CARDINALS CORNER

Drafting an OL in the 1st round: Does it actually make sense for the Cardinals?

Apr 25, 2023, 11:35 AM

paris Johnson Arizona Cardinals...

Parison Johnson was selected sixth overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2023 NFL Draft. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

For most of the offseason, there have mostly been three prospects linked to the Arizona Cardinals’ No. 3 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, all hailing from the defensive side of the football.

The shoe certainly fits given the defensive mind of new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon and the needs on that end of the football.

This week, however, the chatter surrounding Arizona and their first-round pick has shifted from defense to offense, with a handful of reports and a mock draft suggesting an addition to the line come Thursday night.

NBC Sports’ Peter King got the ball rolling with his mock draft published Sunday with a little tidbit on what he would have done had he not traded Arizona’s No. 3 pick to the Tennessee Titans.

“If I kept the Cards at three, I would have roiled the first round,” he wrote. “I’d have given them Paris Johnson, the Ohio State tackle, and not edge rusher Will Anderson.”

King followed up on his thinking with Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Tuesday morning:

“I know they like Paris Johnson. They like him a lot,” King said. “If I am Monti Ossenfort, I just want to start solving problems.”

A day after King’s mock draft, SI.com’s Albert Breer threw out the possibility of the Cardinals adding Johnson, whether it be at No. 3 or a trade down. Breer also mentioned Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon as a possibility for Arizona.

Then came Monday, when NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray likes Paris Johnson “a lot and has let that be known in the Cardinals’ building.”

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay didn’t entirely rule out the addition, either.

Don’t get me wrong, adding some impactful youth to an offensive line that was decimated by injury last season is integral to Arizona’s future success and should be a priority for new general manager Monti Ossenfort this draft.

Just not at No. 3 overall.

Given the amount of teams in need of a franchise quarterback and four signal-calling prospects hovering near the top, taking an offensive lineman at third overall would be a reach regardless of who it is.

To me, sticking at No. 3 and taking an offensive lineman would signal a lack of interest of moving up from other teams.

But trade that pick and now we’re talking.

It may not be the flashiest of moves, but after the Cardinals shelled out their contract extension to Murray last year, bringing in a first-rounder to protect him is a wise choice and one that could pay off down the line. That extra draft capital can go a long way amid the current rebuild, too.

And as we all should know by now, there are needs at guard and center for Arizona.

Johnson has been a name thrown around for the Cardinals in the first round and may be who Murray covets, but Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski is another option Arizona should consider given its current makeup.

With the Cardinals already rostering three starting-caliber tackles in D.J. Humphries, Kelvin Beachum and Josh Jones, the outside of the line is less of a priority than guard and center.

And despite Johnson playing on the inside earlier in his college career, he figures to slot in at tackle at the next level. Skoronski on the other hand carries with him more versatility to move across the line and could fit more as a guard or even center option.

But then again, Murray’s seal of approval could go a long way with the new regime.

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