Top 5 cornerbacks the Arizona Cardinals may consider in the 2023 NFL Draft
By Sion Fawkes
The Arizona Cardinals could seek a corner in the first round of the NFL Draft. Or at least in the early rounds. Here are five names to look out for.
Cornerback is a major position of interest for the Arizona Cardinals. If you’re a fan, chances are that after edge rusher, you will be looking at general manager Monti Ossenfort, hopefully improving the cornerback position.
Below, you will find five corners ranked from first to fifth. This list isn’t like most you will see, as it doesn’t go over the top five corners overall. Instead, it takes into account how well the following names would fit for the Cardinals.
Something I’ve taken into account more than anything else is productivity. Corners with marginal production have been omitted since the Cards could use someone with game-changing potential to line up in the secondary.
5 cornerbacks the Arizona Cardinals could take
1 - Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
If the Arizona Cardinals opted to trade out of the third overall pick and “freefall” down into the #10 to #15 range, chances are, they will target Christian Gonzalez. And while Gonzalez’s production didn’t start to shine until his final season in college, he contributed well in other aspects.
In 2021, he didn’t record a pick, but he broke up five passes and five of his 53 tackles went for a loss, showing us that he isn’t afraid to get physical in either stopping the run or defending the pass. By the end of 2022, Gonzalez recorded four interceptions and 118 return yards to go with 50 tackles and seven passes defensed.
2 - Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
In my can’t miss prospects post, I had the Arizona Cardinals taking Emmanuel Forbes in the third round. But if Monti Ossenfort took him higher, even in the second round, I wouldn’t be disappointed, even if Mel Kiper might call it a reach.
Forbes was nothing short of a stud at Mississippi State, with six interceptions, 174 return yards, and three touchdowns in 2022. And he was no one-year wonder. In 2020, he had five interceptions, 183 return yards, and three scores. His only “down year” came in 2021, with three picks and 33 yards.
Why isn’t he topping the list of corners? He’s thin and strength is not on his side. Other than those flaws, Forbes could be a steal.
3 - Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Like Forbes, Devon Witherspoon is rather lanky. Also like Forbes, he’s a productive corner who had three picks and 97 return yards last season, along with 14 pass deflections.
In 2021, Witherspoon also showed that he could get into the backfield and stop plays before they have a chance to develop. He recorded 52 tackles that season, eight of which went behind the line.
He also attended the University of Illinois, a mid-major Big Ten school. The upside? He’s faced some remarkable NFL-caliber talent throughout his career.
4 - Clark Phillips III, Utah
Clark Phillips stands between 5’9 and 5’10, meaning he would have a tough time going up against larger receivers in the NFL. But like others on this list, Phillips’ production should entice the Arizona Cardinals.
If there is one adjective to describe Phillips, you might use the word game-changing. During his career at Utah, he racked up nine interceptions, including six in 2022. He scored four career pick sixes, and recorded 232 return yards, for an average of 25.8 yards per runback.
5 - Mekhi Blackmon, USC
Mekhi Blackmon spent four years at the University of Colorado before he shifted gears and finished his college career with the USC Trojans. One downside with Blackmon is that he played in just 21 games between 2018 and 2021, before seeing time in 14 contests last season.
That said, you’re looking at a prospect with a one-year-wonder label. However, if the Arizona Cardinals pass on corner in Rounds 1 and 2, Blackmon could fly under their radar in the third round.
He logged 66 tackles last season, three interceptions, 31 return yards, and 12 pass breakups. Blackmon could be a boom-or-bust prospect, but then again, Marco Wilson seemed to work out rather well if we’re judging from his jump from Year 1 to Year 2.
Overall, look for the Cards to take a corner somewhere in the early to middle rounds of the draft. With the position remaining so thin, chances are, they will seek a corner sooner than later.
(Statistics provided by Sports-Reference/CFB)