3 reasons Arizona Cardinals have the worst roster in the NFL in 2023

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray watches practice during organized team activities on June 1, 2023, at Cardinals Dignity Health Training Center in Tempe.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray watches practice during organized team activities on June 1, 2023, at Cardinals Dignity Health Training Center in Tempe. /

The Arizona Cardinals have the worst roster in the NFL in 2023, and it’s not particularly close. The Cardinals are taking on a lot of change in 2023, so being in a bit of an awkward spot with the roster is understandable, but this team is simply in shambles when you look at them from top to bottom.

Even with new uniforms, you won’t be able to distract from the horrendous product on the field in 2023. The issues with the Arizona Cardinals roster in 2023 are not hard to find. There are some glaring problems that this team needs to work through in future years including the quarterback situation, which we will get to soon.

We’re not just writing this post to slam the Arizona Cardinals, either. These are legitimate concerns that general manager Monti Ossenfort inherited from the previous regime. He’s got a brand-new coaching staff and a chance to reset this roster the way he and new head coach Jonathan Gannon want to do it. But this is not a small rebuilding project. Not in the slightest.

3 reasons the Arizona Cardinals have the worst roster in the NFL in 2023

1. The quarterback situation

The Arizona Cardinals do not have a particularly enviable quarterback situation right now at all. Unless you consider the prospects they could draft in 2024, things are looking grim for Arizona at QB this coming season. It’s unknown how much, if at all, Kyler Murray is going to be able to play in 2023 after tearing his ACL in 2022. That injury occurred in December, which means that a best-case scenario for Murray is likely a mid-season return. Anything before that would be bordering on delusional optimism.

Murray is certainly one of the most dynamic QBs in the league, but the Cardinals just committed a boatload of money to him and he was specifically drafted by the previous regime to play in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. It’s a new coaching staff coming in this season, and Murray infamously had to have it written in his contract to actually watch film, basically.

With an albatross of a contract on the books, and likely no Murray for most or all of 2023, the Cardinals might be looking at moving on from Kyler Murray in 2024 if they have a shot at Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.

In the interim, who is playing for Arizona, Colt McCoy? Clayton Tune? My word.

2. Arizona Cardinals have no top-tier players at premium positions

When you look at “premium” positions in the NFL today, a few stand out. What do we define as a “premium” position? Well, it’s a position where the pay grade of top-flight players is reflected in the way teams value said position. For instance, it’s clear right now that NFL teams simply do not value the running back position. The best players in the league at the position are making a fraction of what players at, say, wide receiver are making.

The same could be said of safeties versus cornerbacks, or centers versus tackles.

Premium positions in today’s NFL include:

  • Quarterback
  • Wide Receiver
  • Offensive Tackle
  • Pass Rusher/Pressure Players
  • Cornerback

If you look at the top 100 highest-paid players in the NFL today, you are undoubtedly going to find the majority of players play those positions. And when you look at the Arizona Cardinals’ roster at each of those positions, you won’t find a single top-tier player at those position groups.

Thank goodness for the selection of Paris Johnson Jr. in the 2023 NFL Draft for the Cardinals, otherwise this team wouldn’t have top-tier players or prospects at the premium positions. I would contend that Johnson is the only one on the roster who qualifies.

Kyler Murray is injured, and even when he’s healthy, he’s not in the top-tier at the position, meaning top-10 in the league. DJ Humphries is not a top-tier tackle. Hollywood Brown is not a top-tier receiver. The Cardinals might have the worst EDGE/pass rush/pressure player mix in the NFL today. The Cardinals don’t have anything that even closely resembles a top-tier cornerback.

Not having top-tier players at premium positions is perhaps the main reason why Arizona has a horrendous roster going into 2023.

3. Cardinals have drafted poorly on offense the last handful of years

The Cardinals were bad on offense last year compared to some of the best years we saw during the Kliff Kingsbury era, especially when you look at overall scoring and third down production.

Part of the reason why the Cardinals took a major step back offensively last year is poor drafting on the offensive side of the ball since 2019.

Cardinals offensive draft picks in the first three rounds since 2019:

  • QB Kyler Murray (1st round, 2019)
  • WR Andy Isabella (2nd round, 2019)
  • OL Josh Jones (3rd round, 2020)
  • WR Rondale Moore (2nd round, 2021)
  • TE Trey McBride (2nd round, 2022)
  • OT Paris Johnson Jr. (1st round, 2023)
  • WR Michael Wilson (3rd round, 2023)

As you can see, the Cardinals’ draft picks on offense since 2019 simply have not developed, or in the case of Kyler Murray, won’t likely make an impact this year. This poor drafting offensively has caused the need for a total reset on that side of the ball moving forward and we’ll likely see GM Monti Ossenfort take those steps in 2024. Until then, the Arizona Cardinals simply have to deal with having the worst roster in the NFL.