By: Gladys Louise Tyler
The Arizona Cardinals have had a pretty productive free agency period, signing JJ Watt, AJ Green, and Malcolm Butler. But there are still pressing needs the team needs to address, like running back, cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, and maybe a safety?
Holding six picks in the upcoming draft should help, but remember they only have two picks in the first two days. The remaining picks will be in rounds five through seven.
So who should they pick?
ROUND 1-PICK 16
CORNERBACK, JAYCEE HORN, SOUTH CAROLINA
It isn’t just the loss of Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals defense gave up 226.4 passing yards per game last season while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete an average of 22.8 passes a game, with a completion percentage of 64.04%. (stats from teamrankings.com)
Now back to Horn; if the name sounds familiar, it should. Jaycee Horn is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn. Make no mistake about it; Jaycee is his own man.
He played both inside at nickel and on the outside. Horn is physical at the line of scrimmage, showing a combination of hand strength and lateral mobility, while profiling as the premier press-man cornerback in the 2021 class. Per Sports Info Solutions, Horn allowed nine completions on 29 targets for 130 yards. That gives him a completion percentage of 31% on 4.5 yards per target. He broke up eight passes and intercepted two, and all this production was done in the very competitive SEC.
The most heard complaint is that he will be penalty prone at the next level. During the 2020 season, he was flagged for five penalties on 466 snaps. He competes on every snap, is aggressive, has the ball-hawking skills, speed, and athleticism to make a difference in the Cardinals secondary.
ROUND 2 PICK 49
RUNNING BACK, KENNETH GAINWELL, MEMPHIS
The Cardinals offense scored the fifth-fewest points in the league over the final three weeks, losing five of their final seven games and missing the playoffs. Some of the offensive woes can be attributed to the run game or Kyler Murray’s run game; the Cardinals were 0-3 when he did not run for 20 yards and 2-4 when he ran for under 30.
According to the Washington Post, Kenyan Drake was stuffed the second-most times in NFL. Drake is gone. There is some trepidation about picking a running back this early, but remember, the Cardinals will not pick again until round five.
Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season. The important fact is that Gainwell is a running back who is a pass-catching specialist. Pro Football Network’s draft analysis on him includes “explosive and creative ball catcher who plays with balance. Deceptively strong, with good vision, and is a terrific receiver.” During his 2019 season in Memphis, he lined up in the slot, outside, and in the backfield.
He won’t be a three-down back, but the Cardinals have Chase Edmonds, so they aren’t necessarily looking for one. Gainwell will provide an extra element to Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.
ROUND 3 PICK 79
This pick now belongs to the Las Vegas Raiders
ROUND 4 PICK 122
This pick now belongs to the New England Patriots from Arizona through Houston Texans
ROUND 5 PICK 160
WIDE RECEIVER, SAGE SURRATT, WAKE FOREST
Surratt has not played since November 2019, when he suffered a shoulder injury. In the 2019 season before injury, he played 686 snaps, 148 snaps were from the slot, and 529 were wide. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall receiving grade of 83.4 and an 85.2 grade vs. man coverage.
He opted out of the 2020 season. At 6’2″ and 215 pounds, he has good size and good hands. Although he does not have some of the other wide receivers’ speed and athleticism in this class, Surratt can get vertical and plays to his size. Most importantly, he is an excellent blocker both against the rush and downfield.
Per ProFootballnetwork.com draft analysis, “He tracks the pass in the air effectively times receptions and displays soft hands.”
ROUND 6 PICK 201
This pick now belongs to the New York Giants
ROUND 7 PICK 243
DEFENSIVE BACK, TRE NORWOOD, OKLAHOMA
Norwood played both corner and safety for Oklahoma. In the 2020 season, he had five interceptions, seven pass breakups, and 23 tackles. He will also bring kick and punt coverage experience with him.
ROUND 7 PICK 247
OFFENSIVE TACKLE, SPENCER BROWN, NORTHERN IOWA
Murray completed 77.1% of his passes when throwing from a clean pocket. That percentage dropped to 32.8% when pressured.
Unsure if Brown will last this long and perhaps a flip with pick 243 if he is still on the board? His draft status has fallen slightly, as his showing at the Senior Bowl was good but not great. He also opted out of the 2020 season, which isn’t a negative, but teams have less to go on.
However, per NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein, Brown is a “towering tackle prospect with the hands, feet, and length in place to become a quality pass protector on the next level.”
2021 NFL DRAFT
There has already been plenty of movement in the draft position, and the draft is still two weeks away. The Cardinals took measures to tighten up their defense during free agency. The acquisition of AJ Green can be seen as a nod to the offense, but it is clear that Murray needs more than just his own rushing ability and DeAndre Hopkins.
Maybe they acquire more draft capital, but as it stands, drafting with what they have will require some hard choices in the first two rounds and some deep dives in the last days of the draft.