The Cards traded for Trayvon Mullen, who joins Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson, but there's not a whole lot on the depth chart behind them. And while they're young, and you could argue that their best football is in front of them, depth at the position is key in one of the toughest divisions in football.
Arizona could go Jordan Addison here. They could go Andrew Vorhees. Heck, they could go Trenton Simpson based on recent history (I kid, I kid). But can we please address the cornerback position? Trayvon Mullen is a nice swing at the position as a trade made at the start of the season that has my intrigue, and Byron Murphy can ball, there's no question of that. But Murphy is best suited inside, which leaves Marco Wilson as the other man on the outside—and Wilson is no Cam Smith.
You play in a high-flying division with a lot of great receivers. It's time to get the stopping power needed to compete.
The Cardinals have become pretty weak at corner minus Patrick Peterson of late as neither Byron Murphy nor Marco Wilson inspire as their current outside starters. Smith's size and speed give some promise as possibly their new Peterson.
Cornerback ranks near the top of Arizona's team needs, and Byron Murphy will be a free agent next spring. Ricks, a former five-star recruit and a transfer from LSU, uses his length and physical style to excel in press-man coverage. His instincts and understanding of route concepts put himself in position to generate turnovers, and he had four interceptions as a true freshman in 2020.
I wanted to take a lineman. Or a cornerback. I just really don't think Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim will be able to help themselves here, even after trading their 2022 first-round pick for Hollywood Brown.
Smith-Nijgba would fit in nicely as a strong slot option for Kyler Murray. Though Smith-Njigba's No. 17 ranking on Dane's board might shock some because of his outstanding play in 2021, the NFL is all about traits. And despite his excellent hands and feel for coverages that project nicely into a productive NFL starter, his lack of overwhelming size and speed might hurt him in the eyes of a few teams. But pairing him with Murray would give Arizona's quarterback the type of player he trusts on every target. If Smith-Nijgba can show he can win from the outside, it'll be a bonus on top of what he's already able to do inside.
Marco Wilson and Byron Murphy are nice players but beyond that, the Cardinals' corner depth chart leaves a lot to be desired. Eli Ricks is an extremely talented player who boasts excellent length, fluidity, and ball skills. 2021 was a down year for him as he battled injury, but his 2020 film as a true freshman was outstanding. If he regains the 2020 form, he should be a very early pick.
I'd like to put Nolan Smith higher in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft, but his absence of polished pass-rush moves limits his ceiling. Regardless, the former No. 1 high school recruit in 2019 owns asinine closing speed, can set hard edges with a strong anchor, and quickly sheds blocks in run defense.
At 6'3", Smith naturally wins leverage battles but will need to add weight (listed 235 pounds) to hold up in the NFL. Although there are some glaring issues with Smith's profile, I'd bank on the defensive tone-setter reaching new heights this season.
Gonzalez was a huge addition for the Ducks after playing the previous two seasons at Colorado, and he's now generating early draft buzz. And Arizona's depth chart at corner lacks depth beyond 2022. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Gonzalez is a big corner with outstanding play patience. He gets his eyes on the ball and makes plays on it, racking up 11 pass breakups over the past two seasons. But now scouts want to see him generate turnovers; he hasn't yet recorded an interception during his career.