Just 8 days away from the NFL draft. One of the most exciting and many times nerve-wracking time of the year for fans. Will your team pick your favorite player or doom your franchise for years to come? Next week I will have more in-depth draft coverage and a recap of each day of the NFL draft. This week, we will look deeper into an NFC West preview by looking at one team per day. What each team has done this offseason, team needs to address in the draft, and which team is the biggest threat to the 49ers regaining the NFC West crown.
Biggest Additions: JJ Watt DE, Malcolm Butler CB, A.J. Green WR, Rodney Hudson C, James Connor RB
Biggest Losses: Patrick Peterson CB, Haason Reddick DE, Kenyan Drake RB
Top Draft Needs: CB, TE, RB, OG
Back-to-back offseasons the Arizona Cardinals have had some major splashes. In 2020, trading a bag of chips and David Johnson's horrible contract to get the great DeAndre Hopkins was equally phenomenal and surprising. Now in 2021 landing one of the most dominant edge rushers in NFL history, 3-time defensive player of the year, JJ Watt. Love em or hate em I have to admit they sure do keep things exciting. On top of that, they add 7-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green, 3-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson and a former Super Bowl hero in Malcolm Butler. Now on paper, you look at that and say Holy sh*t this team is loaded. But I am going to say not so fast. If this was 2015 and you told me they were going to lineup the trio of Fitz, Hopkins, and AJ Green I’d say they have the best receiver core in NFL history, but it’s not 2015 it’s 2021. AJ Green hasn’t been healthy in over 2 years and there are rumors Fitzgerald may even retire.
The same can be said for their defensive additions. JJ Watt, still looks extremely terrifying when he plays and while he did manage to play all 16 games last year, he only registered 5 sacks, and in 2019 was riddled with injuries limiting him to only 8 games. The Cardinals may be hoping to get the JJ Watt who played all 16 games and registered 16 sacks back in 2018 but I think those dominant days of double-digit sacks are behind him even with the help of Chandler Jones lining up on the opposite edge. I do love the addition of Rodney Hudson, which left many confused as to why the Raiders would let such a good player go with no injury history. Maybe the Cardinals just have an eye for teams who like to trade away good players. As far as James Connor, he seems like a slower version of Kenyan Drake who they let walk in free agency, and Malcolm Butler, is in the same part of his career as Patrick Peterson, a former Pro Bowler who just isn’t what he used to be. Except, I’d much rather have Patrick Peterson. The biggest loss in my eyes came from Haason Reddick, their former first-round pick of the 2017 draft. He may be a one-hit-wonder but 26-year-old pass rushers who are coming off a 12.5 sack season don’t grow on trees and I thought was a perfect candidate for the franchise tag. Instead, they will watch him terrorize quarterbacks in Carolina alongside Brian Burns.
While the Cardinals did backfill their losses with veterans, I'd expect them to target a cornerback early in the draft and at some point address tight end even though it is not a critical position in Kingsbury's offense. And just because of who Kingsbury is, it wouldn't shock me seeing them go after a WR in round 1 or 2 because that man loves his Wide Receivers.
Overall, I do think the Cardinals improved but not by as much as the media is portraying. I don’t trust that their defensive stars can stay healthy and unfortunately for them they play in the toughest division in football.
Verdict: 4th place in the NFC West