If cornerback is what the Arizona Cardinals seek in the 2021 NFL Draft, then Mel Kiper Jr. has good news.
They will have options if general manager Steve Keim holds at the 16th overall pick.
Kiper, ESPN’s draft expert, has picked Virginia Tech corner Caleb Farley and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn for Arizona in his first two NFL mock drafts.
Most recently, he had Horn coming off the board at No. 16 as the third cornerback drafted.
“Well, I think it puts them in a position where you got a cover guy who I think can be an immediate hole-filler, an immediate standout,” Kiper said Monday on Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf. “I think that’s what this league’s all about now. It’s not waiting a couple years. It’s who can come right in — son of (former NFL receiver) Joe Horn, has the length, has the ball skills, anticipates well — be a guy who can come in and help you in that secondary.”
While some might view selecting Horn at 16th a reach based on need, Kiper believes in the positional depth in this class of CBs.
He added that Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl and draft analyst, sees Horn as the top-ranked cornerback in the class, ahead of Farley and Alabama’s Patrick Surtain.
Horn in his first two college seasons combined for three sacks, two forced fumbles, 85 tackles (six tackles for loss) and 17 passes defensed. This past season in seven games, he captured his first two interceptions and added seven more passes defensed.
“There’s a lot of positivity with Horn right now,” Kiper added. “A lot of people feel like he won’t get past, say, the 22, 23 (pick) point in the first round. He’ll go in the first round, it’s just a matter of how high.”
Farley remains in the conversation but was one of the first NFL prospects to opt out of the past season.
He had six interceptions over 2018-19 but could have used even a shortened 2020 campaign to improve his physicality.
“He’s got the size, he’s a former wide receiver,” Kiper said. “He played really well in 2019 as a cover corner, ball-skill down the field, locating the ball down the field. He’s good in front, he’s good behind. What he doesn’t do is tackle well enough.”
— If the Cardinals don’t go corner at 16th, perhaps bolstering the interior of the offensive line is in order. USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker is the top-ranked prospect by most accounts and could be Arizona’s pick, but there is a drop-off in opinion regarding the options after him if he were to be selected ahead of 16.
Kiper named Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis, Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks and Tennessee’s Trey Smith as potential guard options in the second or third round.