CARDINALS CORNER

Cardinals nab Malik Nabers in Dane Brugler’s latest NFL mock draft

Jan 16, 2024, 11:12 AM

Malik Nabers celebrates...

Malik Nabers #8 of the LSU Tigers celebrates after scoring a 34 yard touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the third quarter in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. remains the favorite by many analysts around the league to land with the Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

At least one, though, sees another pair of hands heading to the desert when the draft rolls around this April.

In Dane Brugler’s latest mock draft for The Athletic, Arizona misses out on Harrison by one spot but still lands a legit receiving option in LSU’s Malik Nabers.

Brugler writes:

The gap between Harrison and Nabers is very thin. Arizona needs to become more explosive on offense, especially through the air — 53 NFL players this season had at least 10 catches of 20-plus yards and none played for the Cardinals. Nobody in college football produced more catches of 20-plus yards than Nabers (34).

Nabers’ final season at LSU was by far his best. In 13 games played, the wideout set career highs in catches (89), receiving yards (1,569) and touchdowns (14).

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder’s receptions and yards were tops in the SEC. He came in tied for third — alongside Harrison and Oregon’s Troy Franklin — across the NCAA for touchdowns.

Adding a talent like Nabers could go a long way in the Cardinals’ continued progress forward following Year 1 under general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon.

Among the position groups that need the most work, the wide receivers room is right up there near the top of the list.

Thanks to injury and inconsistent play, Hollywood Brown underwhelmed as Arizona’s No. 1 wide receiver in a contract year. Injuries also played a big part in stunting Michael Wilson’s promising rookie season, while Rondale Moore appeared more effective in the run game. Greg Dortch meanwhile impressed when he got a chance, though is now an exclusive rights free agent.

Arizona did, however, unearth the potential of tight end Trey McBride, who ended up pacing the team in catches (81) and yards (825). He was second behind Brown in touchdowns.

Now, it’s about solidifying the other pass catchers around him.

Nabers could be a big part in achieving that in 2024 regardless of who sticks around in the WRs room and who doesn’t.

A look at how the top 5 picks of Brugler’s mock draft panned out:

1. Chicago Bears: Caleb Williams, QB (USC)
2. Washington Commanders: Drake Maye, QB (North Carolina)
3. New England Patriots: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR (Ohio State)
4. Arizona Cardinals: Malike Nabers, WR (LSU)
5. Los Angeles Chargers: Brock Bowers, TE (Georgia)

Brugler didn’t stop with the Cardinals’ original first-round pick, either.

With the Cardinals’ second first-rounder, which Arizona acquired last draft in a trade with the Houston Texans, Brugler has Arizona taking BYU offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia at No. 27 overall.

The new Cardinals regime drafted offensive line in the first round last year and might do it again. A team captain at BYU, Suamataia started at right tackle in 2022 before moving to left tackle this past season. He displays the high-end tools to be a longtime NFL starter.

There’s a good chance starting left tackle D.J. Humphries won’t be available for most of the regular season if not all of it after tearing his ACL against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17. And even if he does return to action, there’s a possibility it won’t be with the Cardinals thanks to the cap savings Arizona could see if it moved on from the lineman this offseason.

And adding a first-rounder like Suamataia could set the Cardinals up long term on both ends of the line with starting right tackle Paris Johnson Jr. turning in an impressive rookie season in 2023 where he didn’t not miss an offensive snap.

The potential Johnson-Suamataia pairing could go a long way, especially with their ability to play on either side on top of the knowledge both can pick up from veteran Kelvin Beachum.

The Texans’ spot in the draft order can still change, though, after Houston advanced to the second round of the NFL playoffs with a decisive 45-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Saturday.

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