As an NFL Draft fiend, of course this subject matter is going to interest me. But if you're a football fan of any kind and care at all about how a roster is built and how critical it is to capitalize on high draft picks when you have them, this masterful maneuvering work from Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort will have you on the edge of your seat. There have been several draft war room clips to drop since the 2023 draft ended. These scenes from the Cardinals could take the cake as the best ones.
The chaotic camerawork and abrupt, push-in zooms add to the suspense and seem to be straight from the Succession school of cinematography. I love how after the first trade, new head coach Jonathan Gannon is basically sitting there in disbelief like, "WOW." Hahaha. He's either expressing pure appreciation...or maybe he was a little peeved that he didn't get to coach either Anderson, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, or whichever top defensive prospect he would've preferred? Hard to tell from here.
Whatever the case may have been, I'm captivated to see Gannon's inner gears turning in real time. Quick aside: Gannon's story about starting as a humble scout is pretty cool and I hadn't heard it before seeing the story below. May mean he wants more than a little say on personnel!
Anyway, need to cut back to the badass that Ossenfort is for somehow pulling all this off. He cut his teeth in the Patriots front office for many years. Given how much those New England bros love to stick together once they leave Foxborough, it wasn't a total shock when Ossenfort opted to pull off his first draft night trade with ex-Pat/Texans GM Nick Caserio. That move down from third overall to 12th allowed Houston to nab Alabama pass-rusher Will Anderson Jr. just one pick after selecting (hopeful) franchise quarterback C.J. Stroud.
But the Cardinals weren't going to stand pat and hope an elite prospect near the top of the order would fall all the way to them. Instead, they took a proactive approach, vaulted up from 12th to sixth and nabbed Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. to help protect QB Kyler Murray. Arizona may very well have picked Johnson with the No. 3 pick. Instead, Ossenfort wisely moved around, accrued tons of future assets for his rebuilding project, still got his guy and made Kyler happy.
For all the shit Kyler caught about not studying film enough with that whole contract clause fiasco — I'll say it, I lit him up plenty of times over the past year — it really seems like he's not only attacking his rehab from a torn ACL, but really making an effort to learn the new system:
The Cardinals already have D.J. Humphries in place at left tackle, so Johnson is likely to move back to guard as a rookie at least. Although he played right guard for the Buckeyes in 2021, it seems like he's best suited to line up next to Humphries on the left side. Might as well build that side into a strength, right?
It'll probably take another draft class before Arizona sees meaningful results and returns to being a legit playoff-caliber team. With Kyler still on the mend and a possibly very high Texans first-rounder from 2024 in tow, the Cards should be pushing all their chips in for next year's draft.
If you go by Barstool Sportsbook's Super Bowl odds to determine the 2024 NFL Draft order, Houston and Arizona are the longest shots to win the Lombardi Trophy (+20000). That means the Cardinals could very well have the first and second overall picks next year. They'd likely be tempted to either draft USC's Caleb Williams and try to trade Kyler. On the other hand, Ossenfort could grab, say, Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and another elite player to keep building around Kyler and the nucleus that'll form from the '23 rookie class and whatever free agents come aboard next offseason.
I was barely interested in the Cardinals as a football operation at all before the draft. The incompetence in recent years was staggering. With the way Ossenfort kept his cool under pressure, came away with a strong class and landed premium assets for the future, I'm a lot more bullish on Arizona's future. Combine that with a seemingly refreshed Kyler Murray, and perhaps the Cards will be back in the playoff conversation sooner than expected.
Full video here: