With Cardinals eyeing a franchise receiver, let’s look back at Arizona’s history of drafting WRs

Apr 25, 2024, 8:25 AM

Most Arizona Cardinals observers would be flummoxed, befuddled, confused, perplexed, confounded or mystified if their team didn’t come out of the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft with a wide receiver.

There’s a reason projections favor Arizona drafting Marvin Harrison Jr. at No. 4 overall. Nearly any trade-down scenario on the collective radar of NFL Draft experts lands the Cardinals another top receiver by the end of Thursday. Beyond that, expect Arizona to consider drafting another receiver in this class.

Just how successful has Arizona been at drafting wideouts historically?

Second-year general manager Monti Ossenfort looks 1-for-1 with 2023 third-round choice Michael Wilson coming off a strong rookie campaign.

Let’s start by looking at the limited list of first-round receivers picked by the franchise in its Arizona tenure. Then, we’ll take a peek at the rough past decade of drafting receivers under former general manager Steve Keim.

Arizona Cardinals wide receivers picked in the 1st round of the NFL Draft

Michael Floyd (13th overall) – 2012: Floyd didn’t completely live up to the hype, but he gave Arizona nearly five good seasons of production as a No. 2 type, never posting fewer than 446 yards in a season. His tenure included one 1,000-yard campaign in his second year with the Cardinals. A DUI arrest during his fifth-year option season led to him being cut mid-year, and Floyd never found NFL traction again in stints with New England, Minnesota and Washington.

Larry Fitzgerald (3rd overall) – 2004: Don’t know if you’ve heard, but this one turned out well. He is second in NFL history with 17,492 career receiving yards and 1,432 receptions. Fitzgerald never played for another team from 2004-20.

Bryant Johnson (17th overall) – 2003: Johnson played five years with Arizona and hovered between 438 and 740 yards per season. Of his 3,938 career receiving yards, 2,675 were with the Cardinals before his career winded through San Francisco, Detroit and Houston over the final four years.

David Boston (8th overall) – 1999: While Boston’s career in the NFL was brief (1999-2005), he was wildly successful in a short amount of time with Arizona. After a fine rookie year of 473 yards, Boston blew up for 1,156 yards in Year 2 and then an NFL-leading 1,598 yards with eight touchdowns in his third season on the receiving end of quarterback Jake Plummer. A knee injury ended his 2002 season halfway through, Boston signed a massive deal with San Diego from there but saw his career get derailed by locker room conflict, legal troubles and injuries.

Arizona Cardinals wide receivers picked in past 10 drafts

Michael Wilson (3rd round, 94th overall) – 2023: It’s off to a good start. Wilson posted 38 catches for 565 yards in 13 games as a rookie for a squad that for much of the year was starting backup quarterbacks.

Rondale Moore (2nd round, 49th overall) – 2021: An injury history from college followed Moore to the pros, where he topped the 400-yard mark in his first two years. He finally was healthy for 2023 under first-year coach Jonathan Gannon and caught 40 balls for 352 yards while the staff experimented with him as a hybrid running back at times. The Cardinals traded Moore this offseason to add backup quarterback Desmond Ridder from Atlanta.

Andy Isabella (2nd round, 62nd overall) – 2019: The main asset acquired when the Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray and then traded the prior year’s first-round pick, quarterback Josh Rosen, Isabella never pushed into Arizona’s regular rotation. He was used as a gadget speed threat to toy with opponent gameplans but struggled to get open as an outside receiver and didn’t pick up the nuance to thrive as a slot player either. Isabella recorded 447 receiving yards in 49 games with the Cardinals and has jumped from the Ravens to the Bills since.

Hakeem Butler (4th round, 103rd overall) – 2019: Butler struggled with drops and got injured as a rookie, never threatening to play for the Cardinals before he was released a year into his career.

KeeSean Johnson (6th round (174th overall) – 2019: The Cardinals liked Johnson’s route-running, and he was mildly impactful as a reserve with 360 receiving yards over two seasons before the team released him.

Christian Kirk (2nd round, 47th overall) – 2018: The hometown kid got increasingly better over four years in Arizona but never edged past the 1,00-yard mark, partially because of injuries. It was enough to earn him a massive contract to join the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022, where he finally surpassed the four-digit mark in his first season there.

Chad Williams (3rd round, 98th overall) – 2017: He made 16 appearances in two years with the Cardinals but caught on 17 balls on 46 targets, working mostly with Rosen on the 2018 team.

J.J. Nelson (5th round, 159th overall) – 2015: The slim but speedy wideout was a threat in four years with Arizona, compiling 1,439 receiving yards. He only added 36 more for his NFL career with the Raiders.

John Brown (3rd round, 91st overall) – 2014: The Pittsburg State product had his ups and downs with Arizona both in terms of production and health. “Smokey” was diagnosed with sickle cell trait after dealing with hamstring injuries related to the condition and also had a cyst removed from his spine in 2016. Still, Brown piled up 17 touchdowns and 2,515 yards in four years with Arizona before putting together a few more good years with the Ravens and Bills.

Walt Powell (6th round 196th overall) – 2014: Powell bounced around the NFL for several years as a special teamer, backend roster or practice squad player.

Ryan Swope (6th round, 174th overall) – 2013: A speedy college wideout, Swope retired just three months after Arizona drafted him due to continued concussion issues.

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With Cardinals eyeing a franchise receiver, let’s look back at Arizona’s history of drafting WRs