It has been a roller coaster of a season for the Arizona Cardinals thus far. Through 12 weeks, the Cardinals are 3-7-1 but have demonstrated way more upside than what was displayed a year ago.
Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murrary have created a new culture in their time here and it has showed on the field. The offense has been far more competitive this season, going toe-to-toe with the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. As of late, it is the defense that hasn’t been able to stop opposing offenses.
With that being said, Steve Keim will have another busy season ahead of him. He will be tasked with assembling a defense that could develop into a strong unit in a very competitive NFC. With the 2020 Draft mostly in the distance, teams are sending scouts to get a look at some of the top prospects in the country.
Here are some of the prospects that could apart of the new great Cardinals football team.
Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
The Cardinals drafted a stud corner Byron Murphy a year ago and it has paid major dividends. However, the Cardinals are still thin that the position. Brining in Diggs would go a long way in solidifying the Cardinals pass defense. At 6’2” 207 lbs, Diggs is a strong, physical corner with great ball tracking ability and wins battles with physical receivers.
Taking a look within the division, Diggs would go head-to-head with tall receivers DK Metcalf and Josh Gordon. We could see a matchup with Trevon matching well against hist brother Stefon down the road. Matchups with the likes of Kenny Golladay, Calvin Ridley, Terry McLaurin or other opponents the Cardinals could face in the NFC.
Pairing Diggs with Murphy and Patrick Peterson would give the Cardinals a reliable trio of corners. Combine them with Budda Baker and Deionte Thompson, the Cardinals could recreate the No Fly Zone defense that enjoyed a lot of success.
Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama
Through 11 games, the Cardinals have totaled just 29 sacks, tied for 13th best in the NFL. Chandler Jones has been phenomenal on his own, stacking up 12.5 sacks on his own. Terrell Suggs’ age has shown all season long, producing just 5.5 sacks. The Cardinals need to find a running mate for Jones if they want to get to the quarterback from the edge. Terrell Lewis would be the upgrade that the Cardinals would need.
Standing at 6’5” 252 lbs, Lewis is the prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. Lewis has great speed coming off the edge and has played well against some of the best talent in the country. He doen’t shy away from the big moment as he has played in some of the big games for Alabama including the 2018 College Championship game.
Lewis has 30 tackles, six sacks and one fumble recovery for the Crimson Tide this season. He would bring the some of the intensity that Suggs brought to the Ravens for majority of his career, making up for not drafting Suggs 16 years ago.
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
When you think about defensive tackles of the past, the last great defensive tackle the Cardinals had was Darnell Dockett and he was moved to defensive end. Dan Williams, Alameda Ta'amu, Rodney Gunter, and Corey Peters have all tried to fill the void since. The Cardinals can finally address the need with Javon Kinlaw.
Kinlaw recorded 30 tackles last season with nine tackles for a loss and four sacks. There was some debate whether Kinlaw would enter the draft but, he decided to stay in school for his senior season. That decision has really paid off for him. The 6’6” 310 pounder has 31 tackles with six sacks and six tackles for a loss. He has also defended two passes and recovered two fumbles.
Kinlaw is a disruptive presence thanks to his athletic ability. He explodes out of his stance and breaks to the ball carrier in regularity. His bull rush move is his bread and butter, but he could use some work with other techniques. He is does great work collapsing the pocket and does a good job holding the point of attack in run defense.
Peters has one year remaining on his contract, he could mentor Kinlaw next year and the Cardinals can unleash the beast in his second season. The thought of Zach Allen, Chandler Jones, and Kinlaw disrupting the backfield
Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville
With the Achilles heel of the Cardinals once again being the offensive line, Steve Keim will be in charge of putting together a line that can protect Kyler Murrary. A lot of people are talking about Andrew Thomas, Alex Leatherwood, Prince Tega Wanogho, Trey Adams, and Tristan Wirfs, but when the Cardinals are selecting in the second or third round, they should look no further than Louisville’s tackle Mekhi Becton.
In pass protection, Becton uses his 6’7” 340 pounds to his advantage. Once he gets his long arms around you, it is really hard for defenders to get out of their blocks. Because of his size, he isn’t limited when it comes to moving in space. When it comes to screen protection, he can get out get out and maintain his blocks. In the run game, he does a nice job sustaining his blocks and allows the ball carrier to make progress into the defensive secondary.
He has ability to play either left or right tackle, making him a major asset to the Cardinals offensive line. If the Cardinals do indeed decide to resign left tackle D.J. Humphries, the Cardinals would have a player they can plug and play for the foreseeable future.
Lucas Niang, OL, TCU
The Cardinals have a revolving door at the left tackle position over the past couple of years. Justin Murrary, Joshua Miles, Marcus Gilbert, and Jordan Mills have all been slated to be the Cardinals starting right tackle. Gilbert and Mills have been injured most of their tenure and Murrary and Miles have been decent. If the Cardinals want to patch the right side of their offensive line, they should look no further than Lucas Niang.
Because of the up-tempo offense that TCU runs, he is well-conditioned to be inserted in fast pace offense that the Cardinals are running. Play speed isn’t a factor for Niang as motor seems to intensify later in games. He is a solid in both run and pass protection, giving the Cardinals some one that could go up against some of the premier defensive linemen in the NFC West.
If they Cardinals add the 6’7” 328-pound big man from Connecticut, their offensive line will be vastly improved. If they were able to add both Becton and Niang in the draft, the 2020 could look like Becton, Justin Pugh, Mason Cole, J.R. Sweezy, and Niang. Kyler Murrary would have more time to get the ball to his playmakers giving the Cardinals more scoring opportunities.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Arizona has a tremendous wealth of potential talent at the wide receiver position. Christian Kirk has really come into his own late in the season, Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson have shown flashes when given the opportunity, and injured Hakeem Butler is the tall receiver the Cardinals look to mix into the offense next season.
With the future of Pharoh Cooper, Damiere Byrd and Trent Sherfield unknown, the Cardinals could use another explosive playmaker in Coach Kingsbury’s offense. Brandon Aiyuk could be the long ball receiver the Cardinals need.
Aiyuk has shown big play ability this season, recording an 86-yard run against Washington State, an 81-yard run and catch against Oregon and a 77-yard run against Kent State. So far this season, Aiyuk has 60 catches for 1,125 yards and eight touchdowns. He has been tremendous on special teams as well, recording 446 yards on 14 attempts, breaking a 97-yard run against USC.
Aiyuk has strong hands to match his quick explosive feet. His ability to create big windows for his quarterback is a plus and he has good ability to track deep passes and competes to make tough catches in critical moments. He has become a weapon on screen passes as he can shake and move past tacklers.
If Larry Fitzgerald returns in 2020, the Cardinals receiving core could include Kirk, Isabella, Johnson, Butler, Aiyuk and Sherfield. Good luck to defenses defending three speedsters, a big physical receiver and a living legend.