Cardinals' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Cardinals' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals have alternated between choosing quarterbacks and linebackers in the first round of the NFL draft in the last four years.

    One of the two linebackers, Haason Reddick, departed in free agency and left a hole on the depth chart next to Chandler Jones and 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons.

    While the Cardinals may be set at linebacker between Jones, Simmons and Jordan Hicks, they may go after a player at that position with the 16th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft with an eye on Jones' impending free agency next offseason.

    Arizona may also look to the secondary at No. 16 if the right cornerbacks are available. It will likely not have a shot at Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn, but it could find a quality player in Caleb Farley or Greg Newsome II.

Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Linebacker should be one of Arizona's targets due to Jones' impending free agency and where Simmons lines up on the field.

    Simmons entered the NFL after playing a number of positions for the Clemson Tigers, and he could be molded into a safety if the Cardinals have enough depth in the middle.

    Tulsa's Zaven Collins should be the pick if the Cardinals look into the linebacker position.

    Collins is coming off one of the best individual defensive seasons at the FBS level with 54 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions and a pair of touchdowns.

    The redshirt junior won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award, both of which are handed out to the nation's best defensive player.

    Chase Young, Aaron Donald, Bradley Chubb and Minkah Fitzpatrick are among the winners of those awards in the last decade.

    If Arizona is willing to move on from Jones in the next free-agent period, Collins could be the perfect replacement.

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    If the first round goes as expected, Arizona could land the third-best corner in the draft class.

    Caleb Farley's last few years at Virginia Tech were ravaged by a back injury. If he did not miss that much time, he would have challenged Surtain and Horn for the title of top cornerback.

    The Cardinals would be taking a bit of a risk on a player with an injury history, but when healthy, Farley is a fantastic cover corner.

    Although Arizona has Malcolm Butler and Robert Alford, it could use some depth at corner, and Farley would likely be the top CB available at No. 16.

    Most projections have Surtain or Horn landing with the Dallas Cowboys at No. 10, and a few other teams, like the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos, could go the secondary route in the top 15.

    If Surtain or Horn somehow falls to No. 16, the Cardinals must consider them over any prospect. The decision could get harder if Farley is the best option at the position, considering his talent and injury history.

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The 16th pick might be too high for a running back in some people's opinion, but it would help the Arizona offense.

    Alabama's Najee Harris could be one of four Alabama skill-position players to land in the first round behind Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

    Harris turned in back-to-back 1,000-plus-yard seasons for the Crimson Tide and found the end zone on 57 occasions in his collegiate career.

    Arizona added James Conner to the running back room to partner with Chase Edmonds, but that duo may not be good enough to push the Cardinals into contention for the NFC West title.

    After running for 973 yards and 12 scores in 2018, Conner had 1,185 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in the last two years. He also missed nine games because of injuries.

    Edmonds displayed signs of being a featured back in 2020 alongside Kenyan Drake, but he only found the end zone once on the ground.

    If the Cardinals want to make a splash, they'll go after Harris to lead the running back unit and have Edmonds and Conner work as secondary options.

    The first running back in 2020 was not chosen until No. 32, and the Cardinals could find a serviceable player in the middle-to-late rounds, but Harris is still worth considering at No. 16 because of his high level of production at Alabama.


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    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference and