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Cardinals Take Max Melton With Second-Round Pick

Rutgers cornerback arrives to help secondary

Max Melton puts on a Cardinals hat after being drafted Friday night in the second round.
Max Melton puts on a Cardinals hat after being drafted Friday night in the second round.

The two times Max Melton matched up against new teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. in college, the Rutgers cornerback said while he didn't love his performances, he liked them a lot.

"I remember my mindset," said Melton, whom the Cardinals drafted in the second round on Friday night after initially trading down. "It's gonna be iron sharpens iron. I don't know if he remembers me. I hope he does."

Harrison Jr. did – tweeting out after the Melton choice "Always respected his game fr."

"I can't wait to meet bro – off the field," Melton said with a chuckle.

The Cardinals traded down to open the second round, moving from 35 to 43 in a deal with the Falcons, and still ended up with a defensive back that analysts feel has upside. Melton ran a 4.39 40 at the Scouting combine, with a vertical jump of over 40 inches and a long jump of more than 11 feet.

That was when Melton felt like he announced his presence for the draft cycle, earning the second-day spotlight. He loved his spring visit to Tempe, and said he was hoping Jonathan Gannon would be his coach after just two minutes of their conversation.

"It really felt like home, and I got the feeling it was vice versa, and sure enough I'm here," Melton said.

Gannon smiled when he was told the story. "His seriousness and intensity ... he has the mindset we are looking for.

"I fell in love with his mindset."

The Cardinals needed to bolster the position. They signed Sean Murphy-Bunting in free agency, and have second-year options in Garrett Williams -- a third-round pick a year ago -- Kei'Trel Clark and Starling Thomas V.

Melton, GM Monti Ossenfort said, "is a guy we have targeted for a while."

Melton had eight interceptions in his four years at Rutgers and had 16 pass breakups the past two seasons. He also had three blocked kicks in 2022, and he doesn't lack for confidence.

"I'm a lockdown corner," Melton said. "I can lockdown anybody, I ran a 4.39, I can jump out of the gym. I'm a real athlete so I can play inside, outside."

Melton also said he was a willing special teams player – "I don't play it just to play it."

The choice of Melton ended a stretch of four straight cornerbacks coming off the board. The Eagles traded up to get Cooper DeJean at 40, the Saints traded up to take Kool-Aid McKinstry at 41, and then the Texans took Kamari Lassiter before the Cardinals grabbed Melton.

Those were all possibilities for the Cardinals had they stayed at 35, but Ossenfort was happy to pick up an extra third-round pick knowing that a corner would be there when the Cards were next on the clock – and Melton was there. Ossenfort said the run on corners did not concern him.

"I just wanted to prove I could be 'him,'" Melton said about his pre-draft work.

"I just want to help my team in whatever form or fashion I can."