Cardinals have solid '23 draft, and '24 could be even better
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — First-year general manager Monti Ossenfort cobbled together a solid draft in his opening effort for the Arizona Cardinals, adding depth in several spots, especially along the offensive line and at cornerback.
Maybe most important, he also set the franchise up for a good 2024 draft.
The Cardinals figure to be in rebuilding mode this season after finishing 4-13 last year, and their approach to the draft reflected that. They acquired some talent that could help them immediately — like the No. 6 overall pick, offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. — but also stacked assets for the 2024 draft that could help the franchise build the overall talent base it lacked last year.
All in all, it wasn't a bad three days for the Cardinals.
“It's everything I expected and more,” Ossenfort said. “There's nothing I would change about how we prepared for this draft and how it's gone."
Ossenfort and the Cardinals started the draft with the No. 3 overall pick, but the new GM showed his trading chops almost immediately, dealing that selection and the No. 105 overall pick to the Houston Texans for the No. 12 and No. 33 picks in this year's draft, along with first- and third-round picks in 2024.
Less than a hour later, he moved back up, grabbing the No. 6 pick from the Lions in exchange for No. 12 and No. 34.
“I'm not going to lie, it was exciting,” Ossenfort said with a grin.
Johnson will have the chance to become a starter immediately, though he might play guard during his rookie season. The Cardinals already have two veteran tackles in D.J. Humphries on the left side and Kelvin Beachum on the right.
On the second day, the Cardinals were on the move again, dealing the No. 33 and No. 81 picks to the Titans for the No. 41 and No. 72 selections this season and a third-round pick next season.
The Cardinals used the No. 41 selection to add edge BJ Ojulari, a former LSU star who should help the team's pass rush now that J.J. Watt has retired, and Zach Allen left for the Broncos in free agency.
In the third round, they grabbed cornerback Syracuse cornerback Garrett Williams and Stanford receiver Michael Wilson.
On Saturday, the Cardinals continued to scoop up players, adding UCLA offensive lineman Jon Gaines in the fourth round, Houston quarterback Clayton Tune and Auburn linebacker Owen Pappoe in the fifth, and Louisville cornerback Kei’Trel Clark and West Virginia defensive tackle Dante Stills in the sixth.
Partly thanks to this week's trades, the Cardinals expect to have 11 selections in the 2024 draft, including two in the first round. Ossenfort said that wasn't necessarily by design, but it's a good outcome.
“I don’t think that was something we set out to do,” Ossenfort said. “It’s just how the draft went.”
WHO'S YOUR DADDY? (OR BROTHER?)
The Cardinals took multiple players who have family ties to the NFL.
Johnson's father, Paris Johnson Sr., was drafted by the Cardinals in the fifth round of the 1999 draft. He never played in a regular-season game.
Stills' dad is Gary Stills, who played 10 years in the league as a defensive end and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2003 for the Kansas City Chiefs. His uncle Ken Stills played six seasons in the league and his cousin Kenny Stills was a receiver for nine years.
Ojulari's brother is New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari, a second-round pick in 2021.
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David Brandt, The Associated Press