NFL Draft 21: Tom’s Fave Five Possible Cardinals

Armed with the 16th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals could go several ways with the pick. But who are my “Fave Five” when it comes to options? Read on to find out.

Welcome to the 2021 Edition of Tom’s Fave Five for the Arizona Cardinals – where five isn’t necessarily the number of prospects highlighted, there are usually many more but who even cares? Who even reads this? Exactly.

The Arizona Cardinals have been busy in the pre-Draft Free Agency period, filling many needs and allowing a certain degree of freedom when it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft and who they choose to add to the Birdgang in their quest to get the franchise its first-ever Lombardi Trophy under Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray and company.

16 is such a strange place to make a selection though – chances are the real elite talents are long gone by this pick and then you’re left scratching your head about which second-tier talents would fit the organisation and be able to contribute as rookies in the National Football League.

Nevertheless, though, the Arizona Cardinals could opt to trade up or they could be tempted to trade down in the opening round of 32 selections on Thursday night. In fact, some of my ‘favourite five’ selections will more than likely require the franchise to move up the draft board to secure them ahead of their rivals. Some more costly than others but, when you’re going “all in” over this year and the next, perhaps selling the farm and adding future selections to ensure a quality addition is a price worth paying?

So, without further ado, I guess I should get on with revealing the players who I would be extremely happy to be added to the Arizona Cardinals roster in the next couple of days.

1. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

KEY STATS – 6’6”, 245lbs. 
4.44 40-yard dash at Florida Pro Day
2020 – 43 catches, 770 yards, 12 Touchdowns.

It goes without saying that I rate Kyle Pitts exceptionally highly in the 2021 NFL Draft class, challenging LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for the top non-Quarterback prospect.

But I’m clearly not alone in that stance. Many Internet Draft Scouts are of the same thinking and Pitts has been a mainstay in the upper echelons of the first round for the longest time. But, the closer we get to the NFL Draft, there are glimmers of hope that he may become an option for the Arizona Cardinals.

NFL Network personality Peter Schrager’s previous mock draft had the Cardinals trading up to get Pitts with the 7th overall selection after parting with their 2022 1st round selection and other additional picks.

Should he make it past Atlanta/Cincinnatti/Miami – which, given ATL could be in the QB market themselves, may see them pass on Pitts in favour of a long-term signal-caller or give up the selection for a king’s ransom from another QB-needy selection?
– Cincinnati could protect Joe Burrow…or they could pair him back with his LSU star, Ja’Marr Chase and sod to protecting their franchise QB with the top OT prospect?
– Miami has already moved down and up the draft board, settling for 6th overall. Which is apparently earmarked for “an Alabama WR”. They also have the impressive Mike Gesicki, so perhaps Pitts is an afterthought for them as well.

So, if Pitts is available at 7 then could the Cardinals and Detroit Lions agree and make Pitts the Arizona Cardinals’ best Tight End since…well…ever?

Although, after typing all this out, there isn’t that much of a chance that teams pass on an elite talent like Pitts. So perhaps it’s best we just get the disappointment of him being elsewhere out of the way early. 

At least there are others on this list who are perhaps more…realistic? But if Steve Keim wants to receive a welcome boost in his approval ratings, trading up to secure the Florida TE might go some way towards doing exactly that.

2. DeVonta Smith/Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Sidenote – were Ja’Marr Chase a legitimate option for the Cardinals, then he’d be amongst this group. Probably on his own, ahead of this pair. I love me some Chase but there’s no chance he gets by Cincinnatti. And if he doesn’t then they need their heads checking. But I’m not including him in the “five” because I’m already taking the piss as it is with (however many prospects this list ends up including…but, hey, throw enough shit and eventually some will stick.)

If the Cardinals are unable to secure Kyle Pitts then, at least in my books, being able to add either of the two Alabama wideouts to their growing offensive arsenal would not be a bad consolation prize.

In one corner, you have the undersized Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith who made spectacular grabs look routine throughout his final season with the College Football powerhouse and in the other, you have the speedster Jaylen Waddle who has attracted comparisons to a certain Tyreek Hill. And, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want their own Tyreek Hill on their offence?

Covering Smith first, there are legitimate concerns regarding his stature heading into the NFL Draft – weighing in at below 180lbs and standing at just 0.2 inches above 6 foot, there are many wondering if a body that small can handle the rigours of big boy football? 

However, switch on the highlights of DeVonta Smith’s career in Alabama and, whether he had Tua Tagovailoa or Mac Jones throwing him the ball, the diminutive receiver made play after play after play – making many an NFL-calibre defensive back look silly in the process. Whether that continued in the big leagues is an open question but as is the case with all prospects, why would Smith be different just because he’s smaller than most?

Given the offence that Kliff Kingsbury runs in the desert, the addition of Smith to a group of DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella, would give Kyler Murray yet another solid weapon to utilise. 

The same could also be said for Jaylen Waddle should he be the pick for the Arizona Cardinals. Like Smith, his career in Alabama featured a vast amount of highlight-reel plays where his speed left even the quickest defenders trailing in his wake.

Although Waddle wasn’t able to clock a 40-yard dash time during his Pro Day, onfield footage of him leaving 4.28 cornerback Eric Stokes for dust is solid enough evidence of his speed. Coupled with a video of him in a photo-finish with former team-mate Henry Ruggs III (4.27 at last year’s NFL Combine), the speed is there to see and could add something to the Cardinals offence that nobody else has been able to. Not to name any names but Andy Isabella, we’re looking in your direction…

Unlike Smith, Jaylen Waddle adds another string to his bow in the fact that he is an excellent kick returner – something that the Arizona Cardinals have not had since Patrick Peterson’s rookie year. (a long time ago.)

