Up next in our mock draft series are the Arizona Cardinals.
Free agency has been slow for the Cardinals in terms of additions, continuing from what was a disappointing second half of the 2021 season, losing to the eventual Superbowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the wildcard round. They have not made any big-name signings, and have lost a couple of key pieces from last season.
Both Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds left Arizona in free agency, signing deals with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins respectively. Kirk signed a 4-year, $72 million deal in Jacksonville, something the Cardinals (and most teams) were never going to match. The loss of Kirk from an already thin WR room, outside of DeAndre Hopkins, opens up a glaring need for the Cardinals during the draft.
There is one aspect of Arizona’s off-season that has not been quiet, however – Kyler Murray, or rather, Kyler Murray’s agent.
It all started when Murray deleted all of his social media posts that showed him in Arizona Cardinals gear – A modern-day warning shot to ownership. Murray’s future in Arizona understandably came into question, with his agent eventually confirming in a lengthy statement that Murray wants a long-term contract extension organized prior to the 2022 season.
Whether or not Murray and the Cardinals agree on an extension before the 2022 draft is anyone’s guess, but regardless of that situation, the Cardinals have several key areas which need attention if they are to compete for an NFC championship in 2022.
The most obvious needs on the roster are wide receiver, guard, and some help along the defensive line.
1.23 (23 overall)
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Cardinals look to beef up the WR room which became even thinner after the departure of Christian Kirk, and potentially ease some of Kyler Murray’s frustrations in the process, drafting Treylon Burks out of Arkansas.
“Beef up” may be the perfect term to use for this pick, with the 6’2″, 225 lbs monster of a receiver coming to Arizona. One look at his 2021 highlight reel will have Cardinals fans dreaming of what could be, with Burks and Hopkins giving Murray the best receiver pairing of his career.
Due to his size, Burks has no trouble shedding would-be tacklers and proves to be very difficult to stop for any sized defender. Despite only running a 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine, Burks plays faster than that.
He often outruns defensive secondaries for long touchdowns, such as a 66-yard score against one of the nation’s best teams in Alabama this past season. That was Burks’ second touchdown of the day, going for 178 yards and 2 scores against a team filled with NFL-level talent.
The options are endless with Burks in this Kliff Kingsbury offense. Arkansas often used him in pre-snap motion, as well as lining him up in the backfield. As if all this wasn’t a nightmare enough for defenders, he has no trouble going up and getting contested balls.
2.23 (55 overall)
Nik Bonitto, ED, Oklahoma
The Cardinals go defensive side of the ball in round 2, landing Nik Bonitto out of Oklahoma at 55 overall.
Bonitto is an explosive edge defender, whose athletic features allow him to rush the passer as well as drop back in coverage. It is in pass rush where he stands out the most, though, with his quick-twitch nature and agility allowing him to put moves on lineman as well as get his hands up in the passing lane.
This will be particularly appreciated by the Cardinals, with the quality of offenses both in the division, playing the Rams and 49ers twice a year, as well as during the playoffs – a goal the Cardinals should have for 2022.
Bonitto is not the perfect prospect, hence why the Cardinals can aim to land him with the 55th pick. He lacks some size for an edge defender, at 238 lbs, and struggles to disengage in the run game at times, often losing ground due to his slight frame.
Bonitto will prove viable as a designated pass-rusher from his first season, with the potential to move to a three-down player with a few NFL off-seasons copying J.J. Watt’s workout and nutrition program in Arizona.
3.23 (87 overall)
Dylan Parham, G, Memphis
Steve Keim gave Kyler Murray a new toy in round 1 and looks to help protect his QB in round 3, selecting Dylan Parham out of Memphis at 87 overall.
The combine, as well as Parham’s tape, has reportedly piqued the interest of many teams. In this mock draft, however, he falls to the Cardinals – something both Kingsbury and Murray are not complaining about.
Parham is extremely athletic for a guard, running a 4.93 40-yard dash at the combine – the same time as projected top-5 pick Ikem Ekwonu. His speed is no surprise, having been a track athlete in high school, competing in sprints as well as the triple jump.
He uses this speed and athleticism well, with above-average ankle mobility and quick feet, often getting under defenders and distributing his weight well.
Parham played both guard and tackle in college, as well as taking reps at center at the senior bowl. This versatility is a testament to both his athletic nature and high football IQ. Both features will be highly regarded by teams, including the Cardinals, and will put him above many other OL prospects around his position in the draft.
4-Round Mock Summary
The Cardinals make the most of their three picks inside the first four rounds in this mock. They add a serious weapon that improves their team from day one, as well as keeping star QB Kyler Murray happy and hopefully in Arizona.
The Cardinals add pash rush help, hoping to attack the talented QBs in their division. It also bodes well for their hopes of a playoff run, with the pass rush being such a critical part of successful teams in the NFL.
Finally, they beef up the offensive line with a versatile and clever lineman in Parham.
A mock draft such as the above sets the Cardinals up well to make a run at the playoffs, something which fans expect from a team with the talent they have in Arizona.