Arizona Cardinals: 7-Round Mock Draft, First Edition
The beauty of the offseason is that it brings a renewed sense of hope to fans across the league. Fans thrive off the knowledge that the right offseason moves can help lead your team to potential greatness, and this thought is enough to make the most collected fans giddy.
As a result, most of us fans decide to release some of this pent up excitement by playing general manager for a day, and today I’ll be doing exactly that.
So without further ado, I’d like to show you who I would be selecting were I at the head of the Cardinals’ draft war room.
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Now, I feel obliged to give you all a very brief insight into my general thought process when it comes to the draft, as it will only make it easier for you to understand where I’m coming from with each selection.
Firstly, in the first three or four rounds, I am a believer in the mantra "talent over need." Although this is only true to a certain extent (it’s impossible for need not to impact on the thought process in some fashion), I do feel as though a team is better off selecting the more talented player in the earlier rounds (Levi Brown over Adrian Peterson, anyone?).
Secondly and finally, I am a sucker for a player who produced consistently in college. If a player managed to get the job done in college, then I feel far better about their chances of being able to do the same in the NFL, and production is just what I’m looking for from my rookies.
Round 1, Pick 13: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
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So here is my vision: 1) The Cardinals begin by making a move in free agency for a Tackle such as Demetrius Bell or Marcus McNeill. 2) From there, they move Levi Brown (on a much smaller contract) to right tackle. 3) Then they follow all this up by selecting David DeCastro in the first round.
All of a sudden, we have an offensive line that is actually a rather impressive unit.
DeCastro is the best guard prospect I have ever seen in my time as an NFL fan (which, admittedly, is not particularly long). He is a menacing run-blocker and is exceptional in pass protection. Not to mention that he slides in perfectly to the hole we have at right guard (I’m not a huge Hadnot/Lutui fan).
When a guard is capable of matching up against defensive ends in college, you know that he has some serious talent, and DeCastro would serve to be a huge boost to our shaky offensive line.
Round 3, Pick 82: Markelle Martin, FS, OSU
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It becomes nigh on impossible to adequately predict who is going to be on the board once you get into the third round, which makes mocking these picks extremely difficult. So in this case, all I can do is hope that Markelle Martin is on the board come Arizona’s pick in the third round.
I am a big fan of Rhodes, but he has had problems with his health, and let’s face it, if the injuries continue, then Rashad Johnson just isn’t good enough to be his backup.
Martin is by no means simply a backup, though. At 6’1”, and with an estimated 4.47 40-yard dash time, he has the size and the speed to make it as a starting free safety in the NFL in almost no time.
He is great in run support (notched 74 tackles last season) and is great at breaking up plays through the air (broke up a whopping 11 passes last season). He may not be ready to be a Day 1 starter, but we don’t need him to be. With some time behind Kerry Rhodes, Martin could develop into a fine young safety.
Round 4, Pick 113: Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia
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Bruce Irvin is the sort of player that I really like. He comes from a rough background, spent time in juvenile detention and even dropped out of high school. Yet despite all the hurdles along the way, Irvin was ultimately committed to realizing his dream of playing in the NFL, and that determination really impresses me.
The thing with Irvin is that he is simply a pass-rusher. He is below average in run support, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen him drop into coverage before, but what I have seen him do is get to the quarterback with some serious vigour.
At 6’3” and 245 pounds, Irvin is capable of running in the 4.5s, and he's a born pass-rusher (he recorded 22.5 sacks over his two years at West Virginia). He certainly lacks the skill set to start at outside linebacker, but at Arizona, Irvin will be in a situation where he can be used as a situational player (in the same vein as Aldon Smith for example), and he could be very successful doing so.
Round 5, Pick 144: Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
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Considering the Cardinals' need for a true "No. 2" receiver, and the deep free agent receiver class, it is reasonable to assume that the Cardinals will probably look at picking up a receiver in free agency. Although with that being said, there is almost never any harm in going after a young wide receiver in the draft.
On the surface, Fuller may seem like a bit of a lackluster prospect, because he really isn’t exceptional at anything. He doesn’t really display elite athleticism, elite pass-catching skills or elite route-running capability. Although, don’t get me wrong, he is still pretty darn good at all there, just not elite.
With the guidance of the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, though, Fuller could begin to hone some of his already relatively impressive abilities, and he could become a fine player opposite the aforementioned superstar.
Over the last two seasons at Texas A&M, Fuller has recorded 142 receptions for 1,894 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns, so there’s no question that he is capable of being a productive wideout. Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt that he is 6’4” and can run a 4.5.
Round 6, Pick 175: Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota
If you’re currently thinking, "Who on earth is Tom Compton?" then don’t worry, because you are probably not the only one. I myself only discovered him a short time before writing this article, but let me tell you, this kid has some serious talent.
Playing at South Dakota, there will inevitably be questions about the competition he faced. Although, during his time at South Dakota, Compton was named to the All-Time Great West Conference Team and the 2011 FCS All-American First Team, plus he has picked up a whole host of awards for his stellar play. Success rarely lies.
He projects as either a right or a left tackle and at 6’5” and 314 pounds, he has almost all the necessary attributes to help him develop into a very consistent tackle in the NFL.
Russ Grimm would be foaming at the mouth over the prospect of getting to work with someone like Compton, as he is exactly the sort of project player that Grimm thrives on finding. He is intelligent, tenacious and physically adept, and Grimm will absolutely love him.
Round 7, Pick 206: Max Gruder, ILB, Pittsburgh
I’ll be honest: I’m an absolute sucker for those late-round inside linebackers who recorded a ton of tackles in college. There might not be a whole lot that’s special about these players, but they’re generally hungry to be around the football on defense, and that attribute alone makes a player worth consideration.
Max Gruder recorded a total of 116 tackles last season, averaging almost nine total tackles per game, making him exactly the sort of player I just outlined. At 6’1” and 235 pounds, there are no real questions about his height, and he certainly has reasonable pace (he runs a 4.7 40-yard dash).
He played the Will, Sam and Mike spots throughout his time at Pittsburgh, and when you add this versatility to his repertoire, he certainly becomes a player worth taking into camp.