The Arizona Cardinals looked to fill in the missing pieces of their roster on April 29 at the NFL Draft. With great off-season acquisitions, they look to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender this upcoming season.
The 2021 NFL Draft recently took place in Cleveland, Ohio. It began on Thursday, April 29, and ended on Saturday, May 1. This was a highly anticipated draft for a few teams, but not the Arizona Cardinals.
After acquisitions of big-time players such as Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins in the last couple of years, things have been trending upward for the Cardinals. This past off-season, the team addressed a few of its major concerns in big ways.
Before the draft, the Cardinals lost key players in Patrick Peterson, Haason Reddick and Kenyan Drake to free agency. But they were also able to reload in a big way. Most notably with the signing of former defensive player of the year J.J. Watt. The pairing of Watt with Chandler Jones makes the Cardinals one of the league's scariest pass rush duos. The Cardinals were also able to sign running back James Conner to provide the offense with some power running.
They also added Malcolm Butler to aid their sub-par secondary and signed A.J. Green to boost one of the league's best wide receiving corps.
Of these great signings, their most important were in center Rodney Hudson and right guard Brian Winters. The Cardinals have had a notoriously bad offensive line in recent years. With these additions, franchise quarterback Kyler Murray will now have the protection he needs to have his best season yet.
With seven picks in this draft, the few gaps still in the roster were able to be tackled.
Round 1, No. 16: Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
Round 2, No. 49: Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
Round 4, No. 136 (From Kansas City, through Baltimore): Marco Wilson (CB, Florida)
Round 6, No. 210 (From Baltimore): Victor Dimukeje (DE, Duke)
Round 6, No. 223: Tay Gowan (CB, UCF)
Round 7, No. 243: James Wiggins (S, Cincinnati)
Round 7, No. 247: Michal Menet (C, Penn State)
The strategy for these seven picks was clear: defense. Not only did the Cardinals bolster their secondary with Wilson, Gowan and Wiggins, but they also strengthened their front seven with Collins and Dimukeje.
Collins was arguably their best pick. For his outstanding play in the 2020 season, Collins was presented with the Chuck Bednarik Award for best defensive player, Bronko Nagurski award for best defensive player of the year and Lombardi award for performance, leadership, character and resilience. With Collins and the rest of the new acquisitions grouped with Watt, Jones and safety Budda Baker, the Cardinals defense should be a much stronger group.
Perhaps the most interesting selection was that of Moore in round two. The Cardinals already have a great receiving core headlined by one of the league’s best in Hopkins. Adding Moore is going to be a dream come true for head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Moore was one of college football’s most explosive offensive players and was a top receiver on every team's board. It is already a struggle for opposing secondaries to contain Hopkins and deep threat Christian Kirk. Now they will have to also worry about Green and Moore.
Not to mention the fact that Kyler Murray is one of the most electric quarterbacks in the NFL. With his dual-threat ability and a new offensive line, don’t be surprised if Murray puts up MVP caliber numbers.
Overall, I grade the Cardinals’ draft an A-/B+. They addressed all major needs and selected players that can contribute in their scheme. I give their off-season as a whole a solid A. The Cardinals have an opportunity to not only win the NFC West but make a deep postseason run as well.
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