The Arizona Cardinals are perceived to be in a powerful position within the 2023 NFL Draft. Many assume that the number three pick is up for grabs to the highest bidder.
Which quarterback-needy team is likely to trade up? With Jimmy Garoppolo landing in Las Vegas, suitors for the third overall pick suddenly seem few and far between for the Arizona Cardinals.
Will Indianapolis seek a swap to prevent being gazumped from their route out of QB purgatory? Are we to believe that Atlanta or Tennessee could consider moving on from their sophomore signal-callers? Could there even be a rare inter-divisional trade with Seattle as the Pacific Northwesterners try to acquire a rookie QB to sit and learn behind bridge starter, Geno Smith?
Let’s dive in and see what options lay in wait for the Arizona Cardinals.
Round 1, Pick 3: Will Anderson, EDGE — Alabama
There is a distinct possibility that DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans has the same idea stated in the words hereafter, but this is a Cardinals mock draft and we are assuming that the team from Texas opted for a QB at two.
Simply put, Jonathan Gannon — new Head Coach, defensive guru — gets his leader.
Will Anderson is undoubtedly THE guy in this draft who can be the most instantly impactful player for Gannon. He will provide an emotional heart for the defense, act as a true tone-setter on every down and become a future franchise icon.
Anderson fits the Arizona Cardinals’ general scheme well; more so than Tyree Wilson would after a hypothetical trade-back. Furthermore, the former Crimson Tide defender also offers much more value immediately and over the long term than Wilson plus some additional future draft ammo ever could.
He is a premium player, taken with a premium pick. This tenure must begin with a headline act such as this, and not simply wade through their inaugural draft by filling holes.
Compounding the urgency for Anderson to be the pick are the lurking Seattle Seahawks. Anderson cannot be allowed to slip to their NFC West foe at five and proceed to haunt Arizona twice a year for the foreseeable future.
Jalen Carter could be considered here but may be off Gannon and new General Manager Monti Ossenfort’s board entirely. No need to court controversy this early in their reign.
Conditioning concerns are evident in Carter’s game, and worries over his maturity and love for the game knock his stock. Unease over his top-three draftability has also been further exacerbated by his recent charges for reckless driving.
Anderson immediately provides sack numbers vacated by J.J. Watt’s retirement, and will deliver the consistency once expected of Haason Reddick throughout the entirety of his rookie contract and beyond.
Arizona was in the bottom third for sacks during 2022. This pick gives the team a jolt of energy not just to the pass rush unit, but across the entire defensive corps. You cannot achieve that with a simple trade-down and the accumulation of additional flotsam and jetsam in the later rounds.
Round 2, Pick 34: Kelee Ringo, CB — Georgia
A few months ago, the proposition of Ringo outside the first round would have been a shock. Not now. After the combine raised the stock of several cornerbacks such as Julius Brents and DJ Turner, Ringo could realistically fall as far as the seventh corner off the board.
The Arizona Cardinals would be glad to gobble him up here and get an extremely talented perimeter corner at a reasonable price. He has had his ups and downs over the last couple of years with some uneven play, but the former Bulldog is a gifted athlete with the length and pedigree of a future CB1 in the desert.
There is depth at the position so an argument could be made that the Cardinals should wait and take one of the likes of Clark Phillips, Tyrique Stevenson or Mekhi Blackmon among the next tier available. Ringo is too tantalising to pass up though and offers greater upside than any of the trench players available at this point.
Marco Wilson had a strong 2022 and is emerging on the NFL stage, but there is not much depth beyond that. Ringo, despite his flaws, is a technician who can fly and should immediately for the Arizona Cardinals.
Round 3, Pick 66: Cody Mauch, iOL — North Dakota
A versatile pick here. The Arizona Cardinals have numerous holes across its interior O-line, as well as at right tackle. As an excellent run-blocking tackle, Mauch could have an opportunity to start on the right, but will eventually kick inside.
After recent comments about Kyler Murray made by Kelvin Beachum, right tackle may indeed shortly be confirmed as the most pressing need along the O-line. As suggested, Mauch could be trialled there, but Arizona may be better served by spending some cash to bring in an outside free agent.
