Ladies and gentlemen, mock draft season is only beginning for the Arizona Cardinals, who got beat down by a score of 34-11 against the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card round.
It’s only been three days since the Cardinals playoff loss, but that won’t stop analysts from deciding what the team will do in the 2022 NFL draft.
ALL the latest Cardinals news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cardinals newsletter here!
Nearly 30 players will be unrestricted free agents in Arizona heading into the offseason. That’s including 2021 Pro Bowlers Chandler Jones and James Conner, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Zach Ertz and Chase Edmonds.
The Cardinals will need contributions in the next draft class, especially in the first round. It wasn’t apparent from 2021 rookie linebacker Zaven Collins.
Two analysts have the same idea as to what direction the Cardinals should go with the 23rd overall pick.
Cards Grab Playmaker
During Cardinals general manager Steve Keim’s tenure, the team hasn’t drafted a wide receiver in the first round.
Keim has drafted a handful of wide receivers in the second round – among them is free-agent Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore and Andy Isabella. But Isabella hasn’t panned out, who of course was taken shortly before Seahawks Pro Bowler DK Metcalf.
Fast forward to the 2022 draft, there are key decisions that need to be addressed on offense, especially with upcoming free-agents Kirk and Green.
It was an ugly showing from the Arizona Cardinals’ offense against the Los Angeles Rams to close out Super Wild Card Weekend. With both A.J. Green and Christian Kirk being potential free agents, if general manager Steve Keim doesn’t address the WR spot early, he’ll make things harder on quarterback Kyler Murray.
Jameson Williams was a former teammate of the pick prior but flourished with Alabama in 2021. The question surrounding him will be the torn ACL he suffered in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship. If he can come back 100%, he’ll be an immediate weapon in the Cardinals’ offense.
Williams’ torn ACL sinks him outside the top 20, but the Cardinals can’t pass on him given the state of their receiver group heading into the 2022 season.
Williams was slated to be a near top 10 pick in this year’s class but suffered a brutal ACL injury in the National Championship game against Georgia. Teams could be hesitant to pick a player that is recovering from such a gruesome injury.
But before the injury, Williams was regarded as one of the most explosive players in college football and was one of the best players in the nation at YAC (yards-after-catch). The 6-foot-2, 189-pound receiver had 75 receptions for 1,507 yards (5th in college football) and 15 touchdowns (3rd in college football). Williams was also the college football leader in touchdown receptions of 40 yards or longer with nine.
CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso also agreed with Olson, saying, “Williams’ torn ACL sinks him outside the top 20, but the Cardinals can’t pass on him given the state of their receiver group heading into the 2022 season.”
Chris Olave and Drake London are also wide receivers in a similar draft range, but Williams’ ceiling is far too great to pass up.
Logic in Drafting a First Round Receiver
Christian Kirk and A.J. Green are impending free agents. It took awhile, but Kirk finally showed the qualities of a reliable pass-catcher, grabbing 77 receptions. With Kirk’s play comes the cost of production. His calculated market value is $12.4 million per season on a four-year deal worth $49 million, according to Spotrac. Green signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal in 2021 and would likely cost around the same range after his productive season.
Keim could choose between signing Green or Kirk. Or perhaps, neither.
Money is limited ($16 million in cap space) and adding a rookie contract at wideout could be the answer. The Bengals have worked their magic in the draft at wide receiver, adding Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins in consecutive drafts. Joe Burrow has since thrived in his second year, throwing 34 touchdowns and a 108.3 passer rating.
Getting Kyler Murray a young weapon to pair with receivers DeAndre Hopkins and second-year Rondale Moore could pay dividends towards making the offense explosive like it was in the first half of the 2021 season.
The team probably shouldn’t stop if they were to add Williams or another wide receiver in the first round, as the team needs to replace 195 targets from Kirk and Green.