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DraftNerds – Arizona Cardinals 2023 Mock Draft

The Arizona Cardinals have entered a new era with a new head coach/GM so who are some potential options for them in the NFL Draft 2023? @DarthDbacks has some names

Dynasty fantasy football is a year-round affair. A sharp manager will be thinking about all aspects of the dynasty season at all times. Managers keen enough to look ahead will be the ones who can grab themselves an edge. This article is all about Arizona Cardinals and whether they can take the next step with Kyler Murray, a new head coach, a new general manager, and make the playoffs. Of course, this team is injury-plagued and has a lot of uncertainties going into the off-season and next season.

A large portion of the dynasty off-season will be spent discussing incoming rookies and the related topic, the NFL draft. It is easy for us to fall in love with the next workhorse running back or prototypical alpha wide receiver, but a manager that is in tune with the entire draft class as a whole will find themselves ahead of the game. Whether it is the next road-paving interior offensive lineman or genetic freak edge rusher, we can find ourselves at quite the advantage in April by building an entire picture of how the 2023 class will play out. Those that prepare ahead will not be often surprised at the outcomes.

The draft order used in this article reflects the order before the NFL Conference Championship weekend. Credit for the mock draft simulation goes to The Draft Network. Team needs are generated from this site. Compensatory picks have not been assigned and will not be included in this exercise.

Arizona Cardinals’ Construction

The Arizona Cardinals are in a state of flux right now. They recently hired a new general manager in Monti Ossenfort who has a large task. Fix Kyler Murray, fix the team’s trenches, and instill a stronger work effort and team chemistry. Of course, the first thing to do is hire a new head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, with Kliff Kingsbury now in Thailand. Monti comes from the Tennessee Titans, who prioritized building up strong offensive/defensive lines and a great defense. This is likely to happen with the Cardinals, although there will likely be a bit more attention for the offense thanks to having quarterback Kyler Murray with the team for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen if that’s good or not, depending on if the team can fix the many issues he encountered during the 2022 season.

2022 Season Recap

The 2022 season went just about as bad as anyone could’ve thought possible. The team slowly died throughout the season, encountering numerous errors and injuries. It started with DeAndre Hopkins being suspended for the first six games. Next up was Hollywood Brown’s injury, followed by torn ACLs by Kyler Murray and star tight end Zach Ertz. By the end of the season, Rondale Moore, DeAndre Hopkins, Murray, Ertz, Colt McCoy, Zach Allen, Rodney Hudson, Justin Pugh, Byron Murphy, DJ Humphries, and others were all dealing with season-ending injuries.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the Cardinals finish the season with a record of 4-13, Kingsbury losing his job, and GM Steve Keim conveniently stepping out of the organization due to “Health Concerns”. Thanks to Murray’s ACL tear, 2023 will likely be a rebuilding year for the Cards. As was said previously, basically everything went wrong with this team in 2022, aside from JJ Watt finishing his career with a standout season. The snubbed Pro Bowler was easily the team’s MVP.

2023 Free Agents

To make life harder on new GM Monti and whomever the team hires as their head coach, the Cardinals have a staggering 31 soon-to-be free agents. Plus, the team has to figure out whether to keep DeAndre Hopkins via an extension or trade him. Also, one can be sure that Robbie Anderson will be cut to save $12 million. The big names potentially leaving the Cardinals are starting center Rodney Hudson, left guard Justin Pugh, kicker Matt Prater, Tackle Kelvin Beachum, CB1 Byron Murphy, defensive end Zach Allen, Punter Andy Lee, and many more depth players. It’s hard for a team to replace/re-sign 31 players in a single off-season. Thus, plenty of new faces will enter the organization in the off-season.

The team has tough decisions with Hopkins, who counts over $30 million of the cap, Humphries with over $17 million, and Zach Ertz, who has over $12 million. All three of them can’t be cut and, in Hopkins’ case, will have to be extended or traded. If Ertz and DJ are healthy, both contracts are low enough to keep with the team for next year to give it some veteran leadership and proven contributors.

The biggest needs on the Arizona Cardinals are long-term needs at Offensive Line (every position), Edge, Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, Running back, and a backup quarterback.

