Why Will Anderson Jr. would be perfect fit for Cardinals in 2023 NFL Draft

The Arizona Cardinals currently own the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and when you pick that high, you’ve got to make it count. Arizona doesn’t need (or really, can’t afford) to take a quarterback, so they should get the best, safest, non-QB available. And that Cardinals draft pick would be Alabama pass-rusher Will Anderson Jr.

In the 2023 NFL Draft, there are four top quarterbacks and the teams at Nos. 1, 2, and 4 will likely take three of those players. If a fourth team wants to get in the mix, trading up to the No. 3 spot with the Cardinals. That will be a temptation for the Cardinals, but unless they can do it and still get Will Anderson Jr., they shouldn’t do it.

Anderson Jr is the perfect Cardinals draft pick this year and the team’s best chance to get back to respectability in 2023. Here are the reasons he is perfect for Arizona and new head coach Jonathan Gannon.

3. Jonathan Gannon knows the value of a pass rush

The Philadelphia Eagles made the Super Bowl last season, and a big reason was the strength of defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s defensive line and pass rush. It’s what led to the team’s success and Gannon getting the Cardinals’ job.

The Eagles had a historic season in 2022, racking up 70 team sacks. That was good for the third-best total in NFL history. Only the 1984 Chicago Bears and 1989 Minnesota Vikings had more.

In Arizona, the defense wasn’t nearly as good last season. The Cardinals had just 36 sacks, which was 23rd in the NFL. J.J. Watt had 12.5 of those QB takedowns, and he’s now retired (more on that below). Zach Allen was second with 5.5, and he’s now a member of the Denver Broncos.

Sacking the quarterback is the crux of a Gannon defense, and last year’s Cardinals draft pick sacks leaders, Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas, with 3.0 sacks apiece just aren’t going to cut it.

Will Anderson Jr. is a phenomenal pass rusher who should boost his team’s total significantly on his own. Anderson had 34.5 sacks and 58.5 tackles for a loss at Alabama. In his best season, 2021, he put up 17.5 sacks and 31.0 tackles for a loss.

Gannon’s first mandate as Cardinals coach is to get the defense to a championship level, and an incredible first step would be getting Anderson in the door in this Cardinals draft.

2. Will Anderson Jr. will (kind of) replace J.J. Watt

There is no immediate replacement for J.J. Watt in the NFL, let alone on the Cardinals. Watt is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer with his five Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams, three Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and 114.5 career sacks.

J.J. Watt is a legend, and even though his first season in Arizona wasn’t great due to injuries, he had a bounce-back campaign last season, adding 18 tackles for a loss to his 12.5 sacks.

What Watt brought to the table was a power rusher who could work inside or outside on the line. Will Anderson Jr. is not that. He is a 6-foot-3 1/2, 253-pound edge player who is best in a 3-4 defense standup outside linebacker role.

Gannon generally plays a 4-3 defense, but in 2022, the Eagles usually lined up in a hybrid front with two defensive tackles, a traditional defensive end, and linebacker Haason Reddick is a standup pass-rushing role. Reddick got 16.0 sacks from that spot, and Anderson Jr. could do the same in 2023.

And by becoming a double-digit sack player, Anderson Jr. can at least fill that part of Watt’s role.

1. Sometimes the best offense is a great defense

The final reason that Will Anderson Jr. is a perfect fit for the Cardinals in the 2023 NFL Draft is that he is the biggest defensive difference maker on the board this year, and if the team hopes to improve on its 4-13 record last season, it’s the D that will have to carry the load.

Kyler Murray is out with a torn ACL, and his return date is unknown. Superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is on the trade block, and the rest of the offense is a work in progress at best.

New offensive coordinator Drew Petzing has his hands full. That’s why new defensive coordinator Nick Rallis and Jonathan Gannon’s defense will have to do the heavy lifting, especially early in the season. Anderson Jr. as a disruptor up front gives the defense the best chance of becoming an elite unit in 2023. If they can do that, the Cardinals will at least have a chance to compete in the NFC West.

And if they don’t, the Cardinals could be drafting in the top three again next season.

The post Why Will Anderson Jr. would be perfect fit for Cardinals in 2023 NFL Draft appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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