Post-2021 NFL Draft, Cardinals’ depth at tight end remains thin
The Arizona Cardinals used just two picks on offense in the 2021 NFL Draft over the weekend.
With their second-round selection, the Cardinals grabbed Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore. In the seventh round, they took Penn State center Michal Menet.
Adding another wideout to the fold was a top priority for Arizona, and getting an additional body guard for quarterback Kyler Murray is never a bad idea.
There was, however, a notable position of need missing from the Cardinals’ draft haul.
The jury’s still out as to what general manager Steve Keim and the front office have planned regarding the tight end spot. For a team that ran 12 personnel regularly, it’s an important position to address.
Now that the team’s top pass-catching tight end Dan Arnold is a Carolina Panther, Arizona’s in the market for another set of athletic hands.
As it stands Monday, Maxx Williams projects to be the team’s starting tight end, with Darrell Daniels sliding in as his backup.
Known more for their blocking, Williams and Daniels have yet to score more than one touchdown in a season, while Ian Bunting (futures contract) hasn’t played in a meaningful game after suffering a leg injury last year during the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp.
Based on how the Cardinals’ draft board was set up and the available tight end talent, Keim and Co. felt other positions needed to be prioritized given the team’s draft order.
“We really didn’t feel like there were any tight ends that warranted selections at the spots we were at,” Keim said following the conclusion of the draft on Saturday.
“We had high-graded players and we will address that in free agency. We feel like there’s a couple guys that could potentially help us.”
While Arizona decided against using one of its seven draft picks on a big-bodied pass catcher, the Cardinals took some fliers on undrafted rookie free agent tight ends Cary Angeline and Bruno Labelle.
Of the two, Angeline is the bigger tight end (6-foot-7, 250 pounds) and playmaker, recording 52 receptions for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns over three seasons at North Carolina State (20 games).
The Cardinals probably don’t want to leave an undrafted rookie free agent tight end sticking on the roster up to chance, which is why adding a proven NFL pass catcher through free agency is much more ideal.
The tight end pool isn’t deep, but there are still a few names that could potentially make the cut in Kingsbury’s offense.
Darren Fells, Richard Rodgers and Tyler Eifert fit the mold of a bigger tight end with capable hands.
Fells, who Cardinals fans might remember from his three-year stint with the team from 2014-16, leads the way in the measurements department, coming in a 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds.
In his second season with the Houston Texans in 2020, Fells reeled in 21 of his 28 targets for 312 yards and four touchdowns as a red zone target for quarterback Deshaun Watson. He’s started at least 14 games the last two seasons and hasn’t missed a game since 2016.
Eifert’s an inch shorter (6-foot-6) and had a productive 2020 that saw him catch 36 balls for 349 yards and two scores as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Struggling to stay healthy for most of his career, Eifert played in 31 of the 32 possible games (eight starts) the last two years.
It certainly wasn’t Green Bay, but Rodgers had the highest catch percentage of the three (77.4%) last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. He caught 24 of his 31 targets for 345 yards and two touchdowns over the course of 14 games last season (four starts).
Rodgers comes in on the shorter side at 6-foot-4, but showed he could be a capable option with his eight-touchdown performance in 2015 with the Packers.
While Arnold carved out a nice role with the Cardinals last season, his four-touchdown, 438-yard effort in 2020 is replaceable. It’s just a matter of whom.