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Cardinals Aren't Looking For QB, But Position Holds Draft Key

Demand for signal-callers will impact No. 3 slot and potential trade options

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud speaks with the media at the NFL Scouting combine on Friday.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud speaks with the media at the NFL Scouting combine on Friday.

INDIANAPOLIS – Going No. 1 in the draft? As it stands now, C.J. Stroud has no desire for that to happen.

Of course, it's because the Chicago Bears own the No. 1 pick, and Stroud's former Ohio State teammate and "brother" Justin Fields at the quarterback there already.

"I don't want to go there," Stroud said Friday at the NFL Scouting combine. "That's his team. I can do my thing. I have to build my legacy."

Stroud landing in Chicago is unlikely. With Fields, it's unlikely any quarterback goes to the Bears. But as with most drafts, it's the quarterbacks that will drive the first-round narrative. And it's the quarterbacks that could ultimately drive the Cardinals' decision whether to stay at No. 3 overall or trade down from the pick.

The names are well known. Alabama's Bryce Young, who right now seems like the probable first quarterback taken despite his smaller frame of 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds. Stroud figures to be in the top two. Florida's Anthony Richardson and Kentucky's Will Levis, both of whom bring with them huge physical gifts but final college seasons that were underwhelming for such talent.  

The Bears figure to want to trade down. But the top 10 is dotted with teams needing QBs, so the Cardinals could be in prime trade position (especially if the Bears don't trade and select someone like Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson.)

The Texans at 2 will take a QB. The Colts at 4 want one, as do the Raiders at 7, the Falcons at 8 and the Panthers at 9. Ruling out the Seahawks at 5 and the Lions at 6 probably would be premature, although signs point to them riding with Geno Smith and Jared Goff, respectively. (The Lions also have pick No. 18 where they might grab one.)

General manager Monti Ossenfort said the Cardinals are open for potential trade calls, although none have happened yet.

"There is plenty of time for that," he said.

Realistically, nothing will come together before draft night for the Cardinals. Richardson and Levis are wild cards, the type of talents that can be seen as mid-first round choices that "surprisingly" find themselves in the top 5 by draft night.

"Being picked by any team is a blessing," Richardson said.

Young and Stroud remain the linchpins, however, as do the Bears. If the Bears draft Anderson, the Cardinals will have plenty of suitors for the No. 3 pick after the Texans take a QB – perhaps even able to swap with the Colts at 4, allowing the Cardinals to get an extra selection and the same player they would've taken at 3 as Indy gets their QB.

If QBs go 1-2, Anderson – or someone else inviting – will be there. Or maybe Richardson and/or Levis will have inserted themselves into the conversation.

The quarterbacks control everything, as usual, even if the QBs themselves don't know quite what that means.

"Where I end up is something I can't control," Young said. "I'm going to give all to whatever team takes me.

"I don't know what's going to happen. I don't get to choose."