CARDINALS CORNER

What if the Arizona Cardinals don’t select Marvin Harrison Jr. in 2024 NFL Draft?

Feb 18, 2024, 9:45 AM | Updated: Feb 26, 2024, 2:22 pm

Joe Alt during a game against Cal...

Joe Alt #76 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in action against the California Golden Bears during the second half at Notre Dame Stadium on September 17, 2022 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Everything lines up pretty well when it comes down to the Arizona Cardinals and Marvin Harrison Jr. joining forces at the 2024 NFL Draft this April.

The franchise, which holds the No. 4 overall pick, is in search of its next cornerstone and from every indication, Harrison could be just that for Arizona.

It almost seems too good to be true.

While most analysts see Harrison in the desert, anything can happen come draft night, including the wideout heading somewhere not named Arizona when the first round is all said and done.

But just because Harrison could potentially be off the board when the Cardinals are on the clock doesn’t mean Arizona can’t walk away with an impact player (or more).

A look at some of the non-Harrison avenues Arizona could traverse this April:

The Arizona Cardinals trade the fourth overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft

For the Harrison-or-bust line of thinkers, this option probably best suits you.

And honestly, it really comes down to what the Chicago Bears do with the first overall pick.

Despite 2021 first-round pick and quarterback Justin Fields currently on the roster, there’s a good chance the Bears reset at signal caller with USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye. It would also mean a reset in terms of paying a quarterback on a rookie contract as opposed to having to hand Fields a contract extension not that long down the road.

Chicago going quarterback would mean Harrison is one step closer to becoming a Cardinal, with both the Washington Commanders and New England Patriots in desperate need of signal callers.

But if Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and Fields believe they can make it work in the Windy City, that could spell the end of the Harrison sweepstakes for the Cardinals.

What better way to build confidence with Fields than by giving him a 6-foot-4 ball magnet?

If that scenario plays out — there’s obviously still a way for the first three picks to be QB-QB-QB if Chicago decides to trade the first overall pick (again) to a team in need of a signal caller — than all eyes turn to the handful of teams looking to move up to land their franchise quarterback.

They include the Atlanta Falcons (No. 8), Minnesota Vikings (No. 11), Las Vegas Raiders (No. 13) and Denver Broncos (No. 12).

Much like we saw last year, moving down into that range off a top 5 pick would likely ensure not only a first-round swap and more in 2024, but an additional first-rounder in 2025 with potential for extra picks.

It all comes down to how general manager Monti Ossenfort cooks if given this scenario.

The Cardinals still find their next No. 1 wide receiver at No. 4 overall

Missing out on Harrison might sting, but the potential consolation prize at wide receiver shouldn’t be anything to scoff at.

After Harrison, LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze are the next best options at wideout for the Cardinals if they decide to go that route at No. 4 overall.

Standing over 6-foot — Odunze (6-foot-3) holds a slight height advantage over Nabers (6-foot-1) — either one of the wide receivers would give quarterback Kyler Murray another big target in a pass-catching group that is currently headlined by Michael Wilson, Trey McBride and Rondale Moore with Hollywood Brown an unrestricted free agent and Greg Dortch an exclusive rights free agent.

Both Nabers and Odunze posted big years in 2023.

Across 13 games, Nabers averaged 17.6 yards per catch on his way to 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns on 89 receptions.

NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein’s NFL comparison for Nabers is Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson.

Zierlein writes:

He’s a bouncy leaper with the athletic ability to make the impossible catches possible. He tucks away accurate throws and displays the toughness and play strength to fight for tight-window victories over the middle. Nabers will need to address his tendency to track and play deep throws with finesse, or his early advantages will turn into 50/50 battles.

Odunze meanwhile was a big part in Washington’s national championship run, reeling in 92 balls for 1,640 yards and 13 scores. He added another touchdown and 37 yards on two carries on top of averaging 17.8 yards per catch.

When it comes down to Zierlein’s NFL comparison of Odunze, Cardinals great Larry Fitzgerald comes to mind.

A team captain with good size and elite ball skills, Odunze consistently dominated his competition. … He shines in all aspects of ball skills, including positioning, body control, hand strength, timing and mid-air adjustments. He has a tendency to cruise through routes rather than working with attention to detail and pacing. He was a decorated high school sprinter, so speed should not be an issue in the pros. … Elite ball skills are often the secret sauce for top NFL receivers, so it should not surprise if Odunze is a Day 1 starter who becomes a top-flight WR1.

The Cardinals bookend the future with an offensive tackle in the first round

You know where else the Cardinals could potentially strike gold? At offensive tackle.

With veteran starting left tackle D.J. Humphries likely out for the majority of the regular season — there’s also the potential the team moves on from the lineman altogether in a cap-saving move — adding more talent to the position could go a long way both now and in the future.

As it stands, Paris Johnson Jr. figures to be the lead candidate to slide over to left tackle, with veteran Kelvin Beachum expected to take over on the right side.

Johnson is expected to be a Cardinals cornerstone for years to come, especially after playing every snap as a rookie. Beachum, however, is nearing the end of his career and is entering Year 13. Arizona would be wise to find its next bookend of the future.

Luckily for the Cardinals, it seems like tackles are growing on trees this NFL Draft, though there’s still two names consistently projected above the rest in Notre Dame’s Joe Alt and Penn State’s Olumuyiwa Fashanu.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper writes:

At 6-foot-6, 319 pounds, Fashanu has the physical traits and footwork of an elite lineman. He could have been a first-rounder in last year’s draft if he had entered. He allowed one sack in 21 career starts for the Nittany Lions. He still hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling.

Alt on the other hand was Kiper’s “definition of a stalwart on the left side of Notre Dame’s line, where he started 33 games. He gave up just two sacks over the past two seasons.”

Added protection up front is never a bad thing.

The Cardinals find their next pass rusher with their top 5 pick

You know what else the Cardinals could use more of next season? A more consistent pass rush.

One way to do that is by adding a talent like Alabama’s Dallas Turner to the fold.

Turner is coming off 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss across 14 games played in 2023.

Zierlein believes Turner has the traits required to be an impactful NFL pass rusher.

Turner’s first-step quickness and elite closing burst are important building blocks, but he still needs to work on his process from Point A to Point B. He hasn’t learned to create the space and angles needed to consistently attack the edges, but that should come with better hand development and a more diversified approach. A team would be wise to widen him out and allow him a better runway to ignite his burst and overwhelm tackles with his speed.

Arizona’s pass rush, which ranked 30th in sacks last season, was led by Dennis Gardeck and his six sacks in 2023. Victor Dimukeje and BJ Ojulari weren’t far behind with four sacks apiece. In his first season moving to full-time OLB, Zaven Collins chipped in 3.5.

Help is needed at the position and Turner at the very least would give Arizona another option to plug into the rotation, though some could consider Turner at fourth overall a bit of a reach.

“Not in my opinion (is there a pass-rushing prospect worthy of the No. 4 pick). If you’re going to make an argument for anyone, it’s Turner, because the traits and the tools,” Miller told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke earlier this month.

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