7 potential surprise picks for the Cardinals in the 1st round of the draft

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Jack London
·7 min read
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The NFL draft is full of surprises, especially when it comes to being an Arizona Cardinals fan. Whether it was taking Levi Brown over Adrian Peterson, trading back instead of taking Terrell Suggs or more recently, taking Hasaan Reddick in the first round, Arizona fans are no strangers to surprises in Round 1.

Here are a few players that could be surprise picks, whether it be at pick 16 with how the players come off the board, or maybe in the 20s, should they make a trade back.


Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II

Syndication: Journal-Courier

Height: 6'1"// Weight: 190 Why he fits: Good press man skills to fit Vance Joseph's defense Analysis: I won't explain much further than what Jess Root did here, but the reality is that if Newsome is the highest player left on their board, and Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn are gone and they don't feel comfortable taking Caleb Farley at 16, Newsome may be the best option. Pros:

Cons:

  • History of injuries

  • At times too aggressive - 16 penalties in 21 games

  • Didn't face a lot of top talent in Big 10

  • Not a lot of interceptions in his time at school

Florida WR Kadarius Toney

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Height: 5'11"// Weight: 194 Why he fits: Provides weapon for Kyler Murray in slot, backfield, or even outside. Great after catch, so could help with short passes that are a big part of the spread offense. Analysis: Kadarius Toney is a bit of a late riser, and has even been rumored by Peter Schrager to go top 15 due to his Deebo Samuel like play. Toney would seem to fit what the Cardinals could use opposite of DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green - someone who can really create after the catch. Some have even described his tackle-breaking ability as reminiscent of Dante Hall. Pros:

  • Very fast - 4.39 40 at his pro day

  • Has return ability - 15 returns for 324 on kickoff returns and 13 returns for 147 yards for punts

  • Adds rushing threat - career rushing 66 carries for 580 yards

  • Breaks a lot of tackles and has good balance as you can tell in his highlights.

Cons:

  • "Will need to improve route tree and route running," per Lance Zierlein

  • Only one year of production (due to injuries)

Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips

(Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP, Pool)

Height: 6'6"// Weight: 260 Why he fits: Long, rangy, athletic edge defender that could replace Chandler Jones in a year or two. Analysis: Phillips is a bit of an enigma - he nearly retired from football (technically he did) after his time at UCLA due to medical concerns. Then he transferred to the "U" and had a phenomenal 2020 with eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. If his medicals check out, he is absolutely worth the 16th overall pick should the Cardinals have him high on their board — after all Steve Keim was there to see his eye-opening Pro Day in person. Pros:

Cons:

Tulsa LB Zaven Collins

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Height: 6'4"// Weight: 260 Why he fits: Long, rangy, athletic edge player that could replace Chandler Jones in a year or two. Analysis: Zaven might be a bit of a luxury pick, or he could be the second coming of Daryl Washington. He had a fantastic 2020 season, as he won the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards and was named first-team AP All-America and received AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. 16 might be too early for him - or it might not. Either way, this would spell the end of Jordan Hicks, probably as soon as later this season. Pros:

  • Good speed for his size - 4.67 40 at 259 at his pro day

  • Good three year production - 236 tackles (30 for losses), 7.5 sacks, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and three recovered fumbles

  • Can cover or blitz - has more than 800 career coverage snaps

  • Per PFF: "Collins has the top coverage grade in the draft class over the last two years, and it’s the top coverage grade on a per-play basis when compared to recent NFL prospects. Collins ranks in the 60th percentile in run-defense grade and 46th percentile in run-stop percentage."

Cons:

  • Instincts could use some work per Yahoo's Eric Edholm.

  • "Not an explosive, blowback hitter for his size — more of a drag-down tackler" as well per Edholm.

Clemson RB Travis Etienne

Height: 5'10"// Weight: 205 Why he fits: Athletic running back who could probably be a much better version of Kenyan Drake in Kingsbury's offense. Analysis: Etienne may be the least likely of all the players on this list, though many Cardinals fans believe he could be a perfect fit in Kliff Kingsbury's offense. In fact, he himself listed Arizona as a preferred destination. However, at pick 16 he will likely be a bit rich, especially for a running back. If the Cards trade back in round 1, and he's the best player on their board, they could take the ex-Tiger. Pros:

  • Highly productive at Clemson - 4,952 total rushing yards for his time,

  • Receiving threat - 102 catches during his time

  • Also offers return ability with 32 returns (though if he were picked in Round 1, would likely not do this for long)

  • Home-run threat every time he touches the ball

Cons:

Alabama RB Najee Harris

Height: 6'2"// Weight: 230 Why he fits: Three down running back whose hard running style along with receiving ability that should fit well in Arizona's offense. Analysis: If there is a running back that the Cardinals take at 16, it's more likely Najee Harris, a complete, three down back that Daniel Jeremiah likens to Matt Forte. He essentially has all the same tools as Etienne but is bigger although he is slightly less explosive. With both Chase Edmonds and James Conner's contracts up after this season, however, he would be a long term investment. Pros:

  • Very productive - Crimson Tide's all-time leader for total touchdowns in a career with 57 (46 rushing, 11 receiving)

  • Alabama's career leader for rushing scores with 46, surpassing the previous record of 42 by Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry

  • Averaged 6.0 yards per carry for his career to rank third in Crimson Tide history (minimum 400 carries)

  • Very competitive and well-liked by teammates

  • Good ball security - only 3 career fumbles

Cons:

  • Not a home run hitter per Eric EdholmWill enter the NFL already having turned 23, with nearly 800 college touches.

  • Long-term durability might be a concern — has knee and ankle issues in the past.

  • Pass protection remains a work in progress

Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Height: 6'2"// Weight: 207 Why he fits: High-ceiling, tall, rangy cornerback that should only get better and could be Arizona's next Patrick Peterson. Analysis: For the Cards to choose Farley would not be as much surprising at this point, although it would have been mere weeks ago, when he was regularly going in mock drafts in the top 10. He has been mocked more recently to Arizona, but has also been mocked as late as early day 2 due to the development of his back surgery. If Arizona feels that he's healthy and not at long-term risk, they absolutely take a chance on one of the highest-ceiling players in the draft. Pros:

Cons:

  • Injury history/ back surgery concerning - though says he is fine.

  • Has not played position long (would scare some fans after Brandon Williams)

  • Would fit in press man theoretically but only had 58 snaps in 2019

  • Not a great tackler per Lance Zierlein.

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