With the 2021 NFL draft beginning Thursday evening, the Arizona Cardinals are set to make the 16th overall selection in the first round, provided they do not make a trade up or trade down.
While those are certainly possibilities, what are the best options at No. 16 if they remain there?
Below are my rankings for the players I would like to see drafted by the Cardinals.
Both Surtain and Horn are equal in my eyes. They are the top cornerback prospects. They have elite athleticism and no red flags. It is a premium position and a position of need.
Both could be special and if one of the two is available, great. The Cardinals aced the first round.
Right behind the cornerbacks are the two Alabama wideouts. Between the two cornerbacks and these two receivers, any one of the four would be a best-case scenario for Arizona.
The Cardinals need playmakers in the passing game and, while they have A.J. Green and Christian Kirk along with DeAndre Hopkins, both will be free agents in 2022. Both have the flexibility to play inside and out, so they can both be included in Kliff Kingsbury’s “10” personnel and give the Cardinals four quality receivers. Either would push Kirk for playing time and could be a legitimate No. 2 receiver in 2022.
I am very comfortable with Farley at No. 16. Admittedly, I don’t have access to his medical records and so I do not know how concerned the Cardinals will be with his back surgery. I am not worried about his long-term prognosis based on what he has said and reportedly has been told.
He is a top talent and would be up at the top with Horn and Surtain if it weren’t for the medicals.
However, I don’t think they would go wrong with Farley here.
I know I will get yelled at by the “never draft a running back in the first round” crowd. I get it.
However, what is interesting is how upset Cardinals fans were that the team passed on Adrian Peterson with the fifth pick overall for Levi Brown.
I think Harris is a sure thing in the NFL. The Cardinals can commit fully to a top-end rushing attack with a trio of Harris, Chase Edmonds and James Conner. Plus, considering Conner’s injury history, having Harris to pick up the slack in an injury situation is perfect.
He gets eased in as a rookie and then they ride him into the ground for three or four more years before they let him get paid by someone else.
A dynamic pass rusher is a premium position. The Cardinals only have Chandler Jones under contract for one year and J.J. Watt for two. Phillips, who has some injury red flags with his concussions at UCLA, has speed and length. I don’t love the pick here but I am okay with it.
Newsome is every bit as good a cornerback as the top three. However, durability is a concern. He missed 15 games in three seasons. Skill is not an issue. He is a dog and would be the type of player opposing fans hate.
Collins would be higher on this list but he plays a non-premium position. How many times are the Cardinals going to use a first-round pick on a linebacker?
Now, he also weighed in at 270 pounds at his medical check and there are some rumblings out there on the Internet that the Cardinals like him for a potential pass rusher, but that makes it even worse!
How many times are they going to draft a player in the first round to play something different than his college position? Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, Isaiah Simmons and now Collins maybe moving to outside linebacker?
Since a first-round lineman is unlikely to play in 2021, I am not excited at all at that possibility but I accept it.
Jenkins is an advanced run blocker and plays with the meanness you want in a tackle. Kelvin Beachum might only be around one more season and, with the team’s declaration that 2020 third-round pick Josh Jones can play guard, Jenkins is a good pick. It just isn’t exciting.
Vera-Tucker has positional versatility. Some feel he will be a fine tackle but others believe he will be a great guard. The Cardinals have uncertainty at guard after this season so having someone lined up to take over is great. He doesn’t play with an edge but his technique is clean and he is quietly effective.