Mike McGlinchey (Broncos) and Jawaan Taylor (Chiefs) are already spoken for, but Kaleb McGary or Isaiah Wynn make intriguing options among the second wave of free agent tackles.
The team recently restructured D.J. Humphries and cleared $5.2m. Now with circa $35m cap space available (prior to draft signings and money set aside for injury), a big move for a free agent tackle feels realistic and the most sensible route.
The ex-Bison actually looked most impressive as a potential center convert at the Senior Bowl. This may detract from the value of the pick in the eyes of some, but Mauch will be another true heart-and-soul character for this team. A leader who will play with his hair on fire no matter where he lines up.
In a scenario that should not have connotations as being “worst-case”, the Arizona Cardinals would be content to find their center for the next half-decade or more at this juncture.
Round 3, Pick 96 (Compensatory): Jonathan Mingo, WR — Ole Miss
The first of a few underrated players in this mock. Mingo continues to fly under the radar in this class and is truly a top 50 talent.
He may not be available here come draft night, but picking him here is roughly where his current stock sits among the general media.
The Mississippian has an excellent frame (6’2”/220lbs), soft hands and can be effective both outside and in the slot. A 4.46 second 40-yard dash time (1.54 split), paired with 39.5 inches on the vertical jump and a 10’9” broad highlight an explosive athlete.
Mingo is likely a high third-rounder at worst when all is said and done, but will provide depth right out of the gate; something that could be imperative if the DeAndre Hopkins rumours are to be believed.
Round 4, Pick 105: Kenny McIntosh, RB — Georgia
McIntosh at 105 would also be a bargain.
James Conner will be back but needs support as he, along with Keontay Ingram, are the only current backs under contract in 2023. McIntosh would be the perfect selection as he is an exceptional receiving back with legitimate third-down pass-protecting chops.
The Georgia-alum has the potential for more than just a third-down role, though, as he offers the size to run over defenders and the footwork and agility to make people miss.
He would be an immediate compliment to Conner as a relief runner, but also has the potential to flourish into his full-time replacement.
Round 5, Pick 168 (Compensatory): Nick Saldiveri, iOL — Old Dominion
Saldiveri impressed at the Senior Bowl in both drills and the game itself and has started to rise up draft boards.
Another college tackle, Saldiveri will likely find his home at right guard for the Cardinals and pair well with Mauch on the interior.
He had a solid combine, ranking within the top eight offensive linemen across all of the explosive tests that he participated in and looked smooth in drills.
At 6’6”, weighing in at 318lbs and with 33 1/4 inch arms, Saldiveri possesses the ideal build and agility to slide into Arizona’s offensive scheme no matter what form it takes post-Kingsbury.
Round 6, Pick 180: Cameron Young, iDL — Mississippi State
Criminally underrated among draftniks, it would not surprise me to see Young drafted a round or two higher than this.
Young has exceptional length (34 1/2” arms), great size (6’3, 304lbs) and terrific explosion, which was fully on show at the Senior Bowl in February. Time and time again during drills, Young was able to drive offensive linemen back into the pocket with ease.
He can play defensive tackle aligned in the A or B gaps, while having the potential to be shaded outside as a 5-tech.
No matter how he lines up at the next level, Young bolsters a D-line that is reeling from the losses of J.J. Watt and Zach Allen.
Round 6, Pick 213 (Compensatory): SirVocea Dennis, LB — Pittsburgh
Finally, the Arizona Cardinals opt for an inside linebacker to replace free agent Ben Niemann.
Niemann was second on the team in run defense snaps among the linebacking corps, slightly ahead of fellow free agent, Tanner Vallejo.
The Arizona Cardinals are not strictly a 3-4 team and Gannon is likely to adapt their approach further, but they need someone to step in and soak up some of Niemann and Vallejo’s combined 374 run snaps. SirVocea Dennis certainly fits that bill.
A limited athlete compared to others at his position, Dennis processes quickly and will be able to come in and defend the run effectively, even if he never reaches three-down status. There is real value in that so late in the draft.