Cardinals' 2013 Mock Draft: The Smartest Pick Arizona Can Make Every Spot
The Arizona Cardinals will have the seventh pick in the first round of the NFL Draft which will be held on April 25th. It's no secret that Arizona has several needs to fill, primarily on the offensive side of the ball.
This year's draft class doesn't have the same star power at the skill positions that last year's class had. There won't be an Andrew Luck nor a Robert Griffin III at quarterback. There aren't many running backs that might come close to Trent Richardson.
This draft will be one for the defense and the offensive lines to shine. Arizona's areas of need are along the offensive line as well as quarterback and running back. Further down, some defensive upgrades could be done but the Cardinals' defense has been its strong suit for the last couple years.
Without further delay, this Cardinal mock is on the clock. Start the slide show and see who Arizona should take with its first-round pick.
Round 1: OT Jake Matthews Texas A&M
Arizona needs offensive line help desperately and Matthews would be a great fit for the team. Matthews (6'5", 305lbs) plays right tackle at Texas A&M and Arizona could definitely use a starter there.
He (along with Luke Joeckel) were the tackles that kept Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel upright all season and allowed him to put up huge offensive numbers. The key to Matthews is that Manziel's numbers were both rushing and passing so he would be a great blocker in both phases of the game.
Matthews was All-SEC first team in 2012 and is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. He's light on his feet and quick to get out of his stance and would be excellent in a zone-blocking scheme.
The offensive line was decimated by injuries with Levi Brown (triceps) and center Lyle Sendlein (knee) both going on injured reserve. With both of them coming back healthy for 2013, it gives this unit two veterans who can anchor the line with a crop of rookies and second year players to build a strong foundation for the future.
Matthews would be a great piece to add on the right side of the line with Brown on the left side.
Round 2: OG Kyle Long Oregon
Arizona could take Kyle Long of Oregon in the second round and fill another need on the offensive line at tackle. Long, who will be playing in the Senior Bowl on the 26th, is the son of Howie Long. Yes, that Howie Long.
His size (6'7", 312lbs) makes him a monster on the offensive line. What's more impressive is that he can hustle all the time, which is a must-have tool in the blur offense that the Ducks run. He missed a couple games with an ankle injury, but it's a non-issue when it comes to evaluating his value. As a guard, he can get out and pull, which should open up lanes in the running game. With his power, upside and pedigree he is likely to be taken by the end of the second round.
Regardless of which side he plays on, Long would be a big hurdle for opposing defenders to climb to get at the Arizona Cardinal quarterbacks.
With the offensive line issues more under control, let's try to fix the running game with the next pick.
Round 3: RB Montee Ball Wisconsin
The Arizona Cardinals running back situation has been dire for the better part of a decade. The Cardinals have come in dead last in rushing four times in the last 10 seasons including this year's 75 yards per game.
With the uncertainty about Beanie Wells' option being picked up and LaRod Stephens-Howling being a free agent, the roster spots could certainly be there for a running back. Yes, Ryan Williams is a great young talent but he has struggled to stay healthy, playing in just five games in his first two years in the league.
Enter Montee Ball. Ball was a first-team All-American and capable of big games anytime he stepped on the field. He tore through the Nebraska Huskers for 202 yards and three touchdowns as the Wisconsin Badgers routed the Huskers in the Big 10 title game last month. Even against a tough Stanford defense, he posted 100 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
It would be impossible to pass on a back with more than 5000 career rushing yards and 83 career touchdowns. He's shown the durability to take the pounding that comes with being a feature back. He's taken more than 300 carries each of the last two seasons and still averages 5.7 yards per carry.
Arizona could use a home-run threat like Ball on their team. With the offensive linemen taken in the first two rounds, Ball would have a great line to run behind. Plus he can give Arizona a threat to catch passes out of the backfield which is something the Cardinals haven't had in a number of years.
Round 4: QB EJ Manuel Florida State
Now some people are going to roll their eyes when they see a quarterback being taken. And the name EJ Manuel doesn't really have the same ring as Geno Smith or Mike Glennon.
