Five Receivers the Arizona Cardinals Should Consider Drafting
The Cardinals will have some wide receiver options in the 2017 NFL Draft
A once strong wide receiver corps has become one of the big question marks for the Arizona Cardinals. Certainly, the issues with receivers have contributed to the disappointing season. The Cardinals will miss the playoffs in a season where most experts thought they’d contend for a Super Bowl win, and as the off-season approaches, attention shifts to improving the team. Receiver will certainly be addressed.
Larry Fitzgerald may, or may not, be back. Assuming he returns, he gives the Cardinals a savvy veteran presence who is still a solid number one receiver. He catches everything, and has to be accounted for. After him, things get murky.
Michael Floyd is gone, John Brown is dealing with a sickle cell trait that has limited him, and JJ Nelson is more of a specialty third or fourth receiver. They could look to address it in free agency, but there are going to have some options in the 2017 NFL Draft.
They seem destined to add a receiver this off-season, and there are talented guys available. Here is a look at five draft-eligible players who could be targeted in the coming selection process. This is assuming they all leave school.
Mike Williams is a big-bodied receiver who makes big plays
Had an injury not ended his 2015 season, Mike Williams would probably have been drafted in this past NFL Draft, and likely would have been a high pick. In 2016, he recorded 84 receptions for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he’ll be in contention to be the first wide receiver taken in 2017.
At 6’3″ and 225 pound, Williams has the size that the NFL covets. He also knows how to use it to make plays on the field. He uses both his height and his strength very well, boxing out defenders and making difficult catches in traffic. He also does a terrific job of going up and making the tough, contested catches. There are sometimes lapses and he drops ones that he should catch, but if he straightens that out, he could be a star at the next level.
Williams could be the first receiver off the board, and might go inside the top ten, so the Cardinals might not be able to get him, depending on where they wind up picking. He gives them an Anquan Boldin-like talent to play alongside Fitzgerald, and then take over as their top guy once Fitzgerald hangs them up.
Corey Davis is a dynamic talent that could be the best of his class
There isn’t a better combination of size and production in college football than Corey Davis. He’s got size, speed, and an innate ability to get open and make big plays. Like Williams, he could have left school last year and been drafted, but chose to return for his Senior season.
In 2016, Davis put up his best season, with 91 catches, 1,427 yards, and 18 touchdowns. He wasn’t just a one-year wonder, though. In four seasons, he averaged 81 receptions, 1,301 yards, and 13 scores. He also has the ideal frame and skill-set for the NFL, standing 6’3″ and weight in at 213 pounds, with terrific hands and plus speed. A key member of Western Michigan’s offense, he has proven he can do it all on the field.
Davis has all the qualities that an NFL team could want. His big-play ability also makes him a good fit in Arizona in the role Michael Floyd was supposed to play. He’s good enough to be a number one receiver as a professional, and would serve as a nice running mate for Fitzgerald early on. In all likelihood, Arizona would have to use their first round pick to get him, but with his talent, he might be worth it.
Dede Westbrook is the kind of game-changer that any team could use
If the Cardinals want to draft a deep threat, and they’ve proven that they love speed receivers, then Dede Westbrook is a guy they’ll be looking at. He stands just 5’11” and weighs 175 pounds, which is small, but he plays bigger than he looks.
Westbrook really only has one year of production, but it was tremendous production. He caught 74 passes for 1,465 yards, good for an average of nearly 20 yards per reception. He also accounted for 16 touchdowns. His speed is remarkable, but he combines it with good hands, and the savvy to get separation. He’s also more physical than one might think a receiver of his size would be. He plays hard, and effectively.
It’s hard to predict exactly where Westbrook might be selected, It might be too early to pick him where the Cardinals could be picking. Unfortunately, he may not last until they pick in round two. There could be concerns about his size, but his play-making ability will be coveted by more than a few teams. His skill-set fits in with what the Cardinals like to do, so he makes sense if he falls to them in the second round.
Curtis Samuel is a threat in more ways than one
There aren’t many players more dynamic than Curtis Samuel. He has a receiver’s hands, and a running back’s vision and balance, and in his final season at Ohio State, he showed off what he can do for whichever team he winds up with.
Samuel lined up as a both a receiver and a running back in his career, but primarily projects as a receiver in the NFL. At 5’11” and 200 pounds, he lacks height, but is solidly built. He also has unquestionable production, amassing 822 yards receiving and 704 yards rushing, with a total of 15 touchdowns as a Junior. The easy comparison is to Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb, and he brings that type of versatility and play-making ability.
The Cardinals could be looking for a running back, as well as another receiver. Samuel could help in both departments. He might not fill that number two receiver hole, but could help the team in a variety of ways. Every NFL team needs play-makers, and Samuel certainly has that capability. They can also get him with a day two pick, instead of having to use their top pick, which could be attractive as well.
Juju Smith-Schuster is an intriguing prospect with big potential
One of the most interesting receiver prospects in the draft could be USC’s Juju Smith-Schuster. He has NFL size and talent, but he’s still somewhat raw as a pass catcher, which makes him a little more risky than some of the other guys the Cardinals might target.
Standing 6”2″ and weighing 220 pounds, Smith-Schuster has an NFL receiver’s frame. He also has the strength and speed needed to succeed as a pro. However, he doesn’t run the best routes, and will need a lot of work to tighten up that part of his game. He still succeeds with just his athleticism, and had over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015, though his numbers dipped some in 2016. He does a good job at getting deep, and runs well after the catch.
Smith-Schuster’s grade has yet to be finalized, and he could go early in round one, or fall into day two, depending on how he works out. He’s the equal of any player in the draft in terms of pure talent, and the Cardinals could use another big-time talent. If he falls into the second round, he could be too much of a temptation for them to pass on.
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