Arizona Cardinals: How Pappoe, Clark, and Stills can start in 2023

The Arizona Cardinals drafted for need with their final three picks last April, ending up with a linebacker, a cornerback, and a defensive tackle.
Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Dante Stills (55) during organized team activities on June 1,
Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Dante Stills (55) during organized team activities on June 1, / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

When you’re a team in transition, literally anything can happen. So it’s not farfetched to believe even the Arizona Cardinals bottom three draft picks will land a starting spot this season. Training camp is the obvious next step into proving that they are capable of seeing extended playing time in the NFL. But if they look good in the preseason, don’t be surprised if you hear more grumblings about the trio possibly working their way into a starting lineup.

Below, we will discuss those three rookies and why they can eventually start for the Cardinals in 2023. Note, that this article isn’t making the case for them to win the starting job in camp, but instead, why they can snag the starting gig at some point during the year. 

Pappoe, Clark, and Stills can become starters for the Arizona Cardinals

1 - Owen Pappoe, LB

When the Arizona Cardinals selected Owen Pappoe in April, they initially looked as though there was going to be a logjam at linebacker. Then it became apparent when Zaven Collins went to EDGE and Isaiah Simmons has since moved to safety

We know Kyzir White will start at inside linebacker this season, but we don’t know who will take the spot beside him. Veterans Krys Barnes and Josh Woods are the favorites to snag the spot, but we also know they have limited ceilings and neither are long-term answers. This isn’t the case with Pappoe, at least in 2023.

2 - Kei’Trel Clark, CB

We don’t know what’s going on with Garrett Williams at the moment except that he is on the NFI list, so that’s one reason why the door is open for Kei’Trel Clark. We also know Isaiah Simmons is heading to safety, and that Antonio Hamilton is nothing more than an aging, journeyman who factors in as a stopgap. 

Clark is a fresh face and an energetic one who isn’t facing much competition for the CB2 slot, at least until Williams returns. Rashad Fenton is another name to watch in the position battle, along with Christian Matthew. With no extraordinary talent next to Williams (when he returns) standing in his way, Clark has an opportunity here.

3 - Dante Stills, DT

We don’t need to dive into a lot of detail to understand why Dante Stills could win a starting job at some point in 2023, even if it doesn’t happen right away. Stills, drafted 213th overall, is supposed to be nothing more than a developmental piece, but the current defensive line is full of players like Stills, along with underachievers, and cast-offs.

For a sixth round pick playing in such a weak position group, Stills couldn’t have asked for a better situation to land himself in. Give Stills a strong preseason, and he might just surprise the NFL landscape in a rotational role, before he finally lands the starting job.