We’ve never sugar coated this, and we’re not going to start here; the Arizona Cardinals organization is an absolute dumpster fire. Dating back to the failure that was the Josh Rosen Experience, the giant toaster in the Phoenix desert—a nest for the dirtiest birds in the NFL—has been home to the least desirable fan experience in football.
There’s only one appropriate way to transition into the conversation of the Cardinals 2023 draft, and unfortunately, it’s with a jab. In an effort to right the ship—after signing Kliff Kingsbury to a $22M salary and then promptly firing him—the Cardinals hired the Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, but not without a little tampering.
Arizona actually put together a damn good draft this year, adding a number of players who will likely start for them in the upcoming season. However, it could have been even better, had they not been forced to relinquish a third-round pick (No. 66 overall) to Philly for their premature negotiations with Gannon.
Arizona Cardinals Draft Grade: A
The Cardinals originally had the third-overall pick in the draft, but traded back to No. 6 in order to recuperate losses and increase capital for this year and next year alike. They started with a bang at No. 6 by selecting Paris Johnson Jr., OT from Ohio State. PJJ was always OT2 on our board, as we were steadfast in projecting Peter Skoronski out as a tackle. It came as no surprise, however, to see him go as OT1 for the NFL. He brings plus size, serious strength, and the prestige of playing left tackle at OSU to Arizona. A team picking in the top-10, especially one who has a $230M quarterback, is typically in best player available mode come draft night, and that’s the motto they followed. Arizona gets a gold star from The Sunday Slate for making a trench pick to open up their draft, and a damn good one at that. Paris Johnson Jr. is going to be the Cardinals LT for the foreseeable future.
BJ Ojulari had a bit of a slide falling clear to the Cardinals at No. 41 overall, and it was highly opportunistic for Arizona to capitalize on his availability. There seemed to be an element of boredom with BJ toward the end of the draft cycle, but it was always unwarranted to us. If you know anything about LSU, the fact that he wore number 18 tells you all you need to know about his football character. Ojulari is very strong, super bendy, and has easily translatable traits in his length and closing speed. With their second selection, Arizona added another mainstay to their trenches for years to come. two-for-two to start this thing off.
Trading back into the third round (twice) to make selections at picks 72 and 94 overall, the Cardinals took Garrett Williams (CB14, Syracuse) and Michael Wilson (WR15, Stanford). After shopping in the trenches at a surplus value—per our player rankings vs where players were selected—reaching slightly on both of these players, in position of need, was tolerable. The reality from our war room (i.e. my living room couch) is that our rankings miss out on significant intangible considerations. If Williams and Wilson rocked their pre-draft interviews, and convinced the organization that they were worth being selected ahead of their projection, then all parties are winners. The players get paid, and the team gets their guys. These were prospects No. 100 and No. 110 on our big board, so the “reaches” were rather insignificant, but there were a number of prospects that we had ranked higher available at these positions.
Arizona erased any of the doubt from the third-round picks by selecting All-Sunday Slate Team representative Jon Gaines (OG4, UCLA) with pick No. 122. Gaines was the 92nd ranked player on our big board, and was an absolute steal for day three. Anything and everything you need to know about Jon Gaines can be found in our offensive lineman rankings breakdown on Youtube.
In short, Gaines tested out-of-this-world at the combine. He was an anchor on the UCLA O-line for years, and was one of our favorite picks in the draft. Between him and PJJ, Kyler Murray should be in much better shape upon his return mid-season.
The remaining selections in the Cardinals class were as follows:
– Rd.4, Pick 139, Clayton Tune (QB11, Houston)
– Rd. 5, Pick 168, Owen Pappoe (LB7, Auburn)
– Rd. 6, Pick 180, Kei’Trel Clark (CB24, Louisville)
– Rd. 6, Pick 213, Dante Stills (DT19, West Virginia)
There is a solid mix of athleticism, pro-caliber traits, and team need solutions in that back half of this draft class. If all things go according to plan, the Arizona Cardinals 2023 draft will play a significant role in returning the organization to competitive status sooner rather than later.