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Arizona Cardinals on the verge of a colossal draft mistake?

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By: John W. Buckley

Many Cardinals fans are hoping that Marvin Harrison Jr. will be the next great WR here in the desert. | Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images

Rumors are swirling and mock drafts are dropping. Both seem to suggest that the Arizona Cardinals could be on the verge of a major draft-day mistake: trading down from the #4 pick.

We’re just under a month away from the 2024 NFL Draft. Mock draft season is in full fervor, with multiple new ones dropping from major outlets seemingly every day.

There’s been a marked change in Arizona Cardinals mock drafts of late, however. Earlier in the mock draft season, most analysts had the Cardinals staying put at #4 and nabbing Marvin Harrison Jr. (assuming QBs went 1-2-3). Seemed like a pretty obvious fit.

But in the past week or so, more and more mocks are projecting the Cardinals to trade back. We’ve got potential trades with the Giants at #6, the Broncos at #8, and, most commonly, with the Vikings at #11, most of whom would be moving up to draft the suddenly white-hot J.J. McCarthy of Michigan. (Seriously?)

These mock trades all have the Cardinals coming away with a pretty nice haul, with this year’s first and various combinations of firsts next year and/or Day 2 picks this year or next. And both the Broncos and Vikings mocks above have the Cardinals trading back up in the top 10 to land Rome Odunze, the #3 WR on most team’s boards.

That would seem to be business as usual for Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort, who manipulated the draft board like a wizard last year to leaguewide acclaim. After all, this team still has a ton of roster holes and could use all the premium picks it can get to fill them.

But I think trading down again this year would be a colossal mistake. Why? Simply put, I think the Cardinals *need* to come out of this draft with Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. Monti should resist the impulse to trade down again and just stay put and draft the consensus #1 WR in this year’s draft class and the best WR prospect since Ja’Marr Chase in 2021. Allow me to explain.

WR Is Still a Massive, Massive Need

The only moves of note the Cardinals have made at WR this offseason have been letting Hollywood Brown walk, trading Rondale Moore, and signing journeyman Chris Moore. The top three names on the depth chart are currently Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch, and Moore. The rest of the names on the chart are JAGs and practice squad types. This is maybe the worst position room in the entire NFL right now. So Monti has pretty clearly telegraphed that he’ll address the position early in the draft, likely at #4—assuming he stays there. (And likely later in the draft as well.)

Kyler Needs Another Alpha WR1

There was a time during this past season when draft prognosticators were mocking USC’s Caleb Williams to the Cardinals, as we flirted with having the league’s worst record for much of the year. But when the dust settled on the 2023 season, the Cardinals wound up with that #4 pick, out of range of the top QB prospects. So we’ll be building around the still-just-26-year-old Kyler for the foreseeable future. And what Kyler needs most is an alpha WR1 in the DeAndre Hopkins mold. Kyler was at his best with a true WR1 like D-Hop:

That’s a pretty noticeable drop-off in performance: worse record, worse efficiency, fewer yards and TDs. (But more INTs, interestingly.) And our only playoff appearance came with Hopkins on the roster. Monti’s job #1 for the rest of this offseason *needs* to be getting Kyler that alpha WR1 so he can return to a Pro Bowl level—and hopefully help the Cardinals return to the postseason.

There Are No Guarantees After MHJ

The fit between the Cardinals and Harrison at that spot couldn’t be better—the perfect marriage of team need and player talent. He’s viewed as a, to use a cliché, “generational talent” and would immediately transform the entire Cardinals franchise. Of course, there are two other outstanding WR prospects in this year’s class—the aforementioned Odunze and LSU’s Malik Nabers. Could either of them be that alpha WR1? Sure (although Nabers lacks the size of the other two, which could be a concern given Kyler’s much ballyhooed diminutive nature himself). But there are no guarantees Monti would be able to nab either of them should he trade down.

You’d almost definitely be able to get one of them if you traded down to #6 (note that I’m assuming that the top three picks are all QBs, which seems increasingly like a certainty). You might be able to get one of them at #8. But all three of them would definitely be off the board at #11. Monti does have some flexibility (and he could make a second trade if needed as mentioned above), but there are no guarantees in the NFL Draft. Another team could outbid you to trade up, a surprise team could take a WR (and I supposed there’s still a chance MHJ could go in the top 3), etc. You just never know. And Harrison is (likely) *right there* at #4.Don’t overthink this, Monti. Especially because…

There Are No Guarantees When Trading Down

Remember when the Cardinals were supposed to have two top-10 (if not top-5) picks this year after the Texans trade last year? Yeah… that did not work out as planned. The Texans won 10 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. That “second top-5 pick” is now all the way down at #27. That could easily happen again—especially if the team picking at #4 after trading with us hits on that pick (again). And, besides, the whole point of picking early in the draft is that you’re supposed to get the best shot to draft a superstar. Could you land that superstar at #6, #8, or #11? Sure. But, theoretically, it’s easier to do so at #4. And, again, Harrison is (likely) *right there*!

Final Thoughts

This team is staved for a superstar WR, its next DeAndre Hopkins, its next Larry Fitzgerald. There are absolutely no guarantees Marvin Harrison Jr. is that player (Corey Davis was drafted at #5 overall back in 2018, for example), but he represents the clear best shot at being that guy.

I am BEGGING Monti to stand pat at #4 and draft Harrison. Resist the urge to trade down, especially remembering how that didn’t work out as planned last year. There are degrees, of course. Something like picking up two seconds for trading down two spots with the Giants and still landing Odunze wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I could at least stomach that, I think.

But the recent PFF mock draft where we trade with the Vikings down to #11 and take a CB… and not land a WR until #35 is an absolute disaster, worst-case, throwing-my-TV-out-the-window-on-draft-night scenario.

I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope Monti does the smart, sensible thing and just stay put and take the generational prospect who will (hopefully) drop into your lap. Don’t gamble with the franchise’s future and give your franchise QB the weapon he needs.

Say it with me, Cardinals fans: Marvin Harrison Jr. no matter what!

Of course, your opinion may differ. That’s what the poll and comments section are for. Do your thing, RotBers!

Originally posted on Revenge Of The Birds