Cardinals: 3 sleeper prospects to target in 2024 NFL Draft

The Arizona Cardinals have a storied legacy and a passionate fanbase. However, they find themselves at a critical juncture as the 2024 NFL Draft approaches. Following a season that left much to be desired, the focus has unequivocally shifted towards rebuilding and restructuring. For sure, they have an eye on the future. As such, the Draft presents a golden opportunity for the Cardinals to infuse fresh talent into their ranks. Sure, the spotlight often shines on the most hyped prospects. That said, it’s the sleeper picks that can turn the tide for a franchise. It’s in these overlooked gems that the Cardinals might just find the key to a resurgence, transforming potential into prowess on the gridiron.

Arizona Cardinals’ 2023 Season Recap

The Arizona Cardinals’ aspirations for a postseason run in 2023 were dashed. Their campaign echoed their disappointing 4-13 record from the previous campaign. However, the aftermath this time around carried a distinct vibe of change and future potential.

Reflecting on the Cardinals’ 2023 season reveals a journey fraught with challenges. It ended in a familiar yet frustrating losing record. Such an outcome diverged sharply from the team’s and its dedicated fanbase’s initial expectations. A confluence of issues beset the team throughout the season. These ranged from significant injuries and uneven performances to a glaring lack of depth in key areas. These difficulties ultimately precluded their participation in the 2024 NFL Playoffs. That cemented a campaign that the franchise eagerly wishes to leave in the rearview mirror.

However, amidst the disappointment, there’s a burgeoning sense of optimism within the Cardinals organization. They have embarked on a foundational rebuild. With strategic moves last offseason to amass draft capital and streamline the roster, the Cardinals are positioned to advance their rebuilding efforts and potentially vie for a playoff berth in 2024.

Offseason Context

The Cardinals have strategically focused on fortifying their defense during the early stages of free agency. This is an approach that aligns with head coach Jonathan Gannon’s defensive expertise and addresses last season’s shortcomings.

The acquisition of defensive talents such as lineman Justin Jones and linebacker Mack Wilson shold bolster a run defense. Recall that they languished at the league’s bottom. Meanwhile, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting is expected to strengthen a secondary that struggled. They ranked 30th in net yards per pass attempt allowed. Yet, there’s an acknowledgment that further enhancements are necessary.

On the offensive front, the signing of tackle Jonah Williams opens up possibilities for reshuffling the line. This includes potentially relocating 2023’s first-round selection, Paris Johnson Jr., to the left tackle position. It also signals a proactive approach to building a competitive team for the coming season.

Here we will look at the three sleeper rookie prospects that the Arizona Cardinals have to target in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Jalen Coker, WR, Holy Cross

Jalen Coker emerged from Holy Cross not just as a record-setting receiver but as a testament to how far hard work and exceptional talent can take you. His journey from an overlooked recruit to becoming the school’s all-time leader in both receiving yards and touchdowns is nothing short of remarkable. Last season, Coker notched a Pro Football Focus (PFF) receiving grade of 90.6. He built on the previous year’s 82.9 that first drew attention to his abilities. Amassing nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns over two seasons, his athletic prowess was on full display at the NFL Combine. That’s where he impressed with a 42.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-8 broad jump. Coker’s blend of agility, work ethic, and aerial ability make him an enticing option for the Cardinals. He can potentially provide the deep-threat capability they’ve been missing.

TJ Tampa, CB, Iowa State

TJ Tampa, from Iowa State, represents a prime candidate to enhance Arizona’s defensive backfield. Despite the recent addition of Murphy-Bunting, the Cardinals’ secondary would greatly benefit from a talent like Tampa. He is known for his physicality and impressive ball skills. That’s evidenced by 19 pass breakups over three seasons. As such, Tampa fits the mold of what the Cardinals’ defense, under Gannon’s scheme, needs. His aggressive style of play and knack for disrupting passes could make him an invaluable asset in a division where aerial threats are prevalent.

Ohio Bobcats wide receiver Sam Wiglusz (12) takes a hit from Iowa State Cyclones defensive back T.J. Tampa (2) during the second quarter at Peden Stadium Matt Lunsford-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Randolph Jr, DL, Illinois

Keith Randolph Jr, hailing from Illinois, stands out as a formidable run defender. This is a critical need for the Cardinals given the run-heavy tendencies of their NFC West adversaries. With a stout 6’3, 296-pound frame, Randolph’s primary strength lies in his ability to anchor the defensive line against the run. Sure, he had limited contributions to the pass rush. However, we cannot overstate his potential to stifle opposing ground games. Randolph’s physicality and ability to occupy blockers could prove essential in containing some of the league’s top running backs. This makes him an attractive late-draft option for Arizona as they aim to fortify their front seven.

Looking Ahead

As the Arizona Cardinals look to the 2024 NFL Draft, the emphasis must be on unearthing talent that can contribute immediately and develop into future stars. In Jalen Coker, TJ Tampa, and Keith Randolph Jr, the team has the opportunity to add depth, skill, and versatility to both sides of the ball. Yes, they may not carry the same initial recognition as some of their peers. However, their potential impact on the field could be the catalyst for a Cardinals resurgence. The road to redemption for the Cardinals begins with making savvy, informed picks in the draft. Of course, these three sleeper prospects represent the ideal starting point.

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