CARDINALS

Potential prospects Cardinals could be eyeing at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

Bob McManaman
Arizona Republic
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Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (2) scores the first touchdown for the Buckeyes during Saturday's NCAA Division I football game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on November 6, 2021.

Before the 2022 NFL draft April 28-30 in Nevada, the Arizona Cardinals will attempt to address much of their needs through free agency and potentially, a trade or two. The free agent signing period begins in earnest on March 16, which signals the start of the league’s new year.

Whatever holes they hope to fill on the roster or positions the Cardinals would like to strengthen might look a lot different between now and the draft. Knowing what we know at present, however, there are some obvious areas the team will be focusing on when it arrives in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine.

With 21 players set to become unrestricted free agents, including Chandler Jones, James Conner, Chase Edmonds, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams, it’s no secret Arizona will be in the market for help at outside linebacker, running back, wide receiver and tight end. The Cardinals also will be targeting help at cornerback, interior offensive line, and safety.

The Cardinals have five of their original seven 2022 draft selections — one in the first round (No. 23 overall), one in the second (No. 55) and third (No. 87), none in the fourth or fifth, one in the sixth (No. 200) and one in the seventh (No. 242).

They traded their fourth-round pick as part of the package to move up and draft cornerback Marco Wilson last year and they dealt their fifth-round pick to the Eagles this past season in the trade for tight end Zach Ertz.

However, Arizona is expected to receive three compensatory picks this year, including a sixth-round selection for losing free-agent running back Kenyan Drake to the Raiders, along with a pair of seventh-round picks as compensation for losing tight end Dan Arnold and defensive lineman Angelo Blackson.

Considering compensatory picks can be traded, an allowance the league made in 2017, don’t be surprised if General Manager Steve Keim brokers a draft-day trade that includes a package of later-round picks for a chance to move back into the third and/or fourth round to nab a higher-rated prospect on their draft board.

Potential prospects the Cardinals might consider as it stands with the 23rd overall pick include wide receivers Chris Olave (Ohio State), Treylon Burks (Arkansas), Jameson Williams (Alabama) and George Pickens (Georgia); and edge rushers Travon Walker (Georgia), George Karlaftis (Purdue), Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State) and David Ojabo (Michigan). Other first-round options include cornerbacks Andrew Booth Jr. (Clemson), Kaiir Elam (Florida) and Trent McDuffie (Washington), interior offensive linemen Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa), Ikem Ekwonu (North Carolina State) and Kenyon Green (Texas A&M).

Michigan running back Blake Corum is tackled by Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker during the first half of the Orange Bowl NCAA College Football Playoff semifinal game, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Possible second- and third-round targets are running backs Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M), Breece Hall (Iowa State) and Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State); tight ends Trey McBride (Colorado State), Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M) and Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State); edge rushers Drake Jackson (USC), Cameron Thomas (San Diego State) and Boye Mafe (Minnesota) and receivers David Bell (Purdue), Justyn Ross (Clemson), Christian Watson (North Dakota State) and Jalen Tolbert (South Alabama).

Safety is another possibility. Michigan’s Daxton Hill probably won’t be available at pick No. 55, but Lewis Cine (Georgia) and Smoke Monday (Auburn) are options. Additional cornerbacks could include Kyler Gordon (Washington), Martin Emerson (Mississippi State) and Derion Kendrick (Georgia).

Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at bob.mcmanaman@arizonarepublic.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch. 

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