But there is something Manuel has that Arizona hasn't seen in years...mobility.
If the Arizona offensive line continues to perform like Swiss cheese, Manuel's size (6'5", 240lbs), speed (4.64) and mobility can make a difference. He has the physical talents to keep plays going and tries to make something out of nothing with his feet. He has the same size and skill set as Cam Newton, but it's not likely to be as polished as Cam was coming out of Auburn two years ago.
The knock on Manuel is that he lacks downfield vision, but with the right coaching, that can be corrected and he can add value as a passer as well as a runner. The other thing he needs to do is get the ball out quicker and make decisions a little faster to be more effective.
With quarterback mobility becoming a hot commodity, Manuel can give that to Arizona for a middle-round pick. With the right development, he could be a bargain in the draft.
Round 5: LB Brandon Magee Arizona State
Let's give the defense another linebacker in the fifth round with local product Brandon Magee. Magee missed his 2011 season with an Achilles' injury, but you couldn't tell with the way he played in 2012.
He became the first Arizona State Sun Devil in five seasons to record triple-digit tackles with 104 before the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Navy. He made the All-Pac-12 Second Team in 2012 and was the emotional leader of the Arizona State defense.
He missed the game against Illinois with an injury, but performed well in each game after that. He recorded at least eight tackles in 10 of the final 11 games of the season (including the bowl game). Five of those games were double-digit tackles led by a 17-tackle (14 solo) game against Arizona in the Territorial Cup. Magee also picked up 6.5 sacks on the season so he can bring the pressure as well.
He can do good dropping back into coverage and plays well from side-to-side and would be another weapon for the Arizona defense to have.
Round 6: TE Zach Sudfeld Nevada
Arizona tried a tight-end-by-committee approach in 2012 and it didn't produce much to help the offense. Tight ends scored exactly zero touchdowns last season and none of them had more than 420 yards receiving.
The Arizona Cardinals have used the tight end as more of a blocker than a pass catcher due to the weakness of the offensive line. The rest of the league is going in the opposite direction on this and this pick will help Arizona try to catch up with the times.
Zach Sudfeld put up a solid receiving line for the University of Nevada this season with 45 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns. He added a ninth score when he fell on a fumble in the end zone. With Arizona's passing game being more of a dink-and-dunk approach, Sudfeld should fit right in to the scheme and contribute right away.
With his size (6'7", 255lbs) and speed (4.76) he would be the largest tight end on the team and a natural option when Arizona gets in the red zone. His size would make him an asset when he';s needed to block but could flare out on delay patterns and cause mismatches in the middle of the field.
The Cardinals have scored a total of 11 touchdowns from the tight end spot in the last five seasons. By comparison, Rob Gronkowski had 10 of them this season for the New England Patriots before breaking his arm and missing four games.
Round 7: RB Marcus Lattimore South Carolina
When you hear the name Marcus Lattimore, the first thing most people think of is his gruesome knee injury suffered in late October against Tennessee. Once the uneasy feeling passes, people remember that Lattimore is a very good back who would be going much higher in the draft if not for that injury.
Arizona could take a flyer on Lattimore, if he's still there in the seventh round. He should be worth the wait and could get back into the form that saw him score 38 touchdowns in three seasons at South Carolina. The potential downfall is that he suffered his second knee injury in as many years that caused him to miss a significant amount of playing time.
He'll also add 20-30 catches a season out of the backfield as well, so he's a dual threat back. Lattimore still finished with 662 yards and 11 touchdowns in the few games he played. He scored in every game but one so he consistently found the end zone.
The inevitable comparisons to Willis McGahee will come up and those are valid comparisons. Remember that McGahee suffered a catastrophic knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State but still went in the first round to Buffalo. After missing a year, McGahee still has put together a solid career with 8,100 yards and 63 touchdowns.
Lattimore won't necessarily put up the same numbers as McGahee but the potential is there. Keep in mind how well and how fast Adrian Peterson recovered from a torn ACL on last Christmas Eve and he had just under 2100 rushing yards this season.
The difference is that Lattimore tore three knee ligaments; Peterson tore just one.