Arizona Cardinals’ 2022 NFL Draft priorities: Wide receiver
When it comes to the Arizona Cardinals’ needs this NFL Draft season, cornerback, pass rusher and wide receiver reign supreme.
But which of the trio is the most important to the team’s success in 2022?
Before Thursday’s festivities get underway, here’s a deeper look at each of the three positions general manager Steve Keim pinpointed during his pre-draft media availability last week.
Last but certainly not least in the three-part series is wide receiver.
– DeAndre Hopkins
– A.J. Green
– Rondale Moore
– Antoine Wesley
– Greg Dortch
– Andre Baccellia
– Andy Isabella
– Christian Kirk
Much like pass rusher, wide receiver is another glaring position of need after watching key contributor Christian Kirk walk in free agency following a 982-yard, five-touchdown showing last year.
Not all of the team’s 2021 free agent pass catchers headed elsewhere, however, with A.J. Green returning on a one-year deal worth a reported $3 million. For many, Green’s 2021 is summed up by his miscommunication with quarterback Kyler Murray in a Week 7 loss to the Green Bay Packers or his dropoff in the second half of the season.
But looking at his season as a whole, Green posted a respectable 848 yards and three touchdowns on 54 receptions. He also helped extend the field, averaging 15.7 yards per reception (team high).
Filling in as the team’s third option is Rondale Moore. The wideout showed flashes his rookie year, finishing with 54 catches for 435 yards and a touchdown. His production waned in the second half of the season, though, as he was used more as a gadget player for head coach Kliff Kingsbury and saw most of his work start near or behind the line of scrimmage. He finished with an average depth of target of 1.3 yards in 2021.
Kingsbury has mentioned both Moore and Green as two players that he needs to game plan better for.
But above all else, the wide receivers room — and the offense for that matter — hangs largely on DeAndre Hopkins.
It was evident the team was missing a gear or two with Hopkins sidelined for much of the latter half of the season with a hamstring injury and then a torn MCL.
He underwent surgery this offseason and was “moving around a lot better than he was,” Kingsbury said last Thursday.
Despite the missed time, Hopkins still produced, leading all Cardinals pass catchers in touchdowns with eight. He added 572 yards on 42 receptions (64 targets).
Prospects to keep an eye on:
– Chris Olave (Ohio State)
– Jahan Dotson (Penn State)
– Christian Watson (North Dakota State)
The 2022 draft class is littered with wide receiver prospects that can move the needle for a team.
The only question is: Who will be there when No. 23 rolls around?
If Ohio State WR Chris Olave is still waiting to hear his name called, Arizona should run its selection to the podium.
In a crowded wide receivers room, Olave made his presence known, recording 936 yards and a team-leading 13 touchdowns on 65 catches despite being the team’s third option.
Olave has done most of his work on the outside since joining Ohio State in 2019 but did see an uptick in slot reps in 2021.
The wideout posted a 79.9 receiving grade from PFF, highlighted by a 68.9 man coverage mark.
The biggest issue with Olave is, will he be there at No. 23? In ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s most recent mock draft, he has the wideout going to the Washington Commanders at No. 11.
Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, however, could be a more likely option still there at No. 23.
It was a career year for Dotson, who recorded 91 catches for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. He was primarily used on the outside (371 snaps) but also got some work in the slot (115). He also added a score on the ground.
Dotson posted an 87.2 PFF receiving grade and a 66.1 man coverage grade. He registered just two drops over 12 games.
Watson on the other hand is the most likely candidate to be there when the Cardinals’ pick rolls around.
Last season, Watson caught 43 catches for 800 yards and seven touchdowns, all career highs. He also posted the second-highest yards per catch at 18.6.
PFF handed out an 89.5 receiving grade for Watson last season. His NFL Combine numbers only helped his stock after running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash time to go along with a 38.5-inch vertical.