The debate of selecting a position of need or best player available in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft comes up every year and has certainly affected the selections of many mock drafts from experts and casual fans. Every year I come to the same conclusion it has to be a combination of these two ideologies.
The best player available is a good concept however if you have depth at a position and that player will not impact the team it’s not the best use of draft capital. Similarly, you don’t want to overdraft a player just due to need when a better player is available or there is an opportunity to trade down and acquire more picks. This is especially important for the Arizona Cardinals this year as they have one of the smallest draft capitals around the league.
The Cardinal’s current needs include cornerback, receiver, running back, linebacker and tight end. A full breakdown of their needs can be seen here. In summary, the Cardinals need to address the second or slot cornerback position, dependent on where they see Byron Murphy aligning in 2021. In my opinion, the outside corner position should be addressed on draft day and Murphy should be kept inside at the slot.
The next major need is receiver, which is one year away from a major overhaul with new addition AJ Green and fourth year Christian Kirk both on the final years of their contracts. This will leave the Cardinals with just three receivers under contract in 2021 Deandre Hopkins, Andy Isabella, and KeeSean Johnson.
This is similar to the tight end position led by Maxx Williams, which after the 2021 season will be completely bare with no players signed through 2022. The trend continues at running back with both Chase Edmonds and newly signed James Connor both signed for just 2021 and no true number one options behind them. The only running back signed to a contract past 2021 is Eno Benjamin, who didn’t see any snaps in 2020.
Moving back to the defensive side of the ball linebacker/edge rusher is a position that never has too much depth but will also need to be addressed in the upcoming years with contracts coming to an end and age beginning to become a concern in these rooms. The extension of Markus Golden and the assumption that Chandler Jones will extend make the need less immediate but until that occurs I would push to fill depth at edge rusher.