The Arizona Cardinals officially have the third overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. After a disappointing 4-13 record this season, Arizona did a clean sweep of their front office. General manager Steve Keim has stepped down and will be replaced by Monti Ossenfort, while head coach Kliff Kingsbury got fired. These changes hopefully catalyze a new-look Cardinals. Last season, they were a playoff team and retained their key players. With just a few right moves, they could once again be competitive.
The 2023 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 27th. Here are a few players the Cardinals could try to target with their coveted third-overall pick. With such a high draft pick, the Cards could get a player that can instantly help and be a long-term piece for the franchise.
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Jalen Carter is a physical monster at 6’3 and 300 pounds. Even when Carter doesn’t record a sack, he’s still impacting the game in other aspects; he’s constantly pushing the pocket with his strength and forcing the quarterback to rush throws. Or, he’s drawing double teams, taking some pressure off his teammates, and allowing them to make plays.
Carter did miss five games in 2022 from an MCL injury. Other than that, there are no concerns regarding his play. Carter should be a top-five selection in this year’s draft and would make a lot of sense for the Cardinals, given his NFL-ready talent and their lacking defensive line.
Will Anderson Jr., OLB/DE, Alabama
Another likely top-five selection, Anderson Jr. is also an intriguing option for the Cardinals’ defense. He relies more on his quickness and agility, listed at 6′ 4″ and 243 pounds. One thing that stands out about Anderson Jr. is his versatility; because he’s so athletic, he can succeed at multiple positions in the NFL.
In terms of versatility, he reminds me of another Cardinals’ defensive player that was a high-draft pick, Isaiah Simmons. Simmons was selected eighth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Pairing the two together could give defensive coordinator Vance Joseph a lot of flexibility to be creative and use them in numerous defensive packages depending on their matchups.
Bryan Breese, DT, Clemson
Compared to Carter and Anderson Jr., Breese is more of a dark horse to go to the Cardinals at pick number three. He’s listed very similarly to Carter at 6′ 4″ and 304lbs. Breese has quite the resume to support his case. He earned the honors of 2020 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year after being the number one overall recruit in the country. He has a good blend of strength and speed. Breese would fit in anywhere on a defensive line from day one.
While this season was disappointing, it’s exciting that the Cardinals have such a high draft pick. It’s a strong possibility that the first two picks in the draft are both quarterbacks (some combination of Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, and Will Levis), especially if the Bears trade back from number one overall. If this happens, the Cardinals will have their choice of all the available defensive players.
My pick: Will Anderson Jr.
While I love the talent of Breese, to me, it’s a toss-up between Carter and Anderson Jr. at pick number three. They’re similar from a skill standpoint, but I’m leaning toward Anderson Jr. due to the positional importance of the defensive end. The Cardinals could quickly turn one of their weaknesses into a strength with the selection of Anderson Jr.
I love the concept of building the core of your young defense around guys like Anderson Jr. and Isaiah Simmons. They provide speed and positional flexibility, both valuable traits in the NFL. Regardless of who the choice ends up being, let’s hope it’s a key contributor for years to come.