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Arizona Cardinals eyeing trade up in 2021 NFL trade, potential targets

Matt Johnson

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The Arizona Cardinals have taken an all-in approach this offseason, making aggressive moves in free agency and via trade to become a potential Super Bowl contender. With the 2021 NFL Draft closing in, general manager Steve Keim could be eyeing another potential blockbuster move.

Arizona strengthened its lineups on both sides of the ball this spring. Seeing an alarming need along the offensive line, the Cardinals traded their third-round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders for center Rodney Hudson. They have also been active in free agency, signing James Conner, A.J. Green and luring J.J. Watt away from a crowded field of competitors.

As it stands, Arizona has the roster to compete for a playoff spot. But Keim recognizes the team is still missing a few pieces that could put it over the top. Concerned that an impact talent might not make it to No. 16 overall, he could have something big planned for April 29.

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According to ESPN’s Matt Miller, there is growing talk around the NFL about the Cardinals’ efforts to trade up on draft day. It comes at a time when many teams with top-10 picks are actively looking to trade down.

It might be a wiser move for Arizona to move down from their current pick. If the front office doesn’t feel there is top talent after the top-10 picks, it only makes sense to trade down. Plus, with only one pick (No. 49) on Day 2, Keim could benefit from acquiring a second- or third-round pick.

If the Cardinals are determined to move up, though, a few trades for specific targets stand out.

Arizona Cardinals draft targets

Realistically, Keim can’t afford to package the No. 16 selection with Arizona’s second-round pick in a deal. It would mean not making another pick until the middle of Round 5 and leave the Cardinals with just two selections in the top-200 picks. So, he’ll have to gamble with the team’s future.

  • Arizona Cardinals trade: 16th overall pick, 2022 first- and fifth-round picks
  • Detroit Lions trade: 7th overall pick

The Miami Dolphins are open to trading down, but likely at a price point Arizona can’t match. With Detroit even more willing to slide down the draft board, this fit makes more sense.

Arizona’s pick at that spot would be determined by what happens in the three prior selections. If the Atlanta Falcons draft tight end Kyle Pitts at No. 4 and Ja’Marr Chase is also off the board, then Jaylen Waddle becomes the target. He could be the perfect piece for this aerial attack. Defenses can’t put a safety over the top on him, since DeAndre Hopkins requires double coverage. With Waddle stretching the field for Murray’s arm and Hopkins operating everywhere, Green can make plays as the third receiver.

There are other options for Arizona, but the price tag will be similar. If the Lions decide to stay put, the next call goes to the Carolina Panthers.

  • Arizona Cardinals trade: 16th pick, 2022 first-round pick
  • Carolina Panthers trade: 8th pick

At No. 8, DeVonta Smith becomes a potential options. There are legitimate concerns about how a 166-pound receiver will handle the physicality of the NFL. The reality is that Smith proved in the SEC that he plays far bigger than his size. Let him operate underneath in Arizona’s offense and he can be a target monster with great YAC ability.

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There’s one other scenario to consider, the possibility that trading up isn’t for a wide receiver. The Cardinals badly need a reliable cornerback, especially in the NFC West.

  • Dallas Cowboys trade: 10th pick
  • Arizona Cardinals trade: 16th pick, 2022 second- and fourth-round picks

Dallas is open to trading down and this move allows Keim to keep his 2022 first-round pick. While the elite receivers will likely be off the board, Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II would still be available. Plug him in as the No. 1 cornerback and the Cardinals’ defense could shine in 2021.