ESPN’s ranking of NFL teams by position reflects well on Cardinals

Aug 20, 2021, 9:21 AM
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) strips the ball from Cardinals linebacker Zaven Col...

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) strips the ball from Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins (25) during linebacker drills during NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Maybe the Arizona Cardinals have a top-heavy roster.

They filled out the checklist of stars, some younger like Kyler Murray and others older like J.J. Watt.

With that, depth might be a question. But as the roster stands as of the preseason, there’s decent talent at most position groups, according to ESPN’s Mike Clay, who ranked teams by each position group.

Then he spit out a composite ranking — a weighted consensus based on positional importance. Wouldn’t you know it, the Cardinals don’t fare too badly by the end of the exercise at all, coming in ninth overall.

Murray’s presence at quarterback had Arizona ranked ninth at that group, while the wide receivers came in 10th.

The running backs (26th) and tight ends (32nd) ended up on the lower end. Writes Clay of the latter:

I could’ve gone with Arizona or Jacksonville here, but at least Jacksonville made an attempt to improve the position by adding Luke Farrell in the fifth round of April’s draft. Arizona, meanwhile, moved on from Dan Arnold during the offseason, leaving the likes of Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels and Demetrius Harris to handle the bulk of the snaps. Needless to say, the position remains a low priority in Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme.

Otherwise, the rest of the Cardinals’ position groups came in the middle-rung compared to their counterparts across the league.

Clay ranked Arizona’s off-ball linebacker unit 18th, but he marked the Cardinals’ twosome of first-round picks at the position as an intriguing thing to watch.

Arizona has selected an off-ball linebacker in the first round of each of the past two drafts, adding Isaiah Simmons eighth overall in 2020 and Zaven Collins with the 16th pick this past April. The versatile Simmons was limited to 34% of the snaps as a rookie but is in line for a larger role and potential breakout in 2021. Collins, meanwhile, is expected to immediately replace Jordan Hicks as an every-down player. The Simmons/Collins duo has elite upside.

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ESPN’s ranking of NFL teams by position reflects well on Cardinals