The Arizona Cardinals 2021 NFL Draft prospectus became a little bit more clear with the signing of former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner on Tuesday.
And while that doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of the Cardinals taking a running back in the draft, it does fall right in line with the first two rounds of Mel Kiper’s new mock draft.
Kiper projects that Arizona will take Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley at No. 16 overall, the third corner off the board after Alabama’s Patrick Curtain II (12) and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn (15).
Farley is my top-ranked corner, but he could be the third off the board depending on his medical checks. He had back surgery last month — a microdiscectomy — and wasn’t able to work out at his pro day, which means teams weren’t able to see him up close after he opted out of the 2020 season. At his best, though, Farley has the highest ceiling of all the defensive backs in this class. Arizona let Patrick Peterson walk in free agency and signed Malcolm Butler on a short-term deal, but it could still address the position here.
Kiper also has Farley ranked as his 15th-best prospect overall.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound corner was one of the top players to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns after posting six interceptions and 19 passes defensed over the 2018-19 seasons.
Farley’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Adam Schefter on Friday that the corner “did well with his physical regarding his back and is still expected to go in the first round.”
That leads the Cardinals to their second-round pick at No. 49 overall, which Kiper predicts will be used to take wide receiver Tutu Atwell out of Louisville.
Christian Kirk has shown promise, but the 2018 second-round pick has been inconsistent and is in his contract year. Taking Atwell here would both push Kirk into a make-or-break season and also add some help in the slot for Kyler Murray. Atwell is lightning fast, and he reminds me of former Sooner Marquise Brown, who used to catch passes from Murray. He’s explosive after the catch.
Atwell would be the 10th wideout taken in the mock draft, but Kiper ranks the former Louisville Cardinal as his seventh-best WR available in a deep pass-catchers draft class.
He is coming off of a 2020 junior season in which he put up 625 receiving yards and seven scores on 46 receptions in nine games (69.4 yards per contest) after a 2019 campaign that saw the wideout rack up 1,276 yards on 70 catches for 12 touchdowns in 13 appearances (98.2 yards per game).
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