The 2023 NFL Draft is just over two weeks away, and yet, there’s still so much unknown. There’s a general idea of who each team will pick based on their individual needs, but figuring out the exact player is next to impossible. On top of that, there are trades to worry about, so even who’s picking where isn’t set in stone.
The most popular team in draft trade talks was the Chicago Bears, who traded the first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers in March. After that trade happened, the next team to come up in trade talks was the Arizona Cardinals at third overall. Unlike other teams at the top of the draft, the Cardinals aren’t looking for a new quarterback. With many other needs on the roster, they could trade down to acquire more draft capital.
That’s only one piece of the puzzle, though. If the Cardinals do decide to trade down, then they still need someone to trade up with them. There are a few teams who might fit the bill, and the Tennessee Titans are one of those teams.
Several insiders have floated the idea of Tennessee trading up with Arizona, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. being the most recent. In his two-round mock draft released on Tuesday, Kiper has the Titans jumping up eight spots to select Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson. In return, the Cardinals get the 11th and 41st overall picks, a 2024 first-rounder and “likely either a 2025 first- or second-rounder as well.”
This would certainly be a bold move for both teams, but it might be one worth making. Let’s break it down further and explain why this move makes sense for both sides.
Why Mel Kiper’s proposed Titans-Cardinals 2023 NFL Draft trade makes sense
Let’s start with the easier side to explain in this deal: Arizona’s. As previously mentioned, the Cardinals could afford to trade down and capitalize on a team desperate for a quarterback. By trading back eight spots, they can get a boatload of future picks to jumpstart their rebuild.
“For the Cardinals, who have one of the league’s worst rosters and don’t need a quarterback, this trade would be about gathering draft capital and speeding up their rebuild, adding premium picks in this draft and down the road,” Kiper says. “This might be their best-case scenario.”
On top of that, the Cardinals would also still be in great position to get an immediate impact player. When that player is Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson, as is the case in Kiper’s mock draft, that’s even better. Wilson is a projected top-10 pick in almost every mock draft, so to get him here would be a steal. With J.J. Watt and Zach Allen leaving this offseason, the Cardinals desperately need pass-rush help, and Wilson would absolutely deliver.
On the other hand, Tennessee’s side of this deal is a bit more complex. The Titans have many needs after completely collapsing last season, and quarterback is just one of them. The question is, is it worth trading that many NFL draft picks to fix it right now?
From Kiper’s perspective, the answer to that question is yes. He mentions the Titans’ quarterback struggles going forward with Ryan Tannehill getting older and hitting free agency next year, and Malik Willis struggling badly as a rookie in 2022. If the Titans want to get a long-term starter, now might be the time to do so.
In this scenario, Richardson is the third quarterback off the board behind Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. While a risky pick, Richardson has a ton of upside and can thrive in the right situation.
“The 6-4 Richardson might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in this class,” Kiper says. “If he puts together all of his tools and isn’t rushed into being the guy in Week 1, he could be a star. It’s a big “if,” though, because he was extremely inconsistent as a passer in college and has a ways to go to clean up his mechanics. Now, the hope for Tennessee is that it can coach him up, unlock some of those traits and let him show his dual-threat ability. And it could sit him behind Tannehill in Year 1.”
The last part of that statement is particularly important. Kiper adds that Richardson, like Willis last season, needs some time to develop. A year behind Tannehill could make for a smooth transition and help Richardson realize his sky-high potential.
Tennessee and general manager Ran Carthon would be taking a massive risk by making this move in the NFL Draft. If Richardson can live up to the hype, though, it will be well worth it.
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