Arizona Cardinals hope for a big QB run atop 2021 NFL Draft
Three quarterbacks taken in the first six picks a year ago helped the Arizona Cardinals draft Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons with their eighth overall selection.
Arizona, this year holding the 16th overall pick, hopes an even deeper QB group catches the eye of the teams selecting ahead of them.
“We’re hoping they go (with the) top five picks,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said last Thursday. “It’ll push a player that we have rated really highly to us. It’s going to be interesting.
“It’s a great group. I haven’t studied them as thoroughly as I have in the past, but very, very talented young men that all could go in that top 10-to-15 picks.”
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance could all be off the board by the time Arizona picks. How likely is it?
Here’s every team’s quarterback situation and potential interest in the top five QBs in the draft class.
No. 1 pick — Jacksonville Jaguars
Notable QBs on the current roster: Gardner Minshew, C.J. Beathard
Man of interest: Trevor Lawrence
It would throw everyone for a tailspin if the Jaguars passed on Lawrence with the No. 1 pick.
Though the quarterback depth has truly appeared to increase in perception as teams have gone through the draft process, Lawrence remains unchallenged as the top prospect.
No. 2 pick — New York Jets
Notable QBs on the current roster: —
Man of interest: Zach Wilson
No quarterback did more during a pandemic-altered season to sway scouts. Wilson’s bump from completing 62% of his passes to 74% over the past two years while turning an 11-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio all the way to 33-to-3 says it in statistical terms.
For awhile now, it has become expected that the Jets, who traded away starting quarterback Sam Darnold this offseason, will go with the BYU product. That’s two quarterbacks off the board in two picks.
No. 3 pick — San Francisco 49ers (via trade with Dolphins)
Notable QBs on the current roster: Jimmy Garoppolo
Men of interest: Mac Jones, Trey Lance
It became quite apparent that, when the 49ers traded up to No. 3, quarterback was on their mind. Immediately after the trade, general manager John Lynch had to offer encouragement that Garoppolo was still in the immediate plans.
Just which quarterback is of interest remains to be seen, but it’s been reported by multiple people that it’s between Jones and Lance. ESPN’s Todd McShay adds that there’s a split between the personnel department (pro-Lance) and head coach Kyle Shanahan (pro-Jones).
There’s a good shot three quarterbacks are off the board after the third pick.
No. 4 pick — Atlanta Falcons
Notable QBs on the current roster: Matt Ryan
It wouldn’t appear that the Falcons will draft a quarterback, though maybe there’s a low likelihood they like a player enough to ready for the post-Matt Ryan era.
What is more likely is the Falcons take a weapon for Ryan such as Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
No. 5 pick — Cincinnati Bengals
Notable QBs on the current roster: Joe Burrow
Yeah, Burrow’s rookie year was ugly and ended with him suffering a serious injury, but that’s why going offensive tackle or receiver might be the best bet to take a step forward.
No. 6 pick — Miami Dolphins (via trade with Eagles)
Notable QBs on the current roster: Tua Tagovailoa
Having drafted Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick last year, it made all the sense in the world for Miami to trade out of the third overall slot. The Dolphins moved down to 12th, then back up to sixth by making a second deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here, they can follow Cincinnati in getting their second-year quarterback a little help.
No. 7 pick — Detroit Lions
Notable QBs on the current roster: Jared Goff
Seemingly, there are 12 different directions this one could go, and surely it will depend on which players are left on the board. Pitts, Chase and Alabama wideouts DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle could be up here. But cornerbacks, inside linebackers or offensive tackles could also be in the picture.
While adding Goff in dealing Matt Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams was a fine short-term move this year, there’s still a slim chance the Lions could go after a quarterback, especially if the personnel department has, say, Justin Fields listed as a top-three signal-caller.
We’ll guess that’s a no-go, however.
No. 8 pick — Carolina Panthers
Notable QBs on the current roster: Sam Darnold
Carolina traded for Darnold and picked up his fifth-year option, a move that, like Detroit, seemingly puts them in a good spot to touch on a more pressing need.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s pretend that Fields and one of Lance or Jones remains on the board.
No. 9 pick — Denver Broncos
Notable QBs on the current roster: Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock
Even after the Broncos traded for Teddy Bridgewater on Wednesday, reports indicate that quarterback could still be a target, depending on how the board falls.
No. 10 pick — Dallas Cowboys
Notable QBs on the current roster: Dak Prescott
Cardinals fans who watched the Cowboys game on Monday Night Football understand that cornerback is seemingly the obvious choice for Dallas. The Cowboys also just re-upped Prescott on a pretty large deal.
No. 11 pick — New York Giants
Notable QBs on the current roster: Daniel Jones
There were some reports that GM Dave Gettleman might, for the first time, trade down with this pick. If you’re the Cardinals and there’s certainty about a player who falls out of the top-10, maybe that’s worth taking the risk and trading up.
However, GM Steve Keim suggested it much more likely the team trades down. Considering all the difficult medical and scouting evaluations over the past year, they’d have to be super sure about a guy to move up five spots.
No. 12 pick — Philadelphia Eagles (from trade with Dolphins, originally 49ers’ pick)
Notable QBs on the current roster: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco
McShay is getting the feeling that the Eagles could think about trading down as well. The other way to look at the Giants and Eagles picks for the Cardinals is this: Somebody wants to trade up for a quarterback, effectively bumping a guy who Arizona likes down the board.
No. 13 pick — Los Angeles Chargers
Notable QBs on the current roster: Justin Herbert
Herbert has a higher upside than five of the six projected starting quarterbacks for the teams preceding the Chargers in the draft order. These guys aren’t picking a QB.
No. 14 pick — Minnesota Vikings
Notable QBs on the current roster: Kirk Cousins
The Vikings aren’t in the first-round quarterback market with Cousins still under contract for a few years.
No. 15 pick — New England Patriots
Notable QBs on the current roster: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham
The Patriots land in an interesting final spot if the Cardinals are about to be on the board. They could use a quarterback of the future, and it’s possible there are still two of the top-five quarterbacks left on the board if we’re being conservative.
McShay reports he’s heard more rumblings about trading down, and that only moreso opens up the chance that another QB is off the board here.
No. 16 pick — Arizona Cardinals
And here we are.
The best-case scenario for Arizona is that all five quarterbacks are off the board. It seems certain three will go in the first three picks.
With Lawrence and Wilson looking like Nos. 1 and 2, the draft stock of Fields, Lance and Jones could help or harm the Cardinals’ desires.
To get to five in the first 15 picks, you need two combined instances of a surprise team wanting to upgrade the position or somebody trading up to get their guy. There are quite a few teams that might want to trade down, as well.
Who could be left on the board for Keim and the Cardinals if that happens?
Let’s assume Pitts, Chase, one of the Alabama receivers, offensive tackle Penei Sewell and cornerback Patrick Surtain II are off the board, along with the five quarterbacks.
Peter King’s mock draft for Pro Football Talk illustrates that top-10 perfectly, which then leaves a lot to happen from picks 11 through 15.
Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and the remaining Alabama receiver are among the next prospects up widely regarded as the best available.
When you consider that teams could draft at two positions Arizona doesn’t necessarily need bodies at — offensive line and edge — more players could fall.
Offensive linemen Alijah Vera-Tucker, Rashawn Slater and Christian Darrisaw, plus edge rushers Kwity Paye, Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips are all considered top-20 prospects.
All of that of course, is based on a general consensus of mock-makers.
Expect some surprises come Thursday.