Cornerback, cornerback, cornerback.
In NFL mock drafts published over the past few months, that’s all we’ve seen for the Arizona Cardinals’ 16th overall pick — and for good reason. But if you hope the first round of the draft gets a little wild by the time Arizona is up, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has got you covered with a fun scenario.
In a third version of his mock draft, Jeremiah has Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle falling to the Cardinals.
This is a big-time steal if Waddle falls this far down the board, but we’ve seen some talented receivers slip a bit in recent drafts. He would be electric in Arizona’s offense.
The 5-foot-10 Waddle would seemingly give Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury a four-deep receiver rotation with the Crimson Tide rookie joining Christian Kirk in the slot, while DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green work outside.
As a junior in 2020, Waddle only played six games due to an ankle issue but produced 591 yards and four touchdowns.
He also has extensive experience as a return man and is a threat there with his self-reported sub-4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
Of course, there’s a reason Jeremiah is the rare mock draft maker who has Arizona selecting a receiver at No. 16.
Behind LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Waddle and Alabama teammate Devonta Smith are widely regarded as the next two best players in the draft, and all three are predicted to be off the board by the 16th pick.
So how do we get here?
With the San Francisco 49ers’ trade up to No. 3, the New York Jets’ shedding of quarterback Sam Darnold (they hold the second pick) and the reported interest for the Atlanta Falcons to move out of the fourth slot, a quarterback run is expected atop the draft.
Jeremiah has Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence going first to the Jacksonville Jaguars, followed by the Jets taking BYU’s Zach Wilson and the Niners selecting Alabama’s Mac Jones. The NFL Network draft analyst then has North Dakota State’s Trey Lance heading to Atlanta at No. 4 and the Detroit Lions drafting Ohio State’s Justin Fields at No. 7.
So that’s going to bump a bunch of other position groups down the order.
Tight end Kyle Pitts might go before any of the true receivers, offensive linemen Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater could be top-10 picks, and then we get to receivers, edge rushers and cornerbacks potentially getting pushed outside that group.
Jeremiah has two cornerbacks — Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn — going in the early teens, and that takes two guys the Cardinals might want out of the picture while leaving them with another super fitting option in Waddle. That might be too good to pass up, even if they’re already in a good place at receiver.