Position: Wide Receiver
Draft Need: Low to Moderate Priority
The Skinny: The Cardinals enter the 2016 NFL Draft with an interesting opportunity to potentially add another playmaker at wide receiver. Though the team seemingly has more important needs like finding a center, a defensive back, or perhaps even a quarterback of the future, the Cardinals' current roster composition suggests the team could use a bit more stability at wide receiver.
Even after a sensational year from Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona knows it won't be able to count on the face of the franchise deep into the future. Fitzgerald is entering his 13th NFL season, and while he outperformed expectations in nearly every regard last season, it's impossible to know how much longer Fitzgerald will continue to play at such a high level.
Furthermore, Michael Floyd is entering a contract year, and with so many decisions to make personnel wise in the 2017 offseason, Arizona can't be certain it will have the financial resources to keep Floyd.
Fortunately for team management, Fitzgerald's contract becomes significantly cheaper if the organization elects to exercise club options over the next two seasons, so there will be some cap space available. However, the team also has to juggle the expiring contracts of difference-makers like Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu, so it's difficult to say where Floyd fits in for the future.
The Cardinals know they can count on John Brown down the road thanks to a contract that keeps him with the team through 2018, but rotational players J.J. Nelson and Jaron Brown haven't proven they're consistent enough to put up starter-quality numbers if called upon to do so. With that in mind, the Cardinals could look to add another player through the draft to ensure the team has enough depth to weather any potential losses to its current grouping next offseason.
Recent Draft History
General manager Steve Keim has drafted four wide receivers during his tenure with the Cardinals, and John Brown is easily the most successful. Keim has hit the jackpot with third round draft picks during his tenure as Brown, David Johnson and Tyrann Mathieu were all third round selections.
Brown looks poised to develop into even more of a threat this season after posting his first career 1,000-yard season in 2015, and that reflects well on the organization's ability to scout talent.
Much like Johnson, Brown was drafted out of a small school as he came to the Cardinals from Pittsburg State. Nevertheless, both skill position players have morphed into dependable option the Cardinals will lean heavily on in the upcoming season.
Keim tried to strike gold again in the fifth round of last year's draft, as he selected Nelson out of UAB. Nelson possesses tremendous speed and averaged 27 yards per catch last year, but he only caught 116 passes over a four-year college career and might never be an every down receiver in the NFL.
The other two receivers the Cardinals have taken under Keim's watch are both sixth round products who didn't pan out. Arizona chose Walt Powell out of Murray State in 2014 and Ryan Swope out of Texas A&M in 2013, but neither player played a down with the Cardinals during a regular season game.
Potential Early Round Selection
Will Fuller, Notre Dame: It's highly unlikely the Cardinals would consider taking a wide receiver in the first round, but with a deep class at the top in Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman and Josh Doctson, the Cardinals could shake things up and draft Fuller if he's still on the board at No. 29. Drafting a wide receiver might require the team to look into trading Floyd (he's in a contract year), but Fuller is a replacement candidate because he has a quality the Cardinals love: speed.
Potential Mid Round Selections
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina: Cooper has a raw set of skills, but if the Cardinals are looking for a potentially explosive playmaker to replace Fitzgerald down the road, Cooper has a future in the slot. Even in a down year for South Carolina, Cooper continually caught our eyes with his shiftiness and make-you-miss mentality with the ball in his hands.
Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan: We only watched Braverman play once last season, but he's a player who many experts view as a sleeper pick and that's one of the reasons he's climbing up draft boards. At 5-foot-10, he's limited to playing the slot, and he probably doesn't have the same type of explosiveness you'd find with a player like Cooper or Jakeem Grant out of Texas Tech.
Potential Late Round Selections
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: If you look at the way the Cardinals have drafted in recent years, it's clear they do things differently at wide receiver. John Brown came to the team by way of Pittsburg State, and Jaron Brown was a speed-demon out of UAB when the Cardinals scooped him up in the draft. At 5-foot-6, Grant qualifies as different, and his electrifying speed could be worth the risk with a late round pick to see how he fares in training camp.
Nelson Spruce, Colorado: Spruce is the opposite of a take-the-ceiling-off-the-defense deep threat, which is why he's probably not on anyone's radar until the sixth or seventh rounds. However, Spruce has outstanding hands, runs good routes, and played at a high level against Pac-12 defenses that knew he was Colorado's most consistent threat.null