Cardinals' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Cardinals' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals' offseason mostly focused on Kyler Murray.

    The drama surrounding Murray's social media posts and statements made by the team and player overshadowed the moves that affected Arizona's roster.

    Arizona lost Jordan Hicks, Chandler Jones, Chase Edmonds and Christian Kirk in free agency. It comes into the 2022 NFL draft in need of replacements at wide receiver and on the edge. An extra running back may be chosen on Day 2 or Day 3.

    Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his staff should monitor the run on wide receivers that is expected to happen in the middle of the first round.

    There is a scenario in which the Cardinals land their top target, but that would require some surprises ahead of them at No. 23.

    The Cardinals should also shelf the wide receiver idea until the second or third round to shore up the pass rush alongside J.J. Watt to make up for the departures of Jones and Hicks.

Boye Mafe, LB, Minnesota

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    Minnesota's Boye Mafe could be the perfect pass-rushing prospect to fill Arizona's defensive needs.

    Mafe's pass-rushing ability was lauded in a handful of mock drafts, including one from ESPN's Jordan Reid, who projected Mafe would be the 29th overall pick.

    "An explosive and bendy edge-rusher, Mafe could put his hand in the dirt or stand up as a 3-4 outside linebacker," Reid wrote.

    The Cardinals could use an explosive pass-rusher opposite J.J. Watt to replace Jones' output and to keep up with the all of the speed in the NFC West.

    Mafe finished his collegiate career with 19.5 sacks, 10 of which came in his senior season for an average Golden Gophers team. He may not be the sexy pick at No. 23, but he could be one of the most useful selections at the back end of the first round.

    Arizona needs useful over sexy, and Mafe could serve it well if his pass-rushing talent translates to the NFL.

Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

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    George Frey/Associated Press

    Arizona may have to employ the best player available strategy if Devin Lloyd falls to No. 23.

    The Cardinals took linebackers in consecutive drafts: Isaiah Simmons in 2020 and Zaven Collins in 2021. Lloyd's selection might thus seem redundant, but he could provide a boost to the defense.

    Arizona lost a high-volume tackler in Jordan Hicks, and if the franchise believes Simmons and Collins are not ready to take over that spot, it may target Lloyd.

    Lloyd recorded 111 tackles and 7.5 sacks in his senior season at Utah. He will be an intriguing pick for a handful of teams ahead of Arizona in the draft order, such as the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

    Cardinals fans may get upset if the team drafts a linebacker for the third successive first round, but Lloyd could be a nice fit inside the Arizona defense.

    Arizona needs all the help it can get because of the talent strewn across the offenses of the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

    A true linebacker will not be a priority on Arizona's wishlist, but if Lloyd falls to the team, it at least has to consider the selection.

Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

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    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    Arizona fans might be tired of all this linebacker talk, so let's dive into the flashy potential pick at No. 23.

    Jahan Dotson is the down-the-field playmaker Murray could fall in love with immediately.

    Dotson was Penn State's top option in every aspect of the passing game, but he stood out with his speed in open space.

    Arizona does not need a physical wide receiver since DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green are already on the roster. It needs a burner on the outside who stretches the field and strikes fear into opposing secondaries.

    Dotson is the player the Cardinals should target to be as close to a like-for-like replacement to Christian Kirk as they can get.

    The Cardinals should not waste their time hoping that Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave or Jameson Williams falls to them. That seems unrealistic given all the wide receiver needs among teams selecting in the first 22 picks.

    Arkansas' Treylon Burks would be an intriguing pick at No. 23, but he is a bit too similar to Hopkins and Green in terms of body type.

    Arizona needs speed on the outside. Dotson would give it that, and he would instantly upgrade the return game as well.

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