Was the Arizona Cardinals 2022 rookie class really that bad?

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals
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The Arizona Cardinals 2022 Draft Class was recently ranked as the worst in the NFL. But was it really as bad as the critics claim?

If we know one thing about former Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, it’s that he was never good at drafting. In fact, most of Keim’s picks flamed out early in the NFL, and only a handful picked between 2013 and 2019 are even in the NFL today, while the jury remains out on the 2020 class and beyond. 

But that hasn’t stopped critics from labeling the Cardinals 2022 class as one of the NFL’s worst. But was it really as bad as they’re saying? While the class wasn’t spectacular by any means, the Redbirds may have found a few key contributors, or at least role players, in this crop. 

Arizona Cardinals 2022 Draft Class Wasn’t Terrible

Trey McBride played admirably in the second half of the season after incumbent starter Zach Ertz tore his ACL. In 16 games and 13 starts, McBride logged 29 receptions, a touchdown, and 265 yards (9.1 average). Most of that production came during the waning part of the season, showing us that McBride came on strong and adapted to the NFL game. 

Cam Thomas and Myjai Sanders were edge rushers who went in the third round. Thomas played in all 17 games and had 18 tackles, 3 tackles behind the line, and 3 sacks, plus 6 quarterback hits. Sanders saw 4 starts in 13 games, with 23 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback hits, and 3 sacks. They didn’t turn heads, but at worst, they figure to be solid rotational players in 2023. 

Behind McBride, Thomas, and Sanders, however, things got spotty. But again, even in the best draft classes, Day 3 picks are hopefully hits, but expected misses. That was the case with the Cardinals, where Lecitus Smith (sixth round) may have been the best contributor with two starts in 10 games. 

Keaontay Ingram showed that he wasn’t ready to play in the NFL, having averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per carry when called upon this past season. Jesse Luketa had three tackles, and Marquis Hayes never played. 

Christian Matthew, however, could be one to watch. He logged three starts in 14 games down the stretch, and finished the year with 19 combined tackles and 3 pass deflections. Matthew allowed 7.5 yards per catch, and an opposing quarterback rating of 89.0. 

Overall, the Arizona Cardinals 2022 Draft Class wasn’t memorable. But it should have ranked better than 29th overall, per NFL.com. If McBride, Thomas, Sanders, Smith, and Matthew can continue to grow and increase their roles in 2023, then this draft class, at worst, is middle-of-the-road. 

Ranking the 2023 NFL Draft's top 3 prospects behind Carter, Anderson. dark. Draft-Related

Source: 2022 NFL rookie grades: Ranking the classes, 1 to 32 by Eric Edholm and Nick Shook, NFL.com. 

(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)