Whichever of the pair the Arizona Cardinals select at 16, should that be the case, the franchise will add someone who could hopefully fill the long-term WR2 void behind superstar DeAndre Hopkins and give Kyler Murray another legit weapon to allow him to take the next step towards superstardom himself.

But maybe the Wide Receivers will be gone by 16? If that is the case, what could the Arizona Cardinals do with this selection instead?

3. Jaycee Horn/Caleb Farley, Cornerbacks, South Carolina/Virginia Tech

SIGH, ANOTHER SIDENOTE – Like Chase above, Patrick Surtain II is easily the top Cornerback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft but has forever remained out of reach for Arizona (outside of trading up) so he is not included here. But he would be if I wanted to make this list a bit more unrealistic. Alas, other cornerbacks could satiate my desire for a defensive back at 16…

Ah, Cornerback, I’ve been expecting you.

Ever since Patrick Peterson ended his tenure with the Cardinals, opting to sign with the Minnesota Vikings for a year, the Cornerback position has been under an intense spotlight. The big-name Free Agents signed elsewhere for much more money (although let’s be honest, the pickings at the position were slim at best) and only Malcolm Butler signed on a one-year deal that acts as a stop-gap solution but perhaps not much more. 

Cornerback is a tough position to upgrade in FA as it is – when teams have the ‘elite’ or even the ‘adequate quality’-types, they’re not exactly going to hit the open market without good reason (declining play is one such, but why would you pay for that…oh, wait, that’s what Minnesota did. Never mind.)

So, with that in mind, the Arizona Cardinals could look to strike it lucky in the NFL Draft at the Cornerback position. Byron Murphy improved in his second year, but might not be a CB1-level player so that void remains…and that could be where either of these two could end up.

Jaycee Horn might have been the most mocked-to-Arizona prospect the entirety of the NFL Draft process and, though his Pro Day performances may have boosted his stock to move him slightly out of their grasp at 16, he remains one of my Fave Five selections in the faint hope he does end up here as he did in the People’s Mock Draft which I took part in. 

Whilst Horn might not be available, there is an increasing chance that Caleb Farley is on the board and ready for the Arizona Cardinals to add to their flock. But, of course, there are certain caveats when it comes to a guy of his ability and stature being available…and they’re not good ones.

Sure he has the size and ability to potentially become a CB1 in the NFL, but he has a growing injury list – that includes a torn ACL a couple of years ago alongside recent back surgery that, although should be cleared for action in the summer for off-season activities, may require further procedures down the line.

If the Cardinals medical people are happy with what they saw in Indianapolis and don’t buy the bullshit that Benjamin Allbright puts out, then they could do a lot worse than picking up Caleb Farley with the 16th overall selection. 

And, heck, if his career is ruined before it has even started then…well… *shrugs*

4. Travis Etienne, Running Back, Clemson

Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. You don’t take a Running Back in the first round. Especially not at 16. But, I don’t care. I’m not the one actually making the selection for the Cardinals. However, I am the one writing about my favourite possible selections for the Arizona Cardinals and Travis Etienne is definitely one of them. Hence his inclusion on his list.

So, why a running back? Why not a running back? The Cardinals might have Chase Edmonds already on the roster and they might have also added James Conner (not Connor) in Free Agency but the latter is not a long-term option and the former works better in conjunction with another back.

Etienne has the speed to be a difference-maker and, having bulked up to 215lbs, now has the size to handle a much bigger load in the NFL. In theory anyway.

It’s fair to say that I am a bit biased towards Etienne though. He’s been one of my favourite RBs to watch in college football over the last couple of years. 

If he’s the pick at 16 (or lower if they can trade down) then the transformation towards the Clemson Cardinals moves one step closer.

5. A N Other Prospect

Kind of cheating here but, should the Cardinals pass on/are unable to draft all of the guys I have mentioned beforehand then there aren’t too many players I would be disappointed in drafting.

For one, I’m not keen on adding an Offensive LIneman because I believe we have enough under a contract that will provide Kyler Murray with adequate protection. Anything more would be overkill. Or wasted on the bench because they simply wouldn’t play in Year 1. Not ideal if you’re going “ALL IN” and your first-round selection isn’t doing a thing.

The same could be said for an EDGE guy. Sure, it makes a bit of sense with Chandler Jones getting on in years whilst also being in a contract year and Markus Golden is also on the older side now. Where would the new guy fit in in 2021? Maybe on pass downs, he’d be in as a disruptor, but surely you want more from the 16th overall selection? 

Defensive lineman might not be a sexy selection but the addition of JJ Watt in the offseason should fill that need, as well as overshadow someone like Christian Barmore if he was the selection at 16. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing…but not exactly an exciting selection. And I want to be excited, damn it!

So, in short, my Fave Five is something along the lines of…
1- Kyle Pitts (or Ja’Marr Chase, if sticking the unrealistic together)
2- DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle (or Chase if this is the WRs)
3- Jaycee Horn or Caleb Farley (or Patrick Surtain) 
4- Travis Etienne
5- A non-OLineman/Pass Rusher.

But with all that being said, I will be happy with any selection that contributes from Week 1 of their rookie season and performs to the highest of their ability, earning themselves “Rookie of the Year” honours aplenty for their escapades.

It’s not asking for much, right?

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