1.03 – Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama

So, the Arizona Cardinals need an impact pass-rusher that can take over games similar to JJ Watt? Say no more. Thanks to the Chicago Bears trading the No.1 overall pick, the Cardinals can get the absolute best player in the draft at third overall. That player is the dynamic Will Anderson Jr. He had ten sacks in 2022 with 12 quarterback hits, 13 tackles for loss, and 28 tackles. He was a First-Team player in basically every selection. Will reminds me of a prime JJ Watt. He’s explosive, agile, intelligent, and has an endless motor. It’s rare that an offensive line can deploy just one man to stop him.

Anderson has an endless bag of abilities that he can deploy against anyone brave enough to attempt to block him. He has stunts, twists, leverage moves, and an unbeatable bull rush. The one weakness might be that he wasn’t asked to rush from the outside, unlike the NFL. Yet, I’m optimistic that after an off-season of coaching, that minor weakness would soon be a strong one. Anderson is 6’4 “, 243 pounds, and plays like the quarterback called his mom a bad word. I’ve not seen this talented a pass-rusher in the NFL Draft in quite some time.

If the Arizona Cardinals can draft him, he would immediately be the face of their defense with Budda Baker. This pick would fit right in with the Cardinals wanting to create a tough, team-focused, hard-working, and powerful defensive line/defense. Will’s a tone-setter and the only pick the team should be considering if he’s available here. They should pick up Goodell and carry him to the podium. He’s the 1.01 in IDP fantasy rookie drafts easily. Will would be the stud of the Cardinals and your IDP fantasy team.

2.34 – Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC

The Cardinals need help in the interior defensive line, especially if Zach Allen departs in free agency. Cameron Thomas is a start, but Tuli would become one of the centerpieces. This guy has first-round talent but could be pushed out to the second, thanks to so much first-round caliber talent in this draft. If that happens, the Arizona Cardinals could get a massive steal. Tuli can play inside or outside with the ability to be a solid edge rusher. I love that he’s able to perform a variety of moves inside/outside to get to the backfield.

Tuli has a rare ability to convert his speed into his power as he engages with the lineman or swims around him. In 2022, he showcased increased flexibility that gave him a second level of his athleticism. This helped him get 13.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, and 17 tackles for loss. He has a strong, aggressive streak that will fit right in with this kind of team that Monti is trying to assemble. He took serious strides in 2022 and would be one of the best defenders on the Cardinals’ roster. If he can display a strong run defense where he stands up tall versus attacking, then Tuli has three-down potential. That can be taught along with helping him manage his size. Still, the Cardinals would have a fearsome trio with Anderson, Thomas, and Tuli among their defensive starters.

3.66 – Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

Even if the Arizona Cardinals manage to re-sign Byron Murphy, they still need help at the cornerback position. The Cardinals don’t have an outside boundary island cornerback, but perhaps Forbes can give that to them. He played that at Mississippi State and found success. He could be one of the team’s long-term answers at cornerback, solidifying an outside spot. Reviewing tape, Forbes is a solid zone or man coverage with solid instincts. He always seems to be involved in plays and has excellent hands. This guy is a workhorse who fights not to give up a single inch. His mentality would fit right in with the new culture the Cardinals are implementing. This feels like a perfect fit for player and team.

3.96 – Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse

Even though the Cardinals have James Conner, it’s clear that they need another running back. Conner can’t be forced or relied upon to carry the ball on 90%+ of the snaps in a single game like they made him do a league-leading number of times last season. Conner’s also dealt with injuries in the past, which makes this move a necessity. The Cardinals would get one of the top running backs in the draft. Tucker has the potential to be a franchise three-down back. It comes down to if he can improve his blocking.

Every time the ball touches Tucker’s hands, there’s a good chance it’s going for a big play. It’s rare to see a running back as tough and explosive as Tucker. He stays balanced on his feet and is always going north-south. While some are worried about his catching, I firmly believe he’s far better than many expect. He might not be Austin Ekeler, but he will be reliable in the pass-catching game. He must improve his blocking to stick the pass-catching role. Tucker’s the Syracuse single-season rush record holder and could be the long-term franchise back that the Cardinals have not ever had.

