ARIZONA CARDINALS

In Todd McShay’s eyes, Cardinals’ biggest draft need isn’t what you think

Apr 16, 2021, 1:14 PM | Updated: 3:18 pm

(Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File)...

(Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File)

(Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File)

You’d be hard-pressed to find an NFL mock draft that has the Arizona Cardinals using their first-round pick to select a tight end without moving up in the order.

That’s because the tight end class looks like so: Kyle Pitts and everyone else.

But just because mocks don’t have the Cardinals drafting a tight end doesn’t mean they don’t need one. ESPN’s Todd McShay believes that’s Arizona’s No. 1 priority heading into the draft — not cornerback, either line, receiver or edge rusher.

This offense has the chance to be really dynamic this season, but I do think it could still use a tight end, another option at receiver and maybe even one more running back to complement Chase Edmonds and James Conner. But cornerback has been the focus at No. 16 in most mock drafts, and for good reason. The Cardinals lost Patrick Peterson in free agency and lack depth outside behind Malcolm Butler and Robert Alford. One of the top three corners in the class — Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn and Caleb Farley — could be a great selection in the middle of the first round.

McShay has Arizona’s list of needs as of Friday looking, in order, like so: tight end, cornerback, 3-4 defensive end, receiver, running back and linebacker.

At tight end, the Cardinals return Maxx Williams and Darrell Daniels but lost pass-catcher Dan Arnold in free agency. While one-year pro Ian Bunting is under contract, Arizona could use another proven player at the position. To complement Williams and Daniels, general manager Steve Keim likely will be targeting free agents, trade targets or draftees who can pose a relative threat in the passing game.

That’s why Pitts could be a salivating prospect for the Cardinals, but most analysts don’t see any way Arizona could even have a shot of trading up high enough to select the Florida unicorn who caught 43 passes for 12 touchdowns and 770 yards last season.

In McShay’s eyes, Pitts is listed as the ESPN analyst’s second-best prospect at any position.

The drop-off in prospect level after that is steep.

McShay has Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth listed as his 48th-best prospect, which could give Arizona a chance to select him with its 49th overall pick.

Also in that range is Boston College’s Hunter Long (54th), followed by Miami’s Brevin Jordan (87th). Those four are the only tight ends in the top 100 of McShay’s tiered rankings.

So though McShay believes Arizona needs another tight end, the first round of draft might not be the place for it.

The second round and beyond? That looks a lot more likely.

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