Even with the Arizona Cardinals’ success on the football field in 2021, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the next draft cycle.
NFL.com’s Dan Parr and Chase Goodbread have the tight end, cornerback and edge defenders as positions of need for the Cardinals in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Arizona’s current record and strength of schedule would have the Cardinals picking 31st in the 2022 NFL Draft, according to Parr and Goodbread. However, Arizona’s playoff performance would dictate where the team is ultimately positioned in the draft order.
Parr said Arizona’s tight end future beyond this season is very uncertain.
There are a few good options for the third spot on the needs list. Tight end gets the nod this week since the Cardinals don’t have one signed beyond this season.
Every tight end on Arizona’s roster except for David Wells is due to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Recent acquisition Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams, who is out for the season with a knee injury, will be unrestricted free agents.
Wells is set to be an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he would not be able to negotiate with any other team if the Cardinals offer him a one-year contract at the league minimum. He has only played one snap this season for Arizona.
The 2022 tight end draft class is not projected to be a strong one.
Pro Football Focus’s highest-rated tight end, Jalen Wydermyer from Texas A&M, is ranked 45th overall on PFF’s big board. The top two tight ends in PFF’s grades, Trey McBride from Colorado State and Isaiah Likely from Coastal Carolina, are both outside of PFF’s overall top 50.
That has led most mock drafts to go toward the other two positions of need for Arizona. In a selection of nine of the most recent mock drafts from multiple outlets, only one has the Cardinals taking an offensive player.
The defensive focus is for good reason.
Outside linebackers Chandler Jones, Markus Golden and Dennis Gardeck are all on expiring contracts, leaving Devon Kennard as the only rotation OLB signed for 2022.
At cornerback, Robert Alford and Antonio Hamilton are also going to be unrestricted free agents after this season. Starters Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson will be the only cornerbacks remaining under contract.
The only player mentioned twice for Arizona in the mock drafts is USC edge defender Drake Jackson. Jackson is in the top five of the Pac-12’s sacks leaders with five sacks this season. He has a PFF grade of 81.7 this season and is 28th on the PFF big board.
Of the other players selected for Arizona in the first round of mock drafts, South Carolina edge defender Kingsley Enagbare is the highest-ranked on PFF’s big board at 10th. He has five sacks and a fumble recovery along with 38 tackles this season.
Mock drafts in sample:
A Very Early Two-Round Mock Draft Version 1.0 – FanNation
2022 NFL Mock Draft: Eagles build through the trenches – NBC Sports Philadelphia
2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft: Defense dominates as Detroit Lions target Kayvon Thibodeaux – Pro Football Network