When the upcoming offseason rolls around, Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort is going to have his work cut out for him. Unfortunately, the team's list of problem areas seems to be a mile long. Ossenfort has basically received a pass for his first year on the job, but Cards fans will rightfully be expecting the squad to take a quantum leap in 2024.
One particular segment of the roster that will require an upgrade is an offensive line that has underperformed at times. Things haven't been all bad for Arizona's blocking group, but there's definitely room for improvement. Ossenfort must make that contingent more formidable, and next April's NFL Draft could be utilized to achieve that goal.
The Cards' aim should be to get younger up front, a transition that could result in the club moving on from a pair of veteran offensive tackles. If youth is indeed preferred, both D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum could be playing elsewhere next fall. Ossenfort already added Paris Johnson Jr. to the mix last spring, and the next step could be to find another bookend tackle to pair with the 22-year-old rookie.
Next year's college class features Joe Alt, a University of Notre Dame junior who is grading out to be a top-10 pick. The 6 foot 8, 322 pounder was a First-Team All-American in 2022, and is once again playing at an elite level this season. "Big Red" would be set at both offensive tackle spots for the next decade or so with both Alt and Johnson blocking for the Cardinals scoring attack.
If Alt isn't gobbled up (a lame late Turkey Day reference!) by the Arizona front office, there's another blue-chip offensive tackle who could pique Ossenfort's interest. Olumuyiwa Fashanu, a 6 foot 6, 319 pounder out of Penn State, is also flying up the draft boards. The 20-year-old earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors a year ago, and has turned in a more impressive performance in 2023.
In what will undoubtedly be an offensive tackle-rich draft next spring, there's yet another potential top-10 option who could appeal to Cards management. JC Latham is a mammoth (6 foot 6, 360 pounds) prospect who's a star at the University of Alabama. The 20-year-old could make his home on the right edge of the line for the Redbirds, an acquisition that would allow Johnson to make a permanent move over to the left tackle post.
Arizona Cardinals could potentially target two starters for the offensive line during the 2024 NFL Draft
The Cardinals have a glaring hole at the left guard position as well. Handing the starting job to a journeyman free agent like Elijah Wilkinson back in March was a colossal mistake. Backup options like Trystan Colon, Dennis Daley, and Carter O'Donnell also lack top-notch talent.
With a plethora of weaknesses to deal with, Ossenfort will likely steer away from using an opening-round choice on a guard. Spending a top-10 selection on the position seems especially unlikely, due to the fact that visions of Jonathan Cooper may still be dancing in the franchise's head (struggling to ditch these holiday references!). The position could very well be targeted the following night, however, thanks to three top-ranked guards who are expected to be drafted in Round 2.
Kansas State University's Cooper Beebe was nominated a First-Team All-American in '22, and also received Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year honors at the end of that campaign. Troy Fautana, a 6 foot 4, 317 pounder, has emerged as a flat-out mauler over the past two seasons for the University of Washington. Zak Zinter, a 6 foot 6, 322 pounder, was voted First-Team All-Big 10 last year, and was a Second-Team All-Big 10 performer back in 2021.
At the present time, it seems as if Johnson will be joined by center Hjalte Froholdt and right guard Will Hernandez as returning members of the Arizona blocking unit in '24. The two remaining spots could be up for grabs. Fortunately, Ossenfort will be loaded with the draft capital needed to fill those vacancies next April.