A.J. Green is back in the fold, but that shouldn’t stop the Arizona Cardinals from targeting a wide receiver in the 2022 NFL draft. There are plenty of proficient pass-catchers to choose from a class rich in talent at the position.
The Cardinals may miss the chance to select one of the leading names when the team isn’t picking until 23rd in the first round. Fortunately, a talented wideout could still be on the board by then. This rookie has been compared to Tyler Lockett of the Cards’ NFC West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
What’s more, the Cardinals are credited with “genuine” interest in this receiver, who is considered “tailor-made” to play in the slot at the pro level. That would make him an ideal replacement for Christian Kirk, who found a new home with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency.
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Cardinals Keen on Penn State Ace
The 23rd-overall pick might be too late for the Cardinals to take Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave or Drake London. They are considered the marquee prospects in this receiver group, but there’s value to be had further into a deep talent pool.
Penn State’s Jahan Dotson qualifies as one of the next best, and the Cardinals are already taking an interest, according to beat reporter Johnny Venerable:
He doesn’t have the fanfare of other prospects, but Dotson was hugely productive for the Nittany Lions. His final season on campus saw Dotson make 91 catches for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns, per ESPN.
What sets Dotson apart is his safe hands and ability to gain yards in clutch situations. ESPN noted how he averaged 6.6 yards per reception on 3rd-and-3 to 7, proof Dotson is a consistent chain-mover.
He’s also a wideout who can be trusted to snag the ball and hold on whenever it comes his way. Only one receiver in the Big Ten was more sure-handed than Dotson the last three years, according to PFF Draft:
Dotson’s reliability and talent for dominating the sticks makes him perfect for the slot in any offense. Those qualities also explain the comparison to Lockett, the kind of inside speedster the Cardinals lack after Kirk left town.
Lockett Comparisons Should Appeal to Cardinals
It was Bleacher Report’s Nate Tice who named Lockett as Dotson’s best pro comparison. Both receivers are similar in size, with Lockett tipping the scales at 5’10”, 182 pounds, next to 5’11”, 184-pounder Dotson.
Lockett is undersized, but he’s consistently won from the inside during his pro career. Winning doesn’t just mean making short-range grabs over the middle. Lockett has also established a niche as a vertical threat from the slot.
The Cardinals know all about Lockett, who has caught six touchdowns in his last four games against them, per StatMuse. Lockett showcased his flair for stretching the field when he caught a 47-yard touchdown from the slot against the Cards in Week 7 of the 2020 season:
Dotson would offer similar big-play potential. Tice described how Dotson “can consistently create yards after the catch on short and intermediate routes because of his very good lateral quickness and balance. Has the long speed to take the top off defenses on post and go routes.”
Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury has wanted field-stretchers from the slot since he took over. That’s what he turned Kirk into last season, and it’s also why the franchise used a second-round pick to draft Andy Isabella in 2019.
Isabella has been a disappointment and was even given permission to seek a trade this offseason. Dotson would surely fare better as a replacement for Kirk at a position Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner says the rookie is ideally suited to play:
Outside positions in Kingsbury’s passing game are set with DeAndre Hopkins and Green. The latter recently returned to the team on a one-year deal, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, but needs to produce more in his second year.
A Green and Hopkins double act should ensure the Cardinals are prolific on the perimeter, with Rondale Moore acting as a versatile weapon in both phases of the offense. The only spot left to fill is the slot, where Dotson would surely make a fast start to life in Arizona.