Cardinals’ New Additions and Draft Picks Poised to Make Impact in 2024

Cardinals’ New Additions and Draft Picks Poised to Make Impact in 2024

Free agent additions, rookie draft picks expected to fill key roles this upcoming season

Arizona Cardinals rookie mini-camp is underway in Tempe

Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon talks rookie mini-camp in Tempe.

Following a fairly busy offseason of restacking the roster through free agency and trades, the Arizona Cardinals filled in even more gaps with a staggering 12 selections in the 2024 NFL Draft — the most picks by any team in the NFL this year.

At least three of those rookies could be stepping into starting roles right off the bat with as many as seven earning roles with some significant playing time. That type of potential heavy expectation, not to mention the name of some of the new veterans the Cardinals have brought in, will lead to some very tough decisions for General Manager Monti Ossenfort and coach Jonathan Gannon and his staff.

If everything comes together, there’s no question this team could improve its win total to eight or nine and maybe even to 10, thus putting itself in contention to possibly challenge for a playoff spot toward the end of the 2024 season. The Cardinals played with a different type of mentality last year under Gannon and with all the pieces they’ve added, it’s time to take the next step in their rebuild.

Arizona Cardinals; projected depth chart

Offense

Quarterbacks

  • Kyler Murray, 2. Desmond Ridder, 3. Clayton Tune
  • Murray is entering another pivotal year and now that he’s fully recovered from a torn ACL he suffered at the end of the 2022 season, he’ll be under the gun to elevate an already pretty good offense into a dynamic unit, especially after Cardinals’ selection of wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft. In Ridder, acquired via a trade with the Falcons for receiver Rondale Moore, Arizona now has a decent backup it can turn to if anything happens to Murray.

    Running backs

  • James Conner, 2. Trey Benson, 3. Michael Carter, 4. DeeJay Dallas, 5. Emari Demercado
  • Conner returns as the primary workhorse and is looking to add to his totals a year ago when he ran 208 times for a career-high 1,040 yards along with seven touchdowns. Drafting Benson with the first of four picks in the third round was shrewd and it won’t be a surprise at all if he pushes Conner for playing time right away. It will be interesting to see how much the Cardinals still value Carter, who was projected to be the primary backup before Benson’s arrival, and what type of role, if any, is left for Demercado. Dallas figures to play mostly on special teams.

    Wide receivers

  • Marvin Harrison Jr., 2. Michael Wilson, 3. Greg Dortch, 4. Zach Pascal, 5. Chris Moore, 6. Tejhaun Palmer
  • The expectations are through the roof for Harrison Jr., the 6-foot-3 playmaker extraordinaire from Ohio State. He’s the best wideout the team has had since it traded for DeAndre Hopkins and he’s quickly drawn early comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald, a Cardinals’ icon and future Hall of Famer. Wilson had an underrated rookie season in 2022 and his role will increase mightily. Dortch should finally get a real crack with the regular offense as the primary slot receiver. It will be interesting to see how Palmer, a sixth-round pick, can figure into the mix and whether Xavier Weaver can win a roster spot as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Colorado.

    Tight ends

  • Trey McBride, 2. Tip Reiman, 3. Elijah Higgins
  • McBride took a giant leap in his second NFL season and he could be knocking on the door of reaching elite status among some of the league’s very best tight ends. That only happens if he keeps making strides and it worked so well during the second half of last season with Kyler Murray that you’d have to think that will continue. The drafting of Reiman with a third-round pick brings a huge blocking element into the room that it desperately needed. The Cardinals see potential in him to become a capable pass catcher. Higgins offers intriguing value in both of those departments.

    Left tackle

  • Paris Johnson Jr., 2. Kelvin Beachum, 3. Dennis Daley
  • After starting all 17 games last season at right tackle in his rookie season, it’s expected that Johnson Jr. will slide over to man left tackle now that veteran D.J. Humphries has been released. Johnson played left tackle in college and it shouldn’t be a difficult transition at all; in fact, it’s where he was destined to be from the time he was drafted with the sixth overall pick in 2023. Beachum is back as a veteran and versatile swing tackle to provide immediate emergency starting depth in case of an injury. It will be interesting to see if Daley can make the 53-man roster.

    Left guard

  • Elijah Wilkinson, 2. Isaiah Adams, 3. Carter O’Donnell
  • Wilkinson started nine games here last season and was dependable until suffering a neck injury and going on injured reserve. He’ll get every chance to resume his starting role this offseason and later this summer during training camp. Adams, a third-round pick this year out of Illinois, could make it a competition, though. Eventually, it looks like he could be the long-term solution at this spot.

    Center

  • Hjalte Froholdt, 2. Evan Brown, 3. Jon Gaines II
  • Comment: Froholdt came in as a free agent last season and was surprisingly reliable, starting all 17 games. He’s back on a one-year deal, but keep your eyes on Brown, a veteran free-agent addition, and Gaines II, who was competing with Wilkinson for the starting job as a rookie before suffering a season-ending knee injury in late August.

    Related: Arizona Cardinals’ season ticket sales surge for 2024, team officials say

    Right guard

  • Will Hernandez, 2. Trystan Colon, 3. Keith Ismael
  • Hernandez has been a consistent rock since joining the Cardinals in 2022 as a free agent, but he’s entering the final year of his contract. He’s still young (he turns 29 in September), so there’s still plenty of time to determine his future in Arizona. Colon can play both guard spots and Ismael can double as a backup center if needed.

    Right tackle

  • Jonah Williams, 2. Christian Jones, 3. Jackson Barton
  • Williams started three seasons for the Bengals at left tackle until moving to the right side in 2023 and that’s where he’s expected to play in Arizona with Paris Johnson Jr. sliding from right tackle to left tackle. Williams signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals and he was one of their biggest offseason additions. Jones, meanwhile, looks like a steal as a fifth-round pick out of Texas. He could end up being the team’s right tackle of the future.

    Defense

    Defensive ends

  • Darius Robinson, 2. LJ Collier, 3. Ben Stille
  • The Cardinals plan to use Robinson, their second pick in the first round, in multiple spots along the defensive line. He’s seen time on the edge as a pass rusher, but also lines up inside and helps Arizona’s rush up the middle. Collier seemed primed for a big season a year ago, but he tore his biceps in Week 1 and was done for the season. He’s back on a one-year deal, but the Cardinals could consider adding another defensive end before the season begins.

    Nose tackles

  • Bilal Nichols, 2. Khyiris Tonga, 3. Roy Lopez
  • There’s a ton of mass and meanness in this trio. Nichols was a free agent who signed a three-year contract after spending time with the Bears and Raiders. He’ll work in a rotation with the hulking 6-foot-4, 328-pound Tonga, who agreed to a one-year deal, with Lopez standing by to offer further depth.

    Defensive tackles

  • Justin Jones, 2. Dante Stills, 3. Phil Hoskins, 4. Myles Murphy
  • Jones, who comes to the Cardinals on a three-year deal after spending time with the Chargers and Bears, will get the bulk of the work at this position. He’ll get help on the occasions Robinson gets kicked inside. It will be interesting to see how Stills and Hoskins fit into the rotation, but don’t discount Murphy, an undrafted rookie free agent, from possibly making the team.

    Outside linebackers

  • Zaven Collins, 2. BJ Ojulari, 3. Dennis Gardeck, 4. Victor Dimukeje, 5. Xavier Thomas, 6. Jesse Luketa, 7. Cameron Thomas
  • This will be a huge year for Collins, the team’s first-round pick in 2021. The Cardinals declined to pick up his fifth-year option, which wasn’t a surprise considering the price tag would have been paying him $13.2 million in 2025. Now he’s entering a contract year before becoming an unrestricted free agent and he has a lot riding on his success or lack thereof. Ojulari will get every chance to make an impact in his sophomore season and the team thinks he’s ready to take a big step.  There’s plenty of depth here, but no star players and no sack specialists — at least not yet — and not all these players will stay. Watch out for Xavier Thomas, the fifth-round pick from Clemson.

    Inside linebackers

  • Kyzir White, 2. Mack Jones Sr., 3. Krys Barnes, 4. Owen Pappoe
  • White led the Cardinals in total tackles with 90 and that included missing the final six games after suffering a torn biceps. He’s back to anchor the inside unit and gets help with the arrival of Jones Sr., who signed a three-year deal as a free agent. It was smart of the Cardinals to also re-sign Barnes, who did a bang-up job stepping in for the injured White down the stretch. Pappoe remains a freakish athlete whom the club hopes to keep developing.

    Cornerbacks

  • Sean Murphy-Bunting, 2. Max Melton, 3. Starling Thomas V, 4. Elijah Jones, 5. Kei’Trel Clark, 6. Michael Ojemudia
  • Murphy-Bunting will start at one of the outside spots and then there will be one heck of a competition for the other starting job between Melton, a second-round pick this year out of Rutgers, and second-year pros Thomas V and Clark. Time will tell if Jones, another rookie draft pick, gets a shot to join the fray. Ditto with free-agent pick-up Ojemudia.

    Nickel backs

  • Garrett Williams, 2. Jaden Davis
  • Williams handled this role very well as a rookie once he was activated to the roster following a knee injury in college, so it won’t be a surprise if that’s where Arizona primarily uses him again this year. Davis might end up on the practice squad as a seven-round pick, but the Cardinals can play one of their other corners at nickel as most of them are versatile enough to do it.

    Safeties

  • Budda Baker, 2. Jalen Thompson, 3. Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, 4. Andre Chachere, 5. Joey Blount
  • In Baker and Thompson, the Cardinals have one of the better safety tandems in the entire league. Baker is a six-time Pro Bowl selection who is still very much in his prime and Thompson has played at a Pro Bowl level at times since joining the team in the 2019 supplemental draft. Taylor-Demerson, a fourth-round pick from Texas Tech, is an intriguing player with plenty of speed and a strong skill set that will force him into the equation sooner rather than later.

    (Reach McManaman at [email protected] and follow him on X, formerly Twitter: @azbobbymac)

    2024-05-19 13:02:52
    #Depth #chart #projection #NFL #draft

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