The 2021 NFL Draft came to an end following the conclusion of Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
The Arizona Cardinals made a total of seven selections over the course of the three days, despite not having a third- or fourth-round pick going into the draft.
And now that the dust has settled, pundits from around the country have had their say as to which teams aced and failed the 2021 edition.
The Cardinals’ grades ranged from as low as a ‘C’ to as high as a ‘B+’ from eight national outlets.
Here are all eight of those grades, with explanations for each from the graders themselves:
Reasoning: The Cardinals found a playmaking linebacker at No. 16. Collins’ career track could be similar to that of Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowler Anthony Barr. The team could have selected a cornerback in the first round because of its need there, however. The dynamic Moore was picked in the second round despite his small stature and injury history, matching their projected pick in my seven-round mock draft — so that selection wasn’t a surprise. They traded their third-round pick for former Raiders center Rodney Hudson earlier this offseason, which was a smart move. …
Wilson’s athleticism and NFL genes (his brother, Quincy, was a second-round pick of the Colts in 2017) helped make him an early Day 3 pick despite his uneven play and mental mistakes at Florida. Giving up a 2022 fourth-rounder to move up for Wilson hurt Arizona’s grade. Gowan was a smart pick in the sixth round because he played like a fourth-rounder and the team could use as many corners as it can get.
Reasoning: The Cardinals bolstered their linebacker corps with the selection of Tulsa star Zaven Collins in the first round, and then got quarterback Kyler Murray a reliable slot receiver in Rondale More in Round 2. A couple cornerback additions on Day 3 added needed depth to the secondary.
Reasoning: Imposing LB Zaven Collins (Round 1) — he might be a better NFL fit than 2020’s No. 8 pick, Isaiah Simmons — diminutive but explosive WR Rondale Moore (Round 2) and the acquisition of Pro Bowl C Rodney Hudson for a third-rounder seems like a pretty good way to invest your top three selections. However waiting until Saturday to get corner help might come back to haunt them.
Reasoning: The Cardinals made one of the most intriguing picks of the first round when they grabbed Collins at no. 16. The former Tulsa star combines throwback size―he reportedly weighed 270 pounds at combine medical checks―with a new-school skill set, as he has the ability to cover and rush the passer. He’ll man the middle of Arizona’s defense alongside the team’s top 2020 draft pick, Isaiah Simmons, giving the Cardinals what could be the most versatile linebacker duo in the NFL.
In the second round, Arizona took Moore, who will provide quarterback Kyler Murray with another electric pass-catching target. Given that Moore stands just 5-foot-7, my big question is whether he can be a field-stretching deep threat — something this offense desperately needs — or whether he’ll be more of a gadget player who’s used on screens and sweeps near the line of scrimmage. After missing most of the past two seasons to injury, Moore also needs to prove that he can stay healthy.
Reasoning: Arizona’s 2020 draft class didn’t produce many impact players, and so general manager Steve Keim has to get something out of Collins and Moore to get this team over the hump. The NFC West is going to be extremely tough again. This class gets downgraded a little bit because Keim didn’t add to the tight end or running back depth chart, but the Hopkins and Hudson trades keep it from C territory.
Reasoning: A true physical throwback, Zaven Collins is 6-foot-5 and weighed in at 270 pounds in Indianapolis during medical checks. Despite that 1990s size, Collins had the highest PFF career coverage grade (93.6) of any linebacker in the draft class and continues the trend of Arizona drafting athletic and versatile players on defense. He allows them to implement some very interesting-looking defensive fronts in 2021.
Tay Gowan was a top-10 cornerback prospect and a top-75 player overall on PFF’s big board coming into the 2021 NFL Draft. You won’t often find cornerbacks who have a chance to develop into quality starting options at this stage of the draft, but Gowan does have that chance. His combination of size, movement skills and production in his lone season as a starter at UCF should have made him a Day 2 pick. Instead, he’ll enter into a competition with Robert Alford and Marco Wilson for a starting job opposite Malcolm Butler.
Reasoning: The Cardinals tend to be on a roller-coaster drafting with GM Steve Keim. Consider this a dip year. Edge pass rusher and cornerback were the biggest needs and put on the backburner early and Arizona didn’t address the interior offensive line until the last pick. Collins was a redundant first-rounder to 2020’s Isaiah Simmons and Moore was a superfluous luxury pick for a team with plenty at wide receiver, even with Larry Fitzgerald mulling over retirement.
Reasoning: The Cardinals came into this draft with limited ammunition and an attractive spot in the middle of the first round where many evaluators believed the talent level was about to drop off. It seemed that first-round pick Zaven Collins was the object of their affection from moment one, despite some more potentially attractive opportunities to upgrade their offense. Collins gives the Cardinals the flexibility to unleash last year’s first-round pick Isaiah Simmons and helps them bolster the pass rush. The Cardinals, like other teams, seemed to have taken a cue from Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers this offseason and are strengthening their off-ball linebackers to help guard against the myriad ways teams can pick on a defensive scheme.
Adding Rondale Moore in the second round goes a short way toward mitigating the noticeably minor offensive upgrades Arizona made during the offseason. The Cardinals now have DeAndre Hopkins, an end-of-career A.J. Green and a sea of options in the slot, including Andy Isabella, whom they impulsively chose in the same round two years prior and has received just 48 targets since.