Zion Johnson could be a surprise top pick for the Cardinals

(Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Zion Johnson
(Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Zion Johnson /

The Arizona Cardinals could take a pass on more pressing needs and use their first-round choice on the best guard in the 2022 NFL Draft.

When the 2022 NFL Draft gets underway later this month, the Arizona Cardinals will have several different directions to go with their first-round selection.

Edge-rusher, wide receiver, cornerback, and defensive tackle are four positions that can certainly be in the discussion for the Cards. Not many fans of the squad would argue against general manager Steve Keim acquiring a reinforcement for any one of those spots on the draft’s first night.

One area of the roster that has hardly been mentioned as an opening-round possibility is the Arizona offensive line. At the moment, that segment of the Redbirds’ offense is made up of five veteran starters. With that being the case, would adding some youth to the experienced blocking unit be a smart move by Keim and his cohorts?

Zion Johnson, an All-American out of Boston College, is the number-one ranked guard in this year’s draft. The Cardinals hold the 23rd-overall pick, and there’s a fairly good chance that the 6-foot-3, 315-pounder will still be on the board at that point of the first round. It’s true that the team has more pressing needs, but Johnson is a stud who could definitely pay dividends in the near future.

Arizona Cardinals have filled their starting guard positions with free agents

The first draft pick that Keim made for the Cards came back in 2013 when the franchise’s new GM used the seventh-overall choice on a guard. Jonathan Cooper, an All-American out of the University of North Carolina, failed to live up to his first-round status. Arizona gave up on the blocker in 2016 and proceeded to trade Cooper and a second-round selection to the New England Patriots for sack-specialist Chandler Jones.

After Cooper turned out to be a major bust, Keim refrained from obtaining starting guards through the draft. The result of that boycott has been a series of plug-and-play veterans that have included Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, J.R. Sweezy, Justin Pugh, and Will Hernandez.

What a nice change of pace it would be if the Cardinals were to fill one of the starting guard spots with some homegrown talent. Perhaps it’s time for Keim to put the Cooper failure behind him, once and for all. Johnson has the looks of a can’t-miss prospect who can help the Cards to get over one of the biggest draft busts in franchise history.

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