Arizona Cardinals seventh-rounder could be surprise starter
Arizona Cardinals rookie safety James Wiggins has modeled his game after some familiar faces. Players like Antrel Rolle, Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker have all had an influence on the club’s most recent seventh-round draft choice. Wiggins has been especially enamored with Baker, the Cards three-time Pro Bowler who has become one of the NFL’s brightest young stars.
“My mindset is to try not to be starstruck that first moment I meet him because it’s like, ‘Man, you’re the G.O.A.T. at the safety position here,” Wiggins said of being introduced to the phenomenal Baker. “It’s an honor to be in your presence, but I also get to learn from you.”
Many of the league’s experts feel that Wiggins could turn out to be one of the steals of the 2021 draft. The University of Cincinnati product, who spent three seasons with the Bearcats, was chosen 243rd-overall by the Cardinals front office. Wiggins is aiming to work his way into the squad’s starting lineup, a feat which would be rather incredible for such a late-round prospect.
Standing in the way of Wiggins is Jalen Thompson, Arizona’s current starter at the safety spot next to Baker. The 22-year old Thompson missed 11 games last fall because of a bad ankle he initially injured during an opening-day victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Other safeties on the Cards depth chart include Shawn Williams, Deionte Thompson, Chris Banjo and Charles Washington.
Wiggins appeared in nine contests for the Bearcats last season, and was credited with 32 tackles, an interception, six passes defensed and a sack. The 6’0, 209 pounder’s best campaign was in 2018, when he tallied 54 tackles, four picks (one for a touchdown), five pass breakups and two sacks during his 13 appearances for the school. Combining that kind of production with what Baker contributes every year would give the Cardinals a lethal duo at the safety position.
The only blind spot on the college career of Wiggins was a torn ACL he suffered back in 2019. What the Miami native managed to accomplish last year, however, is proof that he has put that setback squarely in the rearview mirror. Arizona could very well roll with a Baker-Wiggins combination at safety when the ’21 campaign gets underway.