Arizona Cardinals NFL draft picks 2021: Analysis for every selection – NFL Nation

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The 2021 NFL draft is being held Thursday through Saturday and every Arizona Cardinals’ draft pick will be analyzed here.

After last season’s virtual draft, Cleveland is playing host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.

Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player Arizona has selected will fit.

Round 1, No. 16 overall: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

My take: This was a safe pick for the Cardinals, that’s pretty clear. Collins is a talent and he’s versatile, which will leave defensive coordinator Vance Joseph dreaming about where to line him up — much like he did with Isaiah Simmons last season. But the Cardinals are facing a make-or-break season, and it seems like it would’ve made more sense for them to either trade back to gather more picks — even some for next year’s deep draft — or to take a chance on a wide receiver or cornerback, both of which are positions that could help them win this season. Collins isn’t the issue here. It’s the decision to take him. Collins will be someone Arizona can groom at inside linebacker and play outside in a pinch. But with those positions already established, the need to win seemed like it was put on the back burner.

Fitting him in: Cardinals general manager Steve Keim made it clear during his post-draft news conference Collins will play inside linebacker, even going as far as saying he’ll lineup next to Simmons. But that leaves out Jordan Hicks, the Cardinals’ reliable and durable veteran inside linebacker who was the quarterback of the defense. Coach Kliff Kingsbury sounded adamant that Collins will play, saying that a team doesn’t pick a player 16th if they’re not going to play him. The Cardinals have quite a bit of depth at inside linebacker, so if Collins struggles as a rookie, like Simmons did last season, there’ll be a number of players waiting to compete for his spot.

He’s a talent: There’s no doubting Collins’ credentials. He won both the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player and the Bednarik Award as the defensive player of year. He was the only FBS players last season to have at least four sacks and four interceptions. At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, he has the size to rush the passer and the athleticism to drop into coverage. He returned two of his four interceptions last season for touchdowns.

What’s next: The Cardinals have just one pick on Day 2: No. 49, which is the 17th pick of the second round. They still need a wide receiver, cornerback and running back. There are plenty of receivers left on the board for the Cardinals to get a solid choice in the second round.

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