Who should Arizona take with the 16th pick?
By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)
The Arizona Cardinals have the 16th pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. There are plenty of players that would help the Cardinals take the next step and make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Last season the Cardinals went 8 – 8. They were led by quarterback Kyler Murray, who along with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and safety Budda Baker, were named to the Pro Bowl. Additionally, they got solid output from running back Chase Edmonds and linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
Of course, we are looking only at players that would conceivably be available at the 16th pick. We aren’t going to suggest that Trevor Lawrence is an upgrade from Kyler Murray and that Lawrence will be drafted at #16.
One other point, the Cardinals only have five draft picks so it would not be surprising to see them trade back to get an extra pick or two. With all five of these players, their range to be drafted is around 15 – 28, which would allow the Cardinals to move back a little and still get one of these players.
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Cardinals need help at cornerback as cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Johnathan Joseph are all free agents. Even if all three were not free agents, stocking up on cornerbacks is an important thing to do on a yearly basis.
Jaycee Horn, son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, has the skills to excel as a press-man cornerback. He is a physical corner with great instincts and excellent playing speed. He is climbing up draft boards across the league.
In his three years in college, Horn had two interceptions (both in 2020) and 23 passes defended. In seven games in 2020 he only allowed eight catches on 24 targets for 116 yards.
One of the most important things about Horn is that he started as a true freshman and showed improvement during his sophomore year. His ability to show improvement is something that many teams will like as it shows good work ethic. While some players only rely on their natural skills, Horn put in the work to improve.
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
One of the most important things the Cardinals need to do is protect Kyler Murray and put him in the best possible situation to succeed. Drafting Alijah Vera-Tucker would take that idea very literally. Vera-Tucker has played both at guard and tackle in his college career.
His strength and balance is on display in pass protection. Additionally, he has excellent awareness and when he does get beat, he recovers quickly. As a run blocker he takes excellent angles on defenders and is often in a good spot.
He was a three-year starter for USC with very good technique. He gets to the second level quickly and still has room to grow athletically. He has drawn comparisons to current Kansas City Chiefs lineman Kelechi Osemele, who has been a good player since being drafted in 2012 by the Baltimore Ravens.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The NFL is becoming a position-less league filled with athletic players who can do multiple things. Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fits that bill to a tee. He can play as the Will Linebacker, safety or slot corner.
The Cardinals picked a player like this last season in Isaiah Simmons. Teaming up Simmons and Owusu-Koramoah will allow defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to design remarkable plays where he can let the players do what they do best.
In his two years of playing at Notre Dame, Owusu-Koramoah had 142 tackles, seven sacks, one interception and five forced fumbles. He also showed excellent speed and instincts in coverage.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Kadarius Toney had a breakout 2020 season. He had 70 receptions for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns. His versatility and explosiveness makes him a great fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.
In 2020, Cardinals’ #1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 115 receptions for 1407 yards and six touchdowns. The problem for the Cardinals was that their next leading receiver was Christian Kirk who had only 621 receiving yards.
Much like mentioned with Owusu-Koramoah, the NFL is becoming a position-less league. Toney is a dynamic weapon as he can play all over the field and create matchup problems for defenses. Additionally, he gives the Cardinals another option as a kick/punt returner.
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
If the Cardinals draft Travis Etienne you almost need to imagine GM Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury “high-fiving” while saying, “I feel the need, the need for speed!” ala Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards in Top Gun.
Etienne would bring speed to the running back room and would be a major upgrade for the Cardinals. Last year’s leading rusher, Kenyan Drake is a free agent and Chase Edmonds hasn’t proven to be an every down back. Etienne ran for 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns during his four year career at Clemson.
He is also a big force in the passing game as he has a career 11.3 yards per catch average. At Clemson last season, Etienne was occasionally lined up as a wide receiver. This level of versatility would bring something to the Cardinals’ offense that they did not have last season.
One thing he needs to continue to improve on is ball security. He had some costly fumbles in 2020 but that doesn’t take away from all the good he accomplished in college.