Top 5 players Arizona Cardinals can select to replace Budda Baker
By Sion Fawkes
With Budda Baker the subject of trade rumors, the Arizona Cardinals would do well to find a potential replacement in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Just under two weeks ago, I wrote up my ‘Top 5 Safeties’ for the Arizona Cardinals piece. In the article, I listed projected late-round talent general manager Monti Ossenfort could consider to provide depth.
Now that the Budda Baker Saga has arrived and is thus far showing zero signs of slowing down, things have changed, and the time’s come to perhaps revamp that piece. While the Cards still have Jalen Thompson barring any type of curveball, replacing Baker may become a top priority if the Redbirds don’t work things out with him over the next couple of weeks.
So which safeties could immediately replace Baker if he’s not coming back? Keep reading for more.
5 safeties Arizona Cardinals can draft to replace Budda Baker
1 - Brian Branch, Alabama
If the Arizona Cardinals want to replace Budda Baker immediately, Brian Branch is their guy. While his production was only above average in 2020 and 2021, he broke out in 2022, logging 90 combined tackles, seven passes defensed, and two interceptions.
What jumped out, though, was the sheer number of plays he made behind the line - 14.0 tackles for loss, and 3.0 sacks. He also had 35 games of experience at the collegiate level.
2 - Jordan Battle, Alabama
At 6’1, 210, Jordan Battle has more of that strong safety build, and he too would be a fair replacement for Baker, but one the Arizona Cardinals could snag in the second round. Unlike Branch, Battle was also more consistent with his production, even if it didn’t jump off the charts in some aspects.
His best season came in 2021, when he tallied 85 tackles and a stop behind the line, three interceptions, and two pick sixes. His production didn’t completely fall off in 2022, and he played well enough to remain a top safety in the draft.
3 - JL Skinner III, Boise State
If Branch and Battle are off the table, JL Skinner is a good consolation. Like Battle, Skinner’s best season came in 2021, when he made seven tackles for loss, picked off two passes, and made 92 tackles.
Last year, the 6’4, 218lb safety made 65 stops and logged four interceptions. Like star backer Isaiah Simmons, the Cards could possibly line up Skinner at multiple positions thanks to his size.
4 - Rashad Torrence II, Florida
Rashad Torrence II had two productive seasons at the University of Florida, tallying 87 tackles and three interceptions in 2021, before he came back and added another 84 tackles last season. Torrence isn’t one to make a big play, but given his production on the stat sheet, you can rest assured the Cards are getting a sure tackler should they pursue him.
5 - Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
Antonio Johnson could make a good value pick, as there is a chance he may be there in the third round for the Arizona Cardinals. Like others on this list, Johnson’s best season came in 2021 when he amassed 85 tackles and 8.5 behind the line, but he also had a good year in 2022.
Last season, he made 71 combined stops, including five for loss. And at 6’3, 200, he also has more size than many safeties who entered the draft. If the Cards haven’t taken a safety in the first two rounds and Baker indicates there is no way he’s returning, they need to seriously consider Antonio Johnson.
(Statistics provided by Sports-Reference/CFB and ESPN.com)