One of the worst teams, when it came to getting after the passer last season was the Arizona Cardinals who finished with just 46 sacks. The team has already started to address this need by naming forming Philidelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon as their head coach. The team will also likely look to address this need in the 2023 NFL Draft.
In this week’s article, we look at what the Arizona Cardinals might do in the NFL Draft, why Hendon Hooker could be the best value pick among this year’s quarterback class, who stood out at the NFL Combine, and much more.
Arizona Cardinals Mock Draft
Round 1, No. 3: Will Anderson, OLB, Alabama
While Arizona may be tempted to trade out of this pick in this mock draft they stick with the pick and select the best player in the 2023 NFL draft. Will Anderson is an elite pass rusher and is a great fit for Jonathan Gannon’s defense.
Round 2, No. 34: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Last season, Arizona allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete almost 70% of their passes which was the highest percentage in the NFL last season. The team could also lose Byron Murphy in free agency which makes addressing their secondary a must. Emmanuel Forbes is a ballhawk corner who is coming off a great NFL Combine.
Round 3, No. 66: Tuli Tuipulotu, DT, USC
The Arizona Cardinals add another pass rusher with this selection. Last season, Tuipulotu recorded 13.5 sacks and shows the quickness off the ball to see time at either defensive tackle or defensive end in the NFL. What will likely cause him to slide down the draft board is he weighed in at only 266 pounds at the NFL Combine.
Round 3, No. 96: Olusegun Oluwatimi, C, Michigan
After addressing their defense with their first three picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, they finally address their offense with the selection of Michigan center Olusegun Oluwatimi. Last season, Oluwatimi won the Outland Trophy and was the leader of the best offensive line in college football.
Round 4, No. 105: Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas
While James Conner had a strong season last season rushing for a career-high 782 yards, the team has very little behind him. Roschon Johnson is used to being a backup having spent time behind Bijan Robinson at Texas. Johnson is a good-sized running back who has a good combination of speed and power.
Round 5, No. 169: Brenton Cox Jr., DE, Florida
The Cardinals add yet another pass rusher with the selection of Cox. In 2021, Cox had 8.5 sacks but was dismissed from the Florida football program this year. Arizona might have concerns with his character but at this point in the draft he is worth the risk.
Round 6, No. 180: Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue
The Arizona Cardinals could see a lot of turnover this offseason at the wide receiver position, so adding a wide receiver or two in the draft is a wise choice for Arizona. Charlie Jones had an outstanding year this past season catching 110 passes and also has the ability to help out on special teams.
Round 6: No. 213: Connor Galvin, OT, Baylor
With their last pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals take one of the most underrated players in the draft. Baylor’s Connor Galvin is an athletic tackle who was named All-Big 12 this season and the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year last season.
Why Hendon Hooker Might Be the Best Quarterback Value
As we get closer to the NFL Draft all the talk is about the four quarterbacks: Bryce Young, C.J. Sroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson, all who likely will be top fifteen picks. While all four of these players are talented and might be able to develop into NFL starters the best value at this position is with a player who will likely go on day two of the draft.
The player who likely will be a great value pick is Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker. This past season was Hooker’s second strong season in a row. After he led the SEC and ranked third in the FBS in passer efficiency rating in 2021, he threw for 3,135 yards and 27 touchdowns while only throwing two interceptions in 2022. He also had some of his best games against the top teams he saw including throwing for five touchdowns against Alabama and completing close to 80% of his passes against Florida.
As a prospect, Hooker has three traits that stand out about his game which are his football IQ, accuracy and pocket awareness. When it comes to his football IQ, he showed a complete understanding of Tennessee’s offense and rarely threw the ball where it should not go. He is also one of the more accurate passers in this year’s draft and is a much more accurate passer than Levis or Richardson. In this area, he does a terrific job of placing the ball at a spot where the receiver can make the catch and pick up yards after the reception. In terms of pocket awareness, he does a good job of throwing under pressure and also has the mobility to take off when the need arises.
Another reason why Hooker could be the best value pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is that all of the other questions have big questions surrounding them. Alabama’s Bryce Young has issues when it comes to size, and while shorter quarterbacks have been drafted high the last couple of years all of them were taller than Young and were more of a running threat. Ohio State’s C.J. Stround questions come about his ability to create when things break down. You also have Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis who are impressive athletes but far from polished passers.
The fact that Hendon Hooker has the skills to develop into a starting quarterback, and will be drafted later than the other four quarterbacks should make teams think seriously about passing up a quarterback high in the first round. If they do this they could draft a player like Will Anderson in the first round, and Hooker in the second round which seems like a better deal than taking Will Levis in the top five and Calijah Kancey in the second round.
Top Ten NFL Combine Standouts
1. Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Look for Anthony Richardson to be the potential number one pick in the 2023 NFL Draft after his impressive NFL Combine. Richardson showed freakish athletic ability posting the best vertical and broad jump from a quarterback in NFL history, He also ran a 4.43 40-yard dash which is outstanding for a 6-foot-4 244-pound quarterback.
2. Adetomiwa Adebawore, DT, Northwestern
Northwestern defensive tackle Adetomiwa Adebawore might be on the smaller side, but with his testing numbers, he could be a third-round pick. His most impressive testing number was a 4.49 40-yard dash which was by far the best of any defensive tackle and only four edge players had better times. He also posted an impressive vertical jump which again led all defensive tackles.
3. Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia
Any time an edge player runs a faster 40-yard dash than Saquon Barkley and outjumps JaMarr Chase you are having a terrific NFL Combine. That is exactly what Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith did posting a 4.39 40 time and 41.5 inch vertical jump. These numbers could be enough to push Smith into the late part of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
4. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
A highly-rated player who tested extremely well is Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez. He posted strong numbers all around including a 4.38 40-yard dash and 41.5-inch vertical jump which are both elite numbers for a 6-foot-1 197-pound corner. These testing numbers make it a lock that he will be a top-15 pick in April.
5. Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
A day-three prospect who really helped himself with his performance in Indianapolis was West Virginia wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Coming in at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds he posted some of the most impressive testing numbers from a receiver his size in NFL Combine history. He posted the top vertical jump of any receiver jumping 41 inches and also posted a 4.38 40-yard dash. Look for these numbers to move Ford-Wheaton from a seventh-round pick to the fifth-round area.
6. Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
While Julius Brents probably wanted to run a better 40-yard dash his elite testing numbers in other categories make up for it. These numbers include 34-inch arms which put him in the 99th percentile. He also posted an 11’6 broad jump which led all corners and a 41.5-inch vertical jump which was the second-highest number among cornerbacks. Look for a team who likes big physical corners to take Brents on draft day.
7. Blake Freeland, OT, BYU
One of the most athletic linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft is BYU offensive tackle Blake Freeland. Freeland set an NFL Combine record for the highest vertical jump by an offensive lineman. He also posted a 1.68 second 10-yard sprint which was the top number among offensive linemen.
8. Christopher Dunn, K, North Carolina State
A specialist who had a strong NFL Combine is kicker Christopher Dunn. Dunn was the only kicker to hit all 15 of his field goals during the event including two for 55 yards. This should not come as a surprise though as he only missed one kick all year and went 10 of 11 from over 40 yards this season. After his outstanding season and showing in Indianapolis he could be the top kicker drafted this year.
9. Chase Brown, RB, Illinois
It seems like every year one running back gets drafted on day three yet puts up strong production as a rookie. This year that back might be Chase Brown of Illinois. At the combine, he led all running backs in the vertical and broad jump while also posting a strong 40-yard dash time.
10. Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
While Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey didn’t take part in most of the tests at the NFL Combine the one test he did he shined in. The most impressive number he put up was a 4.67 40-yard dash which was the fastest time for any defensive tackle in 20 years. This speed is evident when you put on his film as well as he is a terrific pass-rushing defensive tackle due to his quickness off the ball.
NFL Draft Scouting Notes
— Wisconsin’s Joe Tippman might be one of the more underrated prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. While he never made first or second-team All-Big Ten he has the skillset to develop into a high quality starter in the NFL. The first trait that stands out with Tippmann is his length coming in at 6-foot-6 with 32 3/4-inch arms. To go along with his size he shows impressive strength routinely controlling his man at the point of contact. This strength allows him to excel as a run blocker having earned the highest run-blocking grade on this Wisconsin offensive line according to Pro Football Focus. He also held up well in pass protection only allowing one sack and five pressures last year.
— One area the Chicago Bears will address during the 2023 NFL Draft is the defensive line. Two intriguing prospects the Bears met with at the NFL Combine who play this position were Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson and South Carolina defensive tackle prospect, Zacch Pickens. Wilson could be a target for the Bears if they trade down in the first round, and Will Anderson is already off the board. What likely intrigues the team with him is his impressive measurable coming in at 6-foot-6 and 271 pounds. While Pickens is more of a day-three prospect who could work in as a rotational defensive tackle as a rookie.
— Speaking of NFC North teams meeting with defensive linemen another meeting that caught my eye was the Green Bay Packers meeting with Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith. Smith is an impressive athlete who led all defensive linemen with 34 reps on the bench press. He would also fill a need as the Packers finished 17th against the run last year.
— While Christopher Dunn was the top kicker at the NFL Combine the punter who stood out was Michigan State’s Bryce Baringer. During open-field punting he averaged 49.5 yards per punt with a hand time of 4.92 seconds both of which led all punters. He also stood out when it came to directional punting and only had one touchback when pooch punting.
— A player who had a high grade on going into the NFL Combine who didn’t test well is Georgia safety, Christopher Smith. According to Kent Lee Platte, he tested in the very poor category in all three areas he measures. While it was known he was undersized before testing teams were hoping to see him post better than a 4.62 40-yard dash and 33-inch vertical jump both which ranked in the bottom 10 of his position. While his lack of elite athletic ability and size will cause him to fall down the draft board he could be a valuable pick on day three as he still possesses good game film.
— While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be tempted to draft Bijan Robinson with the 19th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, look for them to look more into drafting a back in the second round to replace Leonard Fournette. One potential replacement is UCLA’s, Zach Charbonnet. Like Fournette, Charbonnet is a bigger back who runs with impressive power. In addition to being a powerful runner, he is also a strong receiver having caught 37 passes last year.
Quote of the Week
“ You grade them off tape, you don’t grade off somebody out here in pajamas”
-Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell about evaluating talent at the NFL Combine