For 10 years, fans of the Arizona Cardinals didn't know what they were missing. While other NFL organizations were hitting home runs with their draft picks, the Cards were striking out far too often. Former Cards general manager Steve Keim had his moments, but the franchise needed someone in that position who was better at finding college prospects who can play.
Enter Monti Ossenfort, a longtime league executive who got his start as an intern with the Minnesota Vikings back in 2001. The 45-year-old had earned a reputation as a valuable asset in the "War Room", and was exactly what the Arizona front office was lacking.
Paris Johnson Jr., the first selection of the Ossenfort era, appears to be on his way to great things. The Cardinals starting right tackle, a former star at Ohio State University, has made a seamless transition to the professional game. It's expected that Johnson will eventually replace veteran D.J. Humphries and become the squad's longterm solution at left tackle.
The 2023 draft class is already paying dividends for the Arizona Cardinals
Cards wide receiver Michael Wilson got the attention of the fantasy football world last Sunday, hauling in the first two touchdowns of his pro career. The week before, the 23-year-old's 69-yard reception set the Redbirds up for a game-sealing score against the Dallas Cowboys. With each passing week, Wilson is looking more and more like a first-round talent who inexplicably dropped into the draft's third round.
One of the most pleasant surprises of Arizona's young campaign has been Kei'Trel Clark, a sixth-round choice out of the University of Louisville. The 22-year-old is starting at cornerback, and has held his own against several of the NFL's most polished pass-catchers. Clark is leading the team with four passes defensed, and could be the most capable cover guy in the Cardinals locker room.
Defensive tackle Dante Stills, a sixth-round pick, has been on the field for 41% of the snaps in 2023. Other Cards selections such as Garrett Williams, Clayton Tune, BJ Ojulari, Jon Gaines II, and Owen Pappoe are also loaded with potential.
Kudos to Ossenfort and company for the exceptional group they assembled last April. Arizona's first-year coaching staff is not afraid to have the first-year performers on the playing field, and that's a good thing. The trust in the youngsters has allowed the "Red Sea" to get a glimpse of the bright future that lies ahead for the 2023 draft class.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference and ESPN.com)