Things to know about the rest of the Cardinals’ 2023 NFL Draft haul
May 1, 2023, 7:25 AM | Updated: 7:30 am
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
TEMPE — The 2023 NFL Draft is now but a memory following three days of chaos across the league.
On the Cardinals’ side of things, they ended up with nine total prospects.
We’ve already covered first-round pick Paris Johnson and fifth-rounder Clayton Tune and their family ties to the franchise, but what about the other seven?
A look at some of the interesting facts surrounding the rest of Arizona’s 2023 draft class:
The Cardinals’ 41st overall pick, linebacker BJ Ojulari, has a built-in NFL voice to lean on in brother and New York Giants LB Azeez Ojulari.
“There’s going to be a lot of communication with me and him,” the Cardinal said via teleconference on Friday after getting drafted. “He’s definitely been mentoring me through the whole process, especially yesterday. Just keeping me calm, just keeping me patient for that right team to come and call me and come scoop me up.”
The two brothers were both drafted in the second round, though BJ Ojulari went nine picks ahead of his brother, who was taken 50th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
I’m sure that has already been discussed between the two siblings.
Eye on July
Arizona’s 71st overall pick and cornerback Garrett Williams saw his final season at Syracuse cut short due to a torn ACL this past October.
And while he’s still very much in the rehab process, his goal is to be back in action ahead of the season.
“I’m five months out,” Willaims said on Friday. “I should be ready by July. That’s what the doctors are saying. Everything I’ll leave up to the training staff in Arizona, and things like that. But I feel really good about where I’m at in my rehab and recovery.
“Everybody I’ve been working with has been really impressed about the things that I’ve been able to do and just how hard I’ve been going at it.”
Before going down with the injury, Williams was well on his way to his best collegiate season behind a sack, two interceptions, three passes defensed and a forced fumble.
And when he finally does make it back to the football field, the CB feels he will be able to pick up where he left off thanks to his early connection with head coach Jonathan Gannon.
“Me and coach Gannon were talking the same language,” Williams said of his interaction with the head coach. “A lot of the same that we were taught at Syracuse.
“Me and coach Gannon really hit it off once we realized me and him were on the same page. One talking defense and one talking ball and we both understand what we were doing.”
That college connection
The Cardinals’ 94th pick on Day 2 — Stanford wide receiver Michael Wilson — was shocked to see the phone ring with an Arizona zip code, though he did have a strong link with Cardinals passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Drew Terrell.
“Talking with my agent, I feel like that was one of the teams that we weren’t really focused on getting drafted by,” Wilson said Friday. “I know there’s a connection between myself and the receivers coach, who actually wore my number.
“He was a Stanford grad. So, I know we kind of had that in common. But this was honestly a team I would not have even put in my top-10 to draft me.”
A wearer of many hats
There may be another option for the Cardinals to consider at center in offensive lineman and No. 122 overall pick Jon Gaines II.
While he played guard for a good portion of his college career, Gaines played every spot on the line and is more than ready to continue to be a versatile piece the Cardinals can mold.
“I had a lot of snaps at a lot of different positions,” he said Saturday. “I feel like I can play anything. As long as I’m able to be on the field, have an impression and help the team out is all that I want to do at the end of the day.
“I know my biggest strengths are my versatility, my athleticism, and my football IQ,” Gaines added. “Being able to play at a high level and play fast, that comes from understanding what you’re doing.”
O captain! My captain!
Arizona’s No. 168 overall pick and linebacker Owen Pappoe heads to the desert after serving as a two-time captain at Auburn.
It’s an honor that has molded him and one he doesn’t take for granted.
“I was a two-time captain at Auburn and it means the world to me,” Pappoe said Saturday. “It shows the leadership skills that I have and seeing that my teammates trust me to be a role model they can model themselves after and to trust me to really lead the team. It shows that I don’t only talk the talk, I walk the walk and it means the world to me to be a captain.
“Expect a guy who loves the game of football and someone who is going to give 110 percent of me every single day,” he added.
Arizona’s No. 180 pick, corner Kei’Trel Clark, knows a thing or two about being a Cardinal, having played at Louisville.
He also knows a thing or two about his new cornerbacks coach, Ryan Smith.
“It’s a crazy story … Ryan Smith recruited me out of high school to go to (James Madison University) and he ended up at Arizona,” Clark said Saturday. “So I feel like it’s all destiny, I feel like it was willing to happen, I feel like they can use me in so many different ways. I love the program and I love what they’re building over there, so I’m just excited.”
Runs in the family
The Cardinals’ final pick of 2023, defensive lineman Dante Stills, has a family littered with athletes, including his father. Gary Stills played in the NFL for 10 seasons, while Dante’s brother, Darius, who spent time with the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.
Dante Stills’ uncle Ken Stills and cousin Kenny Stills also played or are still playing in the NFL today.
“I’m with my brother and my dad right now. They gave me so much advice,” Stills said Saturday. “I was getting down on myself, but they kept me motivated and striving to be great.
“They have given me so much advice about the next level, it’s kind of crazy because every day there’s new advice and what to expect and stuff like that. I’m really excited, they taught me everything I need to know so far, so I know I just have to keep going.”