One of the most improved teams in the NFL last season was the Arizona Cardinals, a team that was one of the worst in the league three seasons ago emerged as a fringe playoff contender in 2020. Arizona failed to make the postseason in a winner-takes-all Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Rams, which doomed the Cardinals' season once star quarterback Kyler Murray had to leave the game in the first half.
The Cardinals haven't been to the postseason since 2015, and have made plenty of offseason additions to make sure that six-year playoff drought ends. Arizona upgraded its roster with the signings of A.J. Green, J.J. Watt, and Malcolm Butler highlighting the free agency period. The Cardinals also acquired Rodney Hudson from the Las Vegas Raiders and signed Shawn Williams to complete the revamping of the secondary.
Arizona was active in free agency, plugging a lot of holes heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. The Cardinals definitely took the best-player-available route throughout this draft, adding talent to an already proficient roster. So where did the Cardinals drop the ball in this draft? What pick did they crush? Let's take a look at Arizona's draft:
2021 Cardinals draft picks
- Round 1 (No. 16 overall): Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
- Round 2 (No. 49 overall): Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
- Round 4 (No. 136 overall): Marco Wilson, CB, Florida
- Round 6 (No. 210 overall): Victor Dimukeje, DE, Duke
- Round 6 (No. 223 overall): Tay Gowan, CB, UCF
- Round 7 (No. 243 overall): James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
- Round 7 (No. 247 overall): Michal Menet, C, Penn State
Where's the interior of the offensive line?
The Cardinals didn't use a draft pick on an offensive lineman until their final selection -- Michal Menet at No. 247 overall. That's way too late for a team that needed interior offensive linemen. Arizona added depth at cornerback with Wilson and Gowan (the latter is arguably one of the best Day 3 picks of the entire draft), but the failure to select an interior lineman until the end of Round 7 is stunning.
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Arizona brought back Justin Pugh and signed Brian Winters at guard, but is this pair good enough to protect Murray this fall? Rodney Hudson is an excellent upgrade at center, even if Winters will be competing with Justin Murray at right guard. Neither player may be good enough unless Arizona adds a veteran on the offensive line in free agency (Kelechi Osemele is the only legitimate option left).
There weren't any guards worth taking in the second round when Arizona selected Moore and the Cardinals didn't have a third-round pick to use on a guard (when Wyatt Davis was ultimately picked). Can't fault Arizona for going best player available early in the draft and finding depth at cornerback on Day 3. This just wasn't a good draft for guards, so the Cardinals will roll with what they have for now (maybe 2020 third-round pick Josh Jones moves inside so Arizona can get him snaps).
Moore a home run, literally
The Cardinals made sure they covered their tracks in case Larry Fitzgerald won't be returning, using a second-round pick on Moore -- and adding to the embarrassment of riches at wide receiver. Moore is in a position to succeed immediately, learning from DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and A.J. Green. The Cardinals love going with four-wide receiver sets (they led the NFL with 215 snaps in "01 personnel"), so Moore will fit right in for an offensive system that relies on the passing game.
Arizona took the best player available at No. 49, the spot the Cardinals selected Moore. The Cardinals just used a second-round pick on Andy Isabella two years ago, but he fell out of favor last season in the offense. Moore is a better option than Isabella, with the ability to create big plays with his breakaway speed once he catches the ball. The Cardinals can line Moore up in the slot and he will thrive with Hopkins and Green on the outside.
Moore fell to No. 49 because of his injury history. If he can stay healthy (played eight games the past two years), the Cardinals have a steal in the second round -- and a valuable pass-catcher for Murray for the next several seasons.