Sixth-round pick could contribute to the Arizona Cardinals defensive unit
By Jim Koch
Rookie Dante Stills could earn ample playing time on an Arizona Cardinals defensive line that could be the NFL's worst.
It's no secret that the Arizona Cardinals possess one of the NFL's most-undermanned rosters. Very few improvements were made to a squad that posted an ugly 4-13 record last fall. In fact, many have used the word "tanking" to describe general manager Monti Ossenfort's approach to the current offseason.
While the Cards certainly need help in many areas, the team's defensive line has the potential to be one of the worst in franchise history. The losses of J.J. Watt and Zach Allen will hurt a bunch. The hope was that Ossenfort would replace those two stud contributors with worthwhile free agents, but the front office took a pass on every top-level option.
Fast forward to last month's draft, when Arizona selected a defensive tackle in Round 6. Dante Stills, a 23-year-old out of West Virginia University, was taken off of the board with the 213th-overall pick. A prospect drafted that late in the three-day event would normally be placed on the shelf for awhile, but the Redbirds' new coaching staff could have a different plan for Stills.
Rookie Dante Stills could be afforded an opportunity to start for the Arizona Cardinals in 2023
At the moment, only a group of mediocre veterans are situated ahead of Stills on the Cardinals' pre-training camp depth chart. Considering who is standing in front of him, it would not be outlandish in the least to see the 6 foot 4, 286 pounder out there with the first-string defense in 2023. Who will Stills have to leapfrog to garner some legitimate playing time with first-year coordinator Nick Rallis' newly-constructed contingent?
Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence, a pair of fourth-round defensive tackles from back in 2020, have reached their ceiling. Carlos Watkins is a mid-level addition who's probably more suited for backup duty. Kevin Strong and Manny Jones are also in the mix, but neither player's resume is anything worth bragging about.
In his five collegiate campaigns (2018-22), Stills racked up 137 tackles, 53 of which were for a loss. Even more appealing to the Cards should be the 24.5 sacks that the West Virginia native recorded for the Mountaineers. Stills was also credited with five forced fumbles, four passes defensed and an interception as well during his extended stay at the school.
Arizona's defensive line is going to need all of the help it can get to be competitive in '23. That task could become a whole lot easier if a youngster like Stills can step up and surprise the masses in his rookie campaign.
(Statistics provided by College Football Reference)