Cardinals’ win-now mode dings them in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

Jul 19, 2021, 8:27 AM
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the sec...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

(AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Collecting all of the best 2011 NFL Draft prospects still in the league isn’t going to win the Arizona Cardinals awards for building sustainability.

Obviously, general manager Steve Keim added J.J. Watt, A.J. Green and Rodney Hudson this offseason to go for it this year.

How does that pan out down the road? With quarterback Kyler Murray on a rookie contract, it’s a worry that the Cardinals front office likely hopes to face later.

ESPN’s annual Future Power Rankings, which looks at team projections for the next three seasons, doesn’t reflect so kindly on Arizona because of that go-for-it attitude.

A panel of analysts are asked to rate each NFL team based on roster (30% of total score), quarterback (20%), draft (15%), front office (15%) and coaching (20%) to combine for a ranking.

The Cardinals came in 22nd, and it couldn’t go unnoticed they are competing in arguably football’s best division, writes Field Yates.

While the Cardinals do have a dynamic young quarterback in Kyler Murray who gives them a real shot at annual growth, the team plays in the most competitive division in the NFL and has several key veterans with a natural win-soon mentality. The roster doesn’t possess a litany of major flaws, but the pathway to climbing in the NFC West is simply more difficult than for other teams with comparable roster tenets.

The ESPN panel ranked the Cardinals well for having Murray at quarterback (10th) and for their recent drafting (12th) that includes first-round picks Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins at linebacker. Of things that could change Arizona’s ranking for the better, Jeremy Fowler mentions the young linebacker duo giving the team’s defense a boost in the coming years.

But the panel graded Arizona below average for coaching (27th), the overall roster (22nd not including the QB) and the front office (21st).

Analyst Louis Riddick wrote on the Cardinals’ biggest worry, and it asks a few questions of head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has led Arizona to 5-10-1 and 8-8 seasons since taking over a team that in 2018 finished 3-13.

The evolution of the offense both schematically and on the field has to be done in lockstep if this team is to ascend to the top of the toughest division in football. I’ll be watching how the new pieces are deployed and utilized, particularly on offense, and the maturity, health, and consistency of Murray. As these two areas go, so go the fortunes of this franchise over the next three seasons.

If there’s one thing the Cardinals can bank on — if not improve upon — it’s Murray’s connection with receiver DeAndre Hopkins, writes Seth Walder.

Hopkins’ 282 yards on deep and short outs was the most in the league last season, and his 6.1 receptions over expectation on out routes was also a league best.

Of course, what Arizona builds around that duo is among the big questions for the team heading into a crucial year for Kingsbury.

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Cardinals’ win-now mode dings them in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings