Arizona Cardinals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

B.J. Ojulari, OLB, LSU – Round 2
The Cardinals were in dire need of adding pass-rush talent after losing J.J. Watt this offseason, and they came away with a quality edge rusher in Ojulari from the second round. If Ojulari were a little bigger and stronger, he would have been a first-round pick, but he still has sufficient natural pass-rushing ability to be a dangerous quarterback hunter in the sub package.

Against the pass, Ojulari (6-2, 248) is a capable defender who consistently generates pressure. He has some good traits that lead to him getting to the quarterback, but also some limitations for the NFL. Like his brother Azeez, who plays for the Giants, B.J. Ojulari plays really hard and tough. He has some functional strength plus an ability to close when he runs free. Ojulari displays a good motor and doesn’t quit on plays, a relentlessly attacking. Despite lacking height, Ojulari has long arms for his size, and he uses them with active hands to fight blockers off of him. Ojulari also shows a burst off the ball and the speed to turn the corner. He is fast to close and is a adept at dodging blockers to get upfield quickly.

In the ground game, Ojulari plays hard and uses his length in this phase as well. He is a good pursuit run defender who charges hard and has some strength for tackling. However, his lack of size and length put him at a disadvantage. As a pro, he could have issues with defending runs coming downhill straight at him. Thus, he has some scheme limitations.

Ojulari will enter a wide-open competition for playing time in Arizona with a pair of 2022 third-round picks Myjai Snders and Cameron Thomas. They were picks of the previous general manager and coaching staff, so Ojulari should have an edge over them. Before long, I think Ojulari will establish himself as a solid starter for Arizona.

2022: Cameron Thomas, DE
2021: Rondale Moore, WR
2020: Josh Jones, OT
2019: Zach Allen, DE
2018: Christian Kirk, WR
2017: Budda Baker, S
2016: Evan Boehm, C
2015: Markus Golden, LB
2014: Deone Bucannon, S
2013: Kevin Minter, LB

Most Likely To Bust

Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse – Round 3
After losing Byron Murphy in free agency, the Cardinals had a big hole at cornerback, and Williams was added to help fill it. While Williams has some flashes, he has issues with deep speed and allows too many catches on jump balls. I could see those being a problem where he is allowing too many big plays downfield. Of Arizona’s selections from Days 1 and 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft, Williams looks like the riskiest pick, in my opinion.

2021: Myjai Sanders, DE
2021: Marco Wilson, CB
2020: Leki Fotu, DT
2019: Kyler Murray, QB
2018: Mason Cole, C
2017: Haason Reddick, LB
2016: Robert Nkemdiche, DL
2015: D.J. Humphries, OT
2014: Kareem Martin, DE
2013: Tyrann Mathieu, CB/S

Potential Boom Pick

Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State – Round 2
The Cardinals were dying to trade down from the third-overall pick, and they were able to do so with the Texans, who gave up the 12th-overall pick, the 33rd-overall pick, and their 2024 first-round pick. That was a phenomenal deal for Arizona, particulary because the ’24 choice could be a very high first-rounder. The Cardinals then flipped their owne second-round choice – No. 34 – to move up from No. 12 to No. 6 to reel in Johnson.

Johnson (6-6, 315) is a consistent pass protector who keep rushers off his quarterback. What sets Johnson apart is the quality of his athleticism for his frame. Johnson moves well and is natural on the edge. With good size and agility, Johnson is able to cut off the edge and shows the ability to get depth in his drop. He has plays where he will bend but not break and remains effective to be assignment sound. Johnson also has nice length that makes it hard for defenders to get around him, and he does a nice job of using that reach to tie up defenders as well. For the NFL, Johnson could stand to get stronger in his base and add more power to knock defenders backward. But he definitely has the speed, athleticism and length to be an excellent edge protector who shuts down speed rushers.

In the ground game, Johnson is a solid blocker, but he is not a true bull. He does not blast defenders off the ball and drive them around the field. Utilizing his length and size, Johnson latches onto defenders, turns them, twists them, and manipulates them away from the ball-carrier. If Johnson can get stronger for the next level, that would make him a more well-rounded lineman.

