polished pass rusher to create havoc in the NFC West.

Arizona needs to replace the production lost with the retirement of J.J. Watt, the team’s leading pass rusher in 2022, along with fellow defensive lineman Zach Allen joining former Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph with the Denver Broncos in free agency. 

Joel Klatt’s top 50 players in 2023 NFL Draft

Joel Klatt ranks his top 50 players in the draft, including Will Anderson Jr. and Bryce Young from Alabama, C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio State and Hendon Hooker from Tennessee.

Round 2, Pick 34: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

The Cardinals averaged just 110 rushing yards a contest last season, No. 22 in the NFL. Further, Arizona had just nine rushes of 20-plus yards. 

The addition of Gibbs would provide some explosiveness out of the backfield to go with hard runner James Conner. Gibbs also is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and would give Kyler Murray another talented playmaker who could create big plays in space.

Gibbs ran a sizzling 4.36 40 at the combine. He finished with 1,370 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns for the Crimson Tide last season. 

Round 3, Pick 66: Steve Avila, OL, TCU

The Cardinals need more consistent play at center to anchor the offensive line. The 6-foot-3, 322-pound Avila offers versatility, with the ability to play both guard positions and center.

Arizona played 10 different offensive line combinations last season and gave up 46 sacks, No. 24 in the NFL. The Cardinals could use a young, talented addition like Avila up front. 

Round 3, Pick 96: Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU

It all starts up front in the middle of the defense for Gannon, and the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Roy is a big body who can eat up blocks in the running game. He finished with 49 combined tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss, in 13 games for LSU last season. 

Round 4, Pick 105: DJ Turner II, CB, Michigan

The Cardinals need help at cornerback with Byron Murphy Jr. leaving in free agency. Turner totaled 36 combined tackles, an interception and 10 pass breakups in his final season for the Wolverines. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound corner ran a 4.26 40 at the combine. 

Round 5, Pick 168: Max Duggan, QB, TCU

While he needs to improve on his accuracy and decision-making, Duggan is an athletic quarterback who could serve as developmental prospect behind Murray.  The runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, Duggan finished with 4,121 total yards and 41 touchdowns last season. 

Round 6, Pick 180: Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State

A big-bodied receiver at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Hutchinson was highly productive for the Cyclones. He finished with 107 receptions for 1,171 receiving yards and six scores in 2022, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. 

Round 6, Pick 213: BJ Thompson, DE, Stephen F. Austin

At 6-foot-6 and 240, Thompson is a long, rangy pass rusher who will need development to produce in the NFL. Thompson recorded five sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 starts last season. 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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