Luke Joeckel is the top prospect in the 2013 NFL draft.
With Sunday’s loss, the Arizona Cardinals locked themselves into the No. 7 pick in the 2013 NFL draft. The team finished 5-11 and in last place in the NFC West, a far cry from what they expected of themselves—especially considering how September went for them.
Regardless of how they got there, the fact is that they own one of the top 10 picks next April.
At seventh overall, they have a few options available to them. They can stay put and take the best player on their draft board as they have done in recent years. They can trade up to get a player should they feel they need him and don’t feel he will be available at No. 7. Or, they can trade back if they don’t like what is there when their time “on the clock” arrives.
What they decide to do will not be known for months, as potential player moves, coaching and management changes and a host of other factors remain to be seen.
For now, here is a full seven-round mock draft for the Cardinals, picking players who could be available to them when they are on the clock.
Note: There will be no mock trades. Every player mocked to Arizona in this slideshow is taken where the Cardinals are expected to pick.
Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M
Many draftniks expect the Philadelphia Eagles to take Luke Joeckel at No. 4 with the health of regular left tackle Jason Peters unknown.
Peters missed the 2012 season with a torn Achilles tendon, and though he was among the NFL’s best blind-side blockers when he was healthy, there is a chance he may never be the same.
I feel the Eagles will trust Peters’ health, mainly because they have a bigger need: defensive back. Their pick could be Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, and if that is the case, Joeckel likely will fall to Arizona.
Pass-rushers and quarterbacks will dominate the top of the 2013 draft despite Joeckel grading out as the best overall talent in the draft.
Joeckel is among the best pass-blockers the draft has seen over the last decade, and according to Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller, Joeckel is the best pass-blocker of the past decade—at least the best Miller has scouted.
The 6’8”, 305-pound master of the pass block would be the starter at left tackle from the moment his name is called on draft day, and he would stay there—barring injury—until he either retired or leaves via free agency.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
With the Beanie Wells divorce all but finalized, there is a need at running back for the Cardinals.
Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is a powerful runner with zero health issues of which to speak and more passion than Wells ever showcased.
Lacy is a bruising, bowling ball-type back. He’s listed at 5’10 and 220 pounds, though he may weigh a tick more than that.
While at Alabama, Lacy rushed for 2,262 yards in 33 games, an average of 68.5 yards per game. One must take into account, however, that he was not an every-down back until this season. He wasn’t even a half-time back during his two seasons prior to 2012. He had to wait behind Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram before getting an opportunity.
He rushed for 1,182 yards and 16 touchdowns as a redshirt junior while still sharing carries—true freshman T.J. Yeldon burst onto the scene and stole some of his carries throughout the year. So there is no question he has ability; his 6.4 yards per carry average says so.
Will Sutton, DT/DE, Arizona State
Part of the demolition of the Midshipmen included stopping their triple-option rushing attack.
That’s where Will Sutton came in. He did an outstanding job plugging up the middle, and he even notched 2.5 sacks of Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who dropped back to pass just 11 times.
Talk about efficient pass-rushing.
Sutton recorded 13 sacks on the season—including the bowl game—and is considered one of the country’s best pass-rushing defensive tackles. After all, he did finish second in the nation in sacks by a defensive tackle.
He bears a strikingly similar resemblance to current Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett; from the flowing dread locks to the body type, even the number on the jersey is the same.
Dockett outweighs Sutton by 15-20 pounds, and it is that which has some scouts iffy of Sutton’s potential along an NFL defensive line. But in an NFL weight room, he would be just fine.
Sutton is a perfect replacement for the aging—and recently disgruntled—Dockett. When he leaves, it would be a great thing for the organization to have Sutton waiting in the wings.
Cornellius Carradine, DE/OLB, Florida State
The other half of the pass-rushing tandem in Tallahassee (the other being Bjoern Werner), Cornellius Carradine proved his worth on a strong front seven.
He tallied 11 sacks as a senior, and as a defensive end in Florida State’s 4-3 defensive alignment showed he has speed-rush ability. He needs to work at shedding blockers against the run and in coverage, but as a pass-rusher, he’s above average.
O’Brien Schofield will be returning from injury next season, but Quentin Groves is set to be a free agent and there is no guarantee he will be back in Cardinal Red in 2013. He played well in place of Schofield and likely has earned a contract, but with a change in power on its way, anything is possible.
Carradine would be a solid developmental piece coordinator Ray Horton can work in slowly to make sure he’s got the defense down.
Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
It’s early yet, and this young man may end up shooting up draft boards everywhere.
As of now, however, Travis Kelce is going to be available in the fifth round.
This 6’5”, 260-pound redshirt junior is both athletic and strong. He has soft hands and possesses enough speed to outrun safeties if they get turned around in coverage.
Kelce had a solid 2012 season, hauling in 40 receptions for 599 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. He caught five passes for a game-high 123 yards and the game-winning 83-yard touchdown against Duke in the recently completed Belk Bowl.
His touchdown encompassed just what he is as a route-runner. He ran a simple seam route and was somehow lost by the secondary of Duke, coming open, catching the pass from quarterback Brendon Kay and outrunning everyone en route to the end zone.
Todd Heap was released late in the season due to his inability to stay healthy. Kelce would join Rob Housler and become among the best tight end tandems in the league.
Don’t discount his blocking, either. It will be among the reasons he begins shooting up draft boards.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
They are becoming more popular in the NFL these days. A good slot receiver can open up an offense and put the defense on its heels, especially when in hurry-up mode.
Ryan Swope was productive throughout his college days.
He caught 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 TD last season. Then, this season, he caught 64 more for 809 yards and seven scores.
At 6’0” and 206 pounds, he is larger than a lot of slot receivers in the league today. But he is quick and shifty, just as a team needs from the slot.
Wide receiver Early Doucet is probably on his way out the door this offseason. After a disappointing season of injuries and dropped passes (stop me if you’ve heard this before), it’s just time to move on.
Swope would provide good hands, good production and a top-notch attitude to the Cardinals’ roster. He also would be a nice addition to what should be Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd on the outside.
Using him as the team’s fourth receiver would create a mismatch for defenses, even early on as a rookie.
Travis Howard, CB, Ohio State
Being a fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes, I have seen every game Travis Howard has played.
The redshirt senior is a hard worker who exudes confidence on the field. Some call it “swagger,” but I don’t like that word.
He was productive in his final season in Columbus. Howard totaled 39 tackles, intercepted four passes and batted away nine more.
The 6’0”, 196-pound Howard plays well from the slot, so that would improve his chances of playing as a rookie. Those chances improve if William Gay and/or Greg Toler are not re-signed during the offseason.
He does not shy away from contact and is in the right place at the right time more often than not. Howard could be a solid slot corner in a few years.