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Talented Wide Receiver Class Will Tempt Cardinals In Draft

Needs are plenty in first round, but game-changers could be available

Among the top receiving prospects in the draft are (clockwise from top left) Alabama's Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, Alabama's Henry Ruggs and LSU's Justin Jefferson.
Among the top receiving prospects in the draft are (clockwise from top left) Alabama's Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, Alabama's Henry Ruggs and LSU's Justin Jefferson.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cardinals drafted three wide receivers in 2019.

But that doesn't mean they won't take another one in 2020, not with the depth of talent at the position in this draft, not with a need at outside receiver still looming, and not when that player could potentially emulate the success of someone like Larry Fitzgerald – himself a No. 3 overall pick when the Cardinals already had the talented Anquan Boldin.

"If there is a great, great player out there at the top of the first round, and he is a wide receiver, and he is a great kid and he is passionate and we're convinced that this guy is going to be a great pro for years to come, I think you'd be inclined to take him," General Manager Steve Keim said. "You certainly don't want to take an offensive or defensive lineman that you have graded significantly behind that receiver. You never want to leave a better player on the board.

"That brings up the question, do you entertain trading back? We certainly would, for the right opportunities. I probably wouldn't rule out trading up if the right player was there. But there is so much of that process that we still need to sift through to come to that conclusion."

The arguments both for and against spending the Cardinals' No. 8 pick on a wide receiver are legitimate.

There is little question the Cardinals have needs that stretch far beyond wideout. Defensively, the Cardinals could use a game-changing lineman if they were to like a Derrick Brown or a Javon Kinlaw. They could use a playmaking linebacker like Isaiah Simmons, and if highly rated cornerback Jeffrey Okudah were to somehow fall, that's a guy you'd have to look at even with the Cards' current roster.

And yes, they could still use a right tackle, someone that – if evaluated as such – they could plug-and-play in the lineup and solidify the offensive line in front of Kyler Murray.

But for all the successes Murray and Kliff Kingsbury's offense had in 2019, they are still short on dynamic wide receivers, threats down the field that can scare a defense and elevate the unit as a whole.

There would be a chance the Cardinals would have the first pick of a wide receiving class so talented and deep that Kingsbury insisted the Cards could get a really good one all the way into the fourth round (which in itself a comment to consider.) It feels inevitable Kingsbury will get a receiver at some point, and he raved about meeting with the top three prospects: Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs.

"I'm an offensive coach who was a quarterback, I'm always looking for a fast outside guy," Kingsbury said. "We're going to do what's best for our organization, but those three guys are definitely in play."

Keim said he told his staff there isn't any position in the draft the Cardinals should not consider.

"To me, we have to continue to look at this process without any biases," Keim said.

Keim hasn't given up on the three 2019 draftees, but he acknowledged all have things to work on. Andy Isabella has to get better off press coverage, Hakeem Butler has to become a better route runner, KeeSean Johnson has to improve his consistency.

If the Cardinals were to add in a big-time receiver from this class, the franchise would only be that much further ahead if the previous class develops. There are few doubts many of the incoming wide receivers will have NFL success.

"I think that the group as a whole, all the receivers here are exceptional," Ruggs said. "Everybody had good careers at their respective colleges. And everybody is in the talk for great things at the next level."

Over the next couple of months, the Cardinals will have to figure out the direction they want to choose.

"When you look at the players that are out there, if you find one that you think is a game-changer, that's where you've got to go," Kingsbury said during an interview on Cards Cover 2. "Because there are. There are going to be a ton of really talented ones that we feel like can have immediate impacts and come in and give us some real juice on the outside. We're definitely covering all our bases, and we'll see how that plays out."

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