2019 NFL Draft, New York Jets
Photo Credit: USA Today

The Arizona Cardinals have ten picks in the upcoming draft, yet none more polarizing than the first overall selection. Whatever they decide to do is sure to shape their franchise for the next several years.

All of the talk surrounding the first pick revolves around Oklahoma State quarterback Kyler Murray. The media has used old Kliff Kingsbury quotes to insinuate Murray to the Arizona Cardinals is a lock. Various reports claim several teams have even offered a 2nd round pick for Josh Rosen.

Why take Murray

I have no idea if Murray will be successful in the National Football League. I do know the advanced efficiency metrics in his lone year as a starter are off the charts:

  • Expected points added (EPA): 237
  • Yards per attempt (YPA): 11.6
  • College quarterback rating (QBR): 95.4

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier was next in EPA at 140. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins had an EPA of 137 (according to Football Outsiders’ Matt Manocherian). Murray’s YPA figure is the highest in college football since Cal Poly’s Jonathan Daily’s 11.7 YPA in 2007. His QBR is higher than any number Baker Mayfield produced during his time in college. The metrics are insane.

Why not take Murray

If you look at the interview with Dan Patrick, he can’t even answer simple questions, deferring to his dad in every instance. It was brutal. He bulked up to over 200 lbs for the combine, yet refused to run. Some speculate it was because he is not used to that weight, so is he going back down to the 185-195 range when the season starts?

Also, consider this from the Football Outsiders Off the Charts podcast via Aaron Schatz: As far as thirty years ago, only four quarterbacks with just one year of college experience have been drafted in the first two rounds. Those players are Mark Sanchez, Cam Newton, Mitchell Trubisky and Matt Blundin. Why is that important? According to Schatz, starting experience in college has been a good indicator of professional success.

Could Murray work out and make Arizona look brilliant for drafting him? Absolutely. Could he flame out and make Arizona look incompetent for drafting him? Absolutely. I would not feel comfortable taking on that kind of risk with the first overall pick. I would instead look to build around Rosen, who deserves a full-on pass for the miserable rookie year he endured. We have no baseline for a prospect like Murray. Saying you think he’ll be a bust or a success with any conviction is just foolish and arrogant in my opinion.

Trade Down

What I would do is attempt to trade down. If a partner doesn’t exist, I would try to make a partner. I don’t think you can sell the idea that you can be talked off Murray with a good enough offer, because if you like Kyler that much why wouldn’t you take him? I would try to make teams think there is someone else who is willing to mortgage the farm for my first overall pick and get as big a haul for it as I could.

One thing we all know is the draft is a crapshoot. The more picks you have, the better chance you have of hitting on your picks, and the better chance you have of turning a franchise around. I am skeptical Arizona will be able to find a trade partner should they decide to go this route, but, it is the best plan in my opinion.

The most appealing trade partners would be the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders. Both possess multiple first round picks in this draft, and both are (or might be) in the market for a QB. If a trade were to happen here’s how it could look:

Raiders:

  • Cardinals receive (3090): Pick 4 (1800), Pick 24 (740), Pick 35 (550)
  • Raiders receive (3088): Pick 1 (3000), Pick 103 (88)

Giants:

  • Cardinals receive (3080): Pick 6 (1600), Pick 17 (950), Pick 37 (530)
  • Giants receive (3088): Pick 1 (3000), Pick 103 (88)

The numbers in parenthesis represent each pick’s value according to the draft value chart (found on drafttek) created by former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson. The larger number is the total value of all picks involved in each respective trade. If the Cardinals can trade down, the prospects I would target in the first round are two of Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams, LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor and the best defensive lineman available.

That said, I loaded up The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator and here is who I think the Cardinals should target in the 2019 NFL draft.

Round 1, Pick 1: Quinnen Williams, IDL, Alabama

Several scouts have Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa as the top prospect in the draft. I have a different line of thinking. Interior pressure has caused many prolific passers to fold over the years. The Cardinals are not exactly in need of an edge rusher for 2019 given they have Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs, which leads me to want to take Williams with the first overall pick. Scouts have said Williams has an Aaron Donald type of ceiling. While it is a lofty expectation to be put upon anyone, there is merit for the optimism.

