Trading a first-round draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens for Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown wasn’t the only move the Arizona Cardinals made to put more weapons around Kyler Murray this offseason.
The team also used its top pick to give the franchise quarterback a new tight end. Trey McBride came off the board in the second round, 55th overall.
He’s joined an already loaded position group, one reason why one website named drafting McBride was the worst decision the Cardinals made this offseason.
ALL the latest Cardinals news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cardinals newsletter here!
McBride Pick Panned
A list put together by The 33rd Team, dubbed McBride the “biggest mistake” the Cards have made this offseason: “The Cardinals were active on the first night of the draft as they traded their pick for Hollywood Brown, which was important to both add another weapon and please their young QB. However, they still had holes in their roster, especially at CB, but elected to pick TE Trey McBride with their first pick at pick 55. While McBride is a talented player, the selection made little sense after extending Zach Ertz and also having Maxx Williams on the roster.”
It’s a solid argument, especially since general manager Steve Keim went to the trouble of giving Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams new deals during free agency. Both are experienced and productive, with Ertz emerging as a key target for Murray late last season.
In 11 games following his trade from the Philadelphia Eagles, Ertz caught 56 passes for 574 yards and three touchdowns. One of those scoring grabs came on Ertz’s debut in a Cardinals uniform against the Houston Texans in Week 7.
Ertz caught a 47-yarder from Murray as part of a 31-5 victory:
The play proved Ertz can still stretch the field, but his dynamism as a pass-catcher can’t cover up obvious weaknesses elsewhere on the Cardinals’ roster. Those weaknesses include a cornerback group lacking an established veteran and instead relying on developing players like Byron Murphy Jr., Marco Wilson, Breon Borders and rookies Darrell Baker Jr. and Christian Matthew.
Corners like Murphy and Wilson headline a secondary vulnerable enough to allow 30 touchdowns through the air last season. The secondary needs more help from the pass rush, but those up front may struggle to pick up the slack without franchise sack leader Chandler Jones, who joined the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency.
Keim has yet to acquire a proven replacement, so the burden of making life difficult for quarterbacks will fall to veterans J.J. Watt and Markus Golden. They will hope for immediate contributions from third-round picks Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders.
While Arizona’s defense still looks suspect, there are gaps on offense. Particularly with go-to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins set to serve a six-game suspension for PED violations.
McBride plays a different position, but he can help fill the void by giving the Cardinals more opportunities to deploy a personnel package one analyst believes will be highly effective this season.
McBride Has Vital Role to Play
While tight end wasn’t an obvious area for the Cardinals to address at the top of their draft class, nobody should overlook McBride’s prolific career at Colorado State. He earned the Mackey Award as the top tight end in the nation last season, after he made 90 catches for 1,121 yards for the Rams.
McBride became a prodigious weapon in the FBS, per PFF College:
There’s no doubt McBride is a player with skills Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury can use. NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell believes Kingsbury will put 12 personnel, two tight ends and one running back, on the field often in 2022.
Speaking on an edition of Ross Tucker’s Football Podcast, Cosell named McBride “the best tight end prospect in the draft” and noted how the Cardinals could play “35, 40 percent 12 personnel” with McBride and Ertz in the lineup:
Having McBride and Ertz on the field at the same time would tie up underneath coverage and give A.J. Green more vertical opportunities on the outside. Those opportunities are usually the purview of Hopkins, but 33-year-old Green proved at times last season he can still take the top off of a defense.
Green’s best moment in a Cardinals jersey came against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, when the veteran wideout burned Trevon Diggs for a 42-yard gain:
Green can still work vertically, but Brown is also a burner who is coming off a career year after he made 91 receptions for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns for the Ravens.
Drafting McBride ahead of an edge-rusher or a cover man may be an ill-judged move to some, but it can also be the first step toward the Cardinals attacking defenses in more subtle ways this season.