ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals GM says 2021 NFL Draft has ‘really deep’ WR class

Apr 23, 2021, 3:15 PM | Updated: 11:51 pm
This March 31, 2021, file photo shows LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase catching during a drill at an...

This March 31, 2021, file photo shows LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase catching during a drill at an NFL Pro Day at LSU in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

DeAndre Hopkins is back, A.J. Green is added and Christian Kirk remains a starting-caliber piece who arguably has yet to hit his ceiling.

With that, do the Arizona Cardinals want even more elite wideout talent to optimize quarterback Kyler Murray in his third NFL season, regardless of whether veteran Larry Fitzgerald returns for his 18th?

General manager Steve Keim unsurprisingly didn’t wade into whether he feels his team is feeling so greedy that a top-tier receiver could be a target in the NFL Draft that kicks off on Thursday. The Cardinals hold the No. 16 pick, and that might be out of range to pick one of the top three prospects without trading up.

Keim did, however, at least admit he’s a fan of the 2021 class of receivers.

“I think it’s a really deep receiver class and they all have different traits. Especially those guys at the top, they’re all different sizes, they have different skillsets, whether they can play X or Z or do some things for you in the return game,” the GM said Thursday.

“To me, I think there’s probably five or six guys who could potential go in the first round. We’ve already seen there could be as many as three go in the top 15 picks. They’re exciting to watch.”

LSU Tigers product Ja’Marr Chase has consistently been posed as the top prospect. He’s the most physically imposing of the top group of receivers, standing 6-foot and over 200 pounds.

He sat out 2020 but caught 20 touchdowns and a total of 1,780 receiving yards two years ago (eight scores were plays of at least 50 yards).

“Chase at LSU reminds me a little bit of Andre Johnson when he came out of Miami — probably showing my age here — but he was a guy who had all the traits: size, speed, explosiveness, run after the catch (ability),” Keim said.

Which player is the second-rated receiver in the class isn’t as unanimous.

It’s likely between Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, the latter of whom won the Heisman Trophy.

Smith is a slender, explosive wideout. Waddle is a more compact player with more potential to play inside, where in Arizona he could in theory complement Hopkins and Green on the outside.

“People question Smith’s size, weighing in at 170 pounds,” Keim said. “Again, dating myself, I played in a high school All-Star game with a guy who weighed 174 pounds coming out of Syracuse who you might have heard of named Marvin Harrison, who was a pretty good player. Those guys have similar body types.

“Waddle reminds me a little bit of Steve Smith when he came out of Utah. Squatty, explosive, has the ability to return, can be dynamic on that part of the game on fourth downs.”

If the Cardinals don’t see one of those top-three receivers fall to them — or if the team just goes another route — Keim can later on add to a receiver group where third-year pros Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson have yet to break out.

Arizona’s GM checked off Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman — Keim liked his route-running and body control — and Florida’s Kadarius Toney as other potential wideouts who are off the board on Day 1 of the draft.

Should the depth of the receiver class matter for the Cardinals, perhaps their second-round pick at 49th overall could also be utilized to get greedy in upgrading the offensive weaponry.

Slot receivers such as Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, Louisville’s Tutu Atwell and Purdue’s Rondale Moore are all projected in the next grouping of top prospects.

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt checks his face after running through a drill during practice Wednes...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ J.J. Watt feels for Texans fans, ready to face former team

J.J. Watt undoubtedly has a ton of love for the city of Houston. Come Sunday, however, moving to 7-0 is the biggest thing on his mind.
1 day ago
Zach Ertz of the Arizona Cardinals looks on prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns at First...
Kevin Zimmerman

Keim: Cardinals pursued Zach Ertz trade feeling they ‘had to make a move’

General manager Steve Keim felt that his Arizona Cardinals had no choice but to be aggressive after losing starting tight end Maxx Williams.
1 day ago
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones interacts with Arizona Cardinals tight end Darrell Dan...
Arizona Sports

Texans-Cardinals injury report: Arizona TE Darrell Daniels, DT Rashard Lawrence out

The Cardinals are nicked up at tight end, on the offensive line and at linebacker as they prepare for Week 7 against the Houston Texans.
1 day ago
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Kylie Fitts (49), Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones (55) and Card...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones out of COVID-19 protocols, Fitts’ year over

Cardinals outside linebacker Kylie Fitts said on Instagram that his season is over, though it is not clear what has led to his year ending.
1 day ago
The Arizona Cardinals prepare to take the field for a game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEne...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals OL making up for Hudson absence; Green to Ertz: ‘Play fast’

TEMPE — Not only did the Arizona Cardinals have to deal with a handful of coaches and players testing positive for COVID-19 when they took on the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, they did so without starting center Rodney Hudson, who was placed on the injured reserve with rib and shoulder injuries ahead of the action. […]
2 days ago
Cardinals DL Jordan Phillips looks on during practice Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Tempe. (Tyler Drak...
Arizona Sports

Report: Cardinals restructure Jordan Phillips’ deal after Zach Ertz add

In order to make the trade for TE Zach Ertz happen, Cardinals GM Steve Keim had to pull some strings with the team's salary cap construction.
2 days ago
Cardinals GM says 2021 NFL Draft has ‘really deep’ WR class