Round 2, Pick 33: Erik McCoy, IOL, Texas A&M

The Cardinals made a big push in free agency to improve the offensive line by signing offensive lineman Max Garcia, guard J.R. Sweezy and trading for Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert. Despite the signings, the interior of the offensive line is still an area of need.

McCoy started 36 of 38 games for Texas A&M at Center, an area where Arizona was amongst the weakest at according to Pro Football Focus in 2018. He shined in games against Clemson and Alabama, which speaks volumes about his upside in the National Football League.

Kingsbury likes to employ inside and outside zone blocking schemes in the run game, which is something McCoy is familiar with given Texas A&M’s zone blocking scheme. His football IQ is a plus, which is what you want from your center. McCoy could anchor the Arizona offensive line for years.

Round 3, Pick 65: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Between Christian Kirk and Chad Williams, the Cardinals have a plethora of young wide receivers. The jury is still out on them, however, and there is value in finding young guys to model Larry Fitzgerald in what could be his last season.

Arcega-Whiteside will not blow anyone away with his speed, but his size led him to ranking 5th in the nation in touchdown receptions (14) in his last year at Stanford. He also earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors while serving as a team captain in 2018.

His height and weight almost mirror Fitzgerald’s, and one NFC scout says (via nfl.com) “…he’s smart enough to learn all the tricks to get open as a pro.” Who better to learn said tricks from than Fitzgerald?

Round 4, Pick 103: Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU

Terrell Suggs was brought in on a two year, $7 million guaranteed deal this offseason, but the 16-year pro is due to retire any year now. Drafting a successor who can learn from the veteran (as well as Chandler Jones) would be beneficial and fill a need for the Arizona Cardinals.

Banogu doesn’t pop off the tape as an extraordinary athlete, but a closer look will show his athletic profile mirrors that of Khalil Mack and Von Miller. Our own Brett Yarris has worked exclusively with Banogu and claims the Chicago Bears have told Banogo he reminds them of Mack. Here is Brett’s analysis of Banogu from his one-on-one time with the TCU prospect:

“He can be an every down starter. He’s got the athleticism to play off ball LB, which some teams have worked him out at. At worst he’ll be a situational pass rusher. But his versatility on the edge is astounding. Due to the scheme employed at TCU, Ben was forced to become a versatile edge defender using his athleticism to be good at things he shouldn’t be good at but is.”

Round 5, Pick 139: Mark Fields, CB, Clemson

It could be said Fields was the most talented Clemson cornerback amongst their top three, so it is a bit puzzling he was never able to lock down a starting role. If he falls out of the top 100, it won’t be because of talent. He played well the second half of the National Championship against Alabama and had a solid week at the senior bowl. He can be a starting corner in the NFL, but other factors could force him to fall down draft boards.

Round 6, Pick 174: Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson

Renfrow is not necessarily a big-time athlete but has arguably the surest hands in the draft. His ability to win contested catches and above average route running for a rookie will help him be productive from day one.

Round 6, Pick 179: Malik Grant, S, Marshall

His best trait is his run defense, but he can also hold his own in man coverage against receivers with similar athleticism. That should be enough to help him be productive right away in the NFL, with a chance to become an every down starter.

Round 7, Pick 248: Ryan Bates, OT, Penn State

Bates is a swing offensive lineman who profiles best as a sixth man who can make spot starts up and down the line. Familiarity with zone blocking schemes is a plus for Kingsbury.

Round 7, Pick 249: Saivon Smith, CB, Alabama

Some teams akin him to Richard Sherman according to The Draft Analysts podcast host Tony Pauline. Like Sherman, he is long and ran the 40-yard dash in a near identical time. He is a late round developmental project who could blossom into a starter. Getting to study Patrick Peterson‘s work habits every day will be invaluable for Saivon.

Round 7, Pick 254: James Williams, RB, Washington State University

Williams posted two 70 catch seasons at WSU, checking in at 202 receptions for his collegiate career. His skill set as a pass-catcher translates perfectly into today’s NFL, and he should be able to carve out a role right away.

Summary

I believe the Cardinals should trade out of the first pick and get a haul in this draft or the next. That said, if they stand pat, I believe this is the route they should take. Build around Rosen and don’t fault him for last year because very few Qbs would have been successful in that situation.

The thing I love about Arizona’s offseason is they brought in veterans from winning teams. No matter which rookies they select, there is someone to study and learn from at each position. Because of this, I think the future looks exceptionally bright for Arizona.