The 2021 NFL Draft is almost here and it’s time for an Arizona Cardinals mock draft. Following an active spring that saw the organization take a win-now approach, a few right moves in the upcoming draft could make this team a Super Bowl contender.
Arizona kicked things off with a splash, signing J.J. Watt to create a fearsome pass-rushing duo with Chandler Jones. If that wasn’t enough to make fans excited, the Cardinals acquired Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson and landed A.J. Green to step in as the No.2 wide receiver.
The Cardinals still have plenty of needs heading into the NFL Draft, but there aren’t a ton of picks to help fill the voids. As we’ll show, trading down from No. 16 overall could help the Cardinals fill out this roster and put them in an even better position to compete next season.
With the help of The Draft Network’s simulator, let’s dive into our Arizona Cardinals mock draft.
Arizona Cardinals mock draft: Becoming an NFC power
First round, 24th overall*: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
- Arizona Cardinals mock draft trade: Pittsburgh Steelers send 24th overall pick, 87th overall pick, 128th overall pick for 16th pick and 223rd overall pick
Arizona made the right decision to let Kenyan Drake walk, his production can easily be replaced by a talented rookie. There’s a strong case to be made for either Najee Harris or Travis Etienne, both of whom could be available depending on what the Miami Dolphins do at No. 18 overall.
Harris’ all-around skill and physicality are tempting, but Kliff Kingsbury loves speed. In three years at Clemson, Etienne proved that he is one of the most explosive football players at any level. Put the football in his hands with just a little crease and he’s more than capable of taking off for an 80-yard touchdown, even 90-yard scores became routine. Etienne is the definition of a home run waiting to happen.
This also just happens to be Etienne’s dream scenario and it’s hard to blame him. Sharing a backfield with Murray and this improved offensive line, he’ll be a legitimate 1,000-yard threat as a rookie. He’s capable of being a receiving back, he demonstrated that this past season, but that role can be filled by Chase Edmonds. Put these two together and you’ve got an outstanding RBBC.
Second round, 49th overall: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Replacing Patrick Peterson with Malcolm Butler is an upgrade for this secondary, but there’s a realistic chance the 31-year-old cornerback also regresses next season. Arizona has no choice but to make him its No. 1 cornerback, he’s the only option. If he is going to line up against top wide receivers, the Cardinals need to make sure there is a lot more help in this secondary.
Asante Samuel Jr. is very reminiscent of his father. Watch the instincts he show, the ease in how he reads quarterback and his lightning-quick reactions on plays. He can play press or off-man coverage, keeping everything in front of him and frequently making plays on the football.
There will be some rough moments, but that happens with all rookie cornerbacks. A playmaker like Samuel Jr. would be a welcome addition to Arizona’s secondary. Frankly, he’s a better bet than Robert Alford returning to form after missing two seasons with injuries.
Third round, 82nd overall*: Trey Smith, iOL, Tennessee
- Arizona Cardinals mock draft trade: Washington Football Team sends 82nd overall pick for 87th overall pick, 247th overall pick
After trading down from No. 16 to No. 24 overall, picking up a third-round pick, the Cardinals now move up the board. There’s still an undeniable need at guard, a position that can be addressed as early as Round 1 or on Day 2. In this instance, giving up a seventh-round pick is all it takes to land a starter.
Trey Smith, a former five-star recruit, battled inconsistency at Tennessee and carries medical red flags due to blood clots. If he checks out with Arizona’s doctors, he should be a priority target. We’re willing to look past the slower development at Tennessee, that’s largely a reflection of the disaster that is the Volunteers’ football program.
Smith still showed plenty of talent at the collegiate level, enough that he was considered a first-round pick before the 2020 season. He shows tremendous strengths and when he gets his hands into a defender’s chest, the battle is over. Smith needs NFL coaching and the Cardinals can do wonders for him. Plug him in at right guard and the Cardinals will run the football even more effectively.
Fourth round, 128th overall: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Dylan Moses is admittedly one of the most unfortunate stories in the 2021 NFL Draft. Before suffering a season-ending injury in 2019, he was one of the best defensive players in college football and a future top-10 pick. When he returned in 2020, his athleticism didn’t come back with him and he wasn’t able to make the plays that he did in 2018.
A fourth-round pick is the earliest Moses can be drafted. If his athleticism returns, he becomes a steal. He remains a sound tackler and can even be used to rush the passer, but there’s still some hope that the old player everyone loved in 2018 can return. At the very least, he provides crucial depth for the Cardinals at linebacker and that is needed.
Arizona Cardinals mock draft: Day 3 targets in 2021 NFL Draft
- Fifth round, 160th overall: Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
- Seventh round, 243rd overall: Luke Farrell, TE, Ohio State
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