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Cardinals Draft Primer 2021: Cornerback

GM Steve Keim figures to study group closely because of long-term need

Draft Primer: Cornerback

General Manager Steve Keim made some high-profile moves in free agency, adding J.J. Watt, Rodney Hudson, A.J. Green, Malcolm Butler and others. The Cardinals have lofty goals in 2021, and finding impact rookies would help fortify the roster. We will break down each position group heading into the draft, which will be held from Thursday, April 29 through Saturday, May 1.

Free agent primer: Cornerback

More draft primers: RB I LB I WR I DL I QB I ST I TE I S I OL

Players under contract: Malcolm Butler, Byron Murphy Jr., Robert Alford, Jace Whittaker, Picasso Nelson.

Need: High

The Cardinals' situation: Cornerback was in desperate need of attention heading into free agency, and Keim shored up the spot by signing Butler and bringing back Alford. That duo and Murphy is currently in line to get extensive playing time, although Alford's injury history leaves the No. 2 cornerback spot in flux. Whittaker and Nelson will aim to make the roster by impressing this offseason.

The draft class: Alabama's Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina's Jaycee Horn lead the list of cornerback prospects, and if either falls to No. 16, the Cardinals could look closely. Caleb Farley may be the most talented cornerback in the class, but the Virginia Tech product's stock is murky after he underwent a recent back procedure. He has also been commonly tied to the Cardinals at 16. Northwestern's Greg Newsome and Florida State's Asante Samuel, Jr. are two of the other highly-ranked cornerback prospects in the class, although it would be a mild surprise if either went in the middle of the first round.

The conclusion: All things being equal, it seems obvious the Cardinals would like to add a cornerback early in the draft, as Butler and Alford are both on one-year deals. However, it could depend on who is available when they are on the clock. Horn and Farley are both projected to go in the middle of the first round, so there is the possibility they are gone by No. 16. If a cover man is not taken in the first round, cornerback would likely be considered in the second. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes to deploy a press-man scheme, so a cornerback with length would be ideal.

Images of some of the highest-rated cornerbacks heading into the draft

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