With proper coaching, Tucker can become an RB1 in dynasty. Regardless, he should be taken in all first-round rookie drafts for dynasty if he ends up with the Cardinals. They are likely moving to a more rush-oriented system, which only adds to the appeal for Tucker to land here. He’s an immediate RB2/3 with the potential to be an RB1 with enough touches/development.

4.104 – Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama

The Cardinals’ long-time right tackle Kelvin Beachum is in the twilight stage of his career and is a free agent. While he was healthy in 2022, he wasn’t that great. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cardinals look to get younger at the tackle spot. This is where Steen comes in. He’s used to a pro-style blocking scheme after playing at Alabama. He can start at either tackle spot with over 30 starts at left tackle. Even though he’s a massive human being, he possesses strong agility that helps him against fast and twitchy edge rushers. He does need help in the run game. He can get too aggressive and miss blocks or lose his balance. However, that can be coached with better techniques in the NFL.

Steen would give the Cardinals a solid rookie tackle to start rebuilding their line. He can start at right tackle to begin his career until the Cardinals figure out what to do with Humphries. He’s used to strong edge rushers, having played in the SEC and holding his own. They must keep Kyler Murray healthy.

5.168 – Braeden Daniels, IOL, Utah

There’s no hiding the fact that the Cardinals are desperate for offensive line help. If they hope to keep Kyler Murray healthy so he can fulfill the massive contract he signed, then the team must invest in their line. Here, I have the Cardinals taking a talented guard in Daniels. He has the potential to be a starter with proper coaching and at least would give the team much-needed depth. While Daniels is under-sized, proper NFL eating, training, and coaching will fix much of that. Braeden is a versatile and experienced lineman with over ten starts at left tackle, right tackle, and left guard. I like his ability to become a reliable interior guard. For a team that will likely run more than before, I’d expect Daniels to be a perfect complement in their new-look offensive line.

6.179 – Laiatu Latu, Linebacker, UCLA

This guy is my hidden gem of the draft. Were the Cardinals to somehow get him here or in the fifth round would be a massive steal in my book. He missed a lot of time due to a horrible neck injury that temporarily caused him to walk away from football. However, he returned in 2022 at UCLA and put on an absolute show. So long as he stays healthy and passes the medical check, Latu could be the best late-round pick in this year’s draft. He is best used as an outside linebacker, where he can use his speed and agility to get after the quarterback.

This year alone, Latu had 10.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 12 quarterback hits. He was dominant in a part-time edge rushing role. He will need help in developing his skills in stopping the run. But the Cardinals were severely desperate for sacks, and impact pressure plays. That’s where Latu can step in right away and help. I’d seriously consider drafting Latu in the third round as a stash play in your IDP rookie drafts. He might wind up being one of the better defenders in this draft.

7.212 – Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia

Say what you will about his age compared to other NFL quarterbacks, but you can’t deny that Bennett is a reliable quarterback who can certainly play up in the right system. While he’s vastly undersized, the Cardinals are already well-versed in dealing with that, so that Bennett would fit right in. Bennett’s a competitor who will do whatever it takes to win. He did win two championships with Georgia. He won the Manning Award in 2022 for the best college quarterback, plus he is used to a play-action pro-style offense. Despite his size, Stetson is willing to take hits. He’s an active rusher with faster-than-expected speed. This has allowed him to rush for big gains. The best part of his game is his lack of turnovers. Stetson protects the ball. I feel Stetson will be one of the great backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Arizona Cardinals could benefit from this, especially since Kyler Murray misses time every year. Colt McCoy is already 36 and coming off a season-ending concussion. Bennett would be valuable depth for the 2023 season before stepping into the long-term backup role. In dynasty, Bennett would have zero benefits to your dynasty team unless he’s starting in place of Kyler Murray.

Do you want to become the best dynasty player you can be? Be sure to use my promo code “Darth” for 15% OFF your subscription to Dynasty Nerds! It makes it only three dollars or so! Connect with me on Twitter @DarthDbacks. I love to talk football, baseball, movies, shows, Star Wars, and Marvel, and interact with the fantasy football community. For more articles of mine, click here.

As always, May the Force be with You…

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