Johnson should give the Cardinals a long-term left tackle to protect Kyler Murray and help fix an offensive line that has been a weakness for years. With D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum already there, Johnson can play guard as a rookie before moving back to the edge come 2024 or 2025. Johnson has an excellent skill set and huge upside to be a very good pro. Picking him up in the 2023 NFL Draft by moving down and then back up was a great move by the Cardinals, as they landed their preferred prospect and acquired valuable future draft picks. With his skill set and upside, Johnson could be a boom pick for Arizona.

2022: Trey McBride, TE
2021: Zaven Collins, LB
2020: Isaiah Simmons, LB
2019: Byron Murphy, CB
2018: Josh Rosen, QB
2017: Chad Williams, WR
2016: Brandon Williams, CB
2015: David Johnson, RB
2014: Troy Niklas, TE
2013: Jonathan Cooper, G

Future Depth Player

Clayton Tune, QB, Houston – Round 5
Some in the media were hyping Tune as a potential mid-round pick, but teams had him projected to Day 3. Tune landed in a good situation with the Cardinals given that they need some backup quarterback talent. Kyler Murray is coming off an injury, while Colt McCoy and Jeff Driskel are journeymen veterans. Tune could start out as the No. 3 quarterback and eventually develop into the primary backup for Murray. While Tune may never be a starter, he could end up being a competent NFL backup.

2022: Keontay Ingram, RB
2021: Victor Dimukeje, DE
2020: Eno Benjamin, RB
2019: Deionte Thompson, S
2018: Chase Edmonds, RB
2017: Will Holden, OT
2016: Harlan Miller, CB
2015: Rodney Gunter, DT
2014: Ed Stinson, DE
2013: Ryan Swope, WR

Walt’s 2023 NFL Draft Grades:

6. Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State – A Grade
The Cardinals had to move up ahead of the Raiders to draft Paris Johnson. This is the prospect Kyler Murray wanted, so it’s hard to hate this selection. Arizona had to find someone to protect Murray, given that Murray hasn’t been able to play a full season in the NFL yet. No one could have hated the Cardinals for picking Johnson at No. 3, so moving down three spots for him was great management.

41. B.J. Ojulari, DE/OLB, LSU – B+ Grade
In the past couple of offseasons, the Cardinals lost Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt. Think they needed to address their pass rush? There was interest in Nolan Smith in the first round, but another SEC edge rusher makes sense in the second frame. Ojulari was always in the second round in my mock updates, so this pick makes a ton of sense.

72. Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse – B Grade
I thought Garrett Williams would be drafted later than this because he’s coming off a torn ACL. This will be a very good pick if he’s healthy, though I suppose that the Cardinals won’t even need him to play in 2023 because they’re going to be dreadful without Kyler Murray anyway. This is a solid selection for the long haul, though it comes with risk.

94. Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford – D Grade
Michael Wilson is not someone I would have drafted in this range. He’s a huge receiver and runs routes well, but there are some serious speed concerns. He also has major injury question marks.

122. Jon Gaines, G, UCLA – B Grade
The Cardinals are getting an athletic offensive lineman to help Kyler Murray. The injured quarterback has to be happy about this pick. Jon Gaines has high upside, so this is a good pick in the middle of the fourth frame.

139. Clayton Tune, QB, Houston – B Grade
The Cardinals needed to draft a quarterback to develop behind Kyler Murray and his albatross of a contract. Clayton Tune is an accurate quarterback who projects as a career backup. There’s not much upside here, but the pick had to be made.

168. Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn – B Grade
It’s a new regime in Arizona, but the team still loves its linebacker-safety tweeners. Owen Pappoe is a gifted athlete, but I’m not sure if he has a natural position. You have to love his upside though.

180. Kei’Terel Clark, CB, Louisville – A- Grade
This is good value for Kei’Terel Clark, who easily could have been a fourth-round pick. He’ll be limited to slot duties because of his size issues, but he’s a talented cover corner and could fight for playing time in Arizona’s awful secondary.

213. Dante Stills, DT, West Virginia – B Grade
Dante Stills needs to fill out his frame, but he is capable of generating a quality pass rush. I had him going around this range, so this seems like a fine pick for an Arizona squad looking to bolster its depleted defensive line.

2023 NFL Draft Team Grade: A. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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