Arizona Cardinals’ 2021 NFL Draft class lands at No. 13 in ESPN ranking

Jan 27, 2022, 7:01 PM
Cam Akers #23 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball as Zaven Collins #25 and Marco Wilson #20 ...
Cam Akers #23 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball as Zaven Collins #25 and Marco Wilson #20 of the Arizona Cardinals defend in the first quarter of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at SoFi Stadium on January 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals saw a number of rookies contribute in some form or another this season.

But how did first-year Cardinals stand up against the rest of the league?

From ESPN’s point of view, the group of Arizona rookies led by cornerback Marco Wilson, wide receiver Rondale Moore and linebacker Zaven Collins was among the top 15 draft classes in the NFL.

Arizona had only three of their draft picks play more than 50 snaps on either side of the ball. Two of the three — off-ball linebacker Zaven Collins and wide receiver Rondale Moore — generated more than a 1/10th of a WAR, something only 49 total first-year players accomplished.

The second-rounder WR quickly found himself inserted into a meaningful role in Arizona’s offense this season. Over 14 games (seven starts), the wideout recorded 435 yards on 54 receptions (64 targets) for a touchdown. He also added 76 rushing yards on 18 attempts.

In the team’s 34-11 Wild Card loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the rookie wideout made five catches for 32 yards.

And while he didn’t go until the fourth round, Wilson proved to be a valuable asset to Arizona’s secondary.

He may have had his rookie moments, but Wilson managed to start 13 of his 14 games played, recording 48 tackles, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles in 2021.

As for Collins, the linebacker didn’t find the field nearly as much as many expected him to see in 2021. After being named the starting MIKE backer ahead of training camp, Collins was beat out by Jordan Hicks. That left the linebacker to pick up reps anywhere he could, whether it be in special teams or at outside linebacker.

Collins played 20% of the team’s defensive snaps and finished the season with 25 tackles and three passes defensed in 17 games played. The linebacker also recovered an onside kick and was on the field for 35% of the special teams snaps.

Collins’ role on defense diminished as the season progressed, due in part to a shoulder issue. The 16th overall pick was volatile across his 220 snaps. Collins played over 15 snaps in eight games. Six of those ended in a single game PFF grade above 70.0, but two ended in sub-35.0 grades. This all led to a 69.3 PFF grade for the season.

Of the other four members of the 2021 draft class, only linebacker Victor Dimukeje (sixth round) and safety James Wiggins (seventh round) remain with the team. Cornerback Tay Gowan (sixth round) and center Michal Menet (seventh round) were released by the team.

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