With J.J. Watt's retirement, the Cardinals lose more than a third of their 2022 sacks. Anderson wasn't quite as explosive and productive this past season as he was in 2021, but he is this draft's most electric pass rusher.
After making the playoffs in 2021, the Arizona Cardinals didn't expect to be in this position—but it did give the organization a chance to reset at general manager and head coach while gaining the opportunity to add a blue-chip talent in the draft. That's exactly what they get in Will Anderson Jr. After a dominant career in the SEC, Anderson has the makings of a highly-disruptive playmaker that can change the dynamics of the Cardinals' defense moving forward.
Done and done. It's possible he could be the No. 1 overall pick, and it's possible Chicago trades down and goes with the superstar pass rusher over the superstar defensive tackle in Jalen Carter. Arizona needs O line, but it's not passing up Anderson.
A trade back feels like it would provide a great chance for new GM Monti Ossenfort to shore up some of the biggest problem areas facing this franchise — specifically, line play on both sides of the ball. Kliff Kingsbury's attention to detail in the trenches was … well, the Cardinals need help up front. Myles Murphy still needs some development on the edge, but he's a freaky player who could help.
Anderson is one of the more complete players in the draft. While at Alabama, he was used in various spots along their defensive line, primarily on the edge but there were times you would see him in either the B- or the A-Gaps. Off the edge, he relies on power and could benefit from adding a few more pass-rushing moves to his arsenal, but the technique is coming. A dip-and-rip sack against Vanderbilt from this season is an example of what he could become.
I thought long and hard about a potential trade-down here. New Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort touched on the possibility of trading down from No. 3 but spoke so much more about an emphasis on getting the right football players on their team. Anderson was a Heisman-caliber player in 2021 (82 pressures, 17.2% pass-rush win percentage) and was a permanent team captain during another solid season in 2022. He'll check a lot of boxes the Cardinals are looking for in their new direction.
New Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort gets a premium pick to try to improve this roster, and he could luck into a Pro Bowl edge rusher right off the bat. Anderson was a tackle-for-loss machine in college -- he had 54 over the past two seasons -- and dominated offensive tackles in both the run and pass game. He was unblockable at times against SEC competition. For the Cardinals, who are losing the retired J.J. Watt, he could play some outside linebacker and move around the defense to create mismatches. This would be a home run pick for Ossenfort & Co.