Cardinals Mock Draft: Updated 7-Round Projections After Senior Bowl
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The Arizona Cardinals' draft plans should be closer to being in focus following yesterday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. There were a couple of players who made it evident that Arizona needs them to improve its team.
The needs on the offensive line still exist and should be the Cardinals' point of focus in the first couple rounds of the draft. The temptation may be there to pick a quarterback in the first round, but none of the quarterbacks who played in the Senior Bowl did anything outstanding to make the Cardinals consider changing their plan to upgrade the line.
There are new players in this mock draft, including a pair of Pac-12 running backs and a wild card in the seventh round.
The Cardinals have the seventh overall pick in April's NFL draft. Start the slideshow below to see who Arizona should take in the first round.
Round 1: Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan
Fisher (right) worked his way into the top 10 of the draft.
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The Cardinals need an offensive lineman, and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan fits the bill perfectly.
Fisher had a strong week in Mobile and played a great game in the Senior Bowl. Fisher was able to pick up his man quickly and stay locked up with his defender. Fisher also showed his skill in driving defenders to the outside and giving his quarterback a clean pocket to work with.
Fisher was able to move smoothly in all directions. It's even more impressive when you consider he's 6'7.5" and 305 pounds. He was also able to stay square to the oncoming pass-rushers, which makes him a more effective defender.
NFL.com's Mike Mayock said Fisher was one of his five players who "made money" with their performance this week. Fisher is definitely a first-round talent and would be a great fit for Arizona at the seventh pick.
If Arizona takes him at the seventh spot, Fisher will certainly be making money and protecting Cardinals quarterbacks for many years to come.
Round 2: Kyle Long, OG, Oregon
Long (center) makes a block against Stanford.
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Long missed a couple days of practice this week with the flu, but it shouldn't impact his draft status. He would make a strong fit for the Cardinals in the second round of the draft.
Long got in the Senior Bowl in the second quarter and played left guard for the North squad. He was able to pull out on a run play to the left and effectively submarined the defending cornerback. His block sprung the running back for an eight-yard gain.
With his time in the blur offense at Oregon, Long looked to be a quick lineman who moves well. At 6'6" and 304 pounds, Long moves easily in both the run and pass game. Long was able to stand up his man on the pass rush and didn't move back much after he was engaged. Long also was effective in driving his oncoming pass-rusher to the outside, away from the quarterback.
Long may only have 11 collegiate starts under his belt, but he's got the skills to make an impact right away in the NFL.
If Arizona is able to get both Long and Fisher, the Cardinals might have the most mobile side of an offensive line in the league.
Round 3: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Taylor (center) looks for daylight at the Rose Bowl.
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Stepfan Taylor of Stanford looks like a running back that Arizona should target in the third round if available. Taylor ran for 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns this season while adding 41 receptions for 287 yards and two more touchdowns.
At the Senior Bowl, Taylor gained 53 yards on nine rushes and two catches for eight yards and was able to run productively in the game. Taylor is part of a versatile running back group and would benefit from being a touch faster than his 4.57 40-yard dash time. With a little more speed, Taylor could make the case that he might be the best running back in the draft.
Taylor would give Arizona a reliable running back with a pass-catching element that's been missing for years. He's on the smaller side, but it shouldn't matter much. Taylor can cut it up inside and also find success to the outside as well.
Round 4: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Manuel gets ready to run a play at the Senior Bowl.
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Manuel would be a great fit for Arizona in the fourth round. He led the Seminoles to an Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois and won bowl games all four years in college.
In the Senior Bowl, he showed he can beat teams with his arm and his feet. He threw for 76 yards on 7-of-10 passing with a touchdown and an interception. Manuel also scored on a two-yard run and was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.
Manuel was able to make the right reads and threw to the correct receiver more times than not. He had a good Senior Bowl, but it wasn't enough of a boost to lift him above where he is this mock draft.
His size makes him tough to bring down at 6'4" and 237 pounds, and he has the ability to extend plays with his feet. That's a valuable asset behind an Arizona offensive line that has allowed more than 160 sacks over the last three seasons.
There's no doubt Manuel would take some work, but he could be a bargain for the Cardinals in the early part of the fourth round. Arizona would finally be able to get in on the mobile quarterback phenomenon and put Manuel's hat into a crowded ring for the Arizona starting quarterback role.
Round 5: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Franklin's speed makes him a mid-round option.
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Johnathan Franklin of UCLA would be a good fit for the Cardinals in the fifth round.
Franklin had a very good Senior Bowl week that helped bring his value up. Franklin is known for his speed but is also a strong pass-blocker as well. He had a 20-yard touchdown run in the Senior Bowl and finished with five carries for 41 yards.
Franklin has the same skill set as LaRod Stephens-Howling and, if drafted, could fill that role with the team. Franklin could be a third-down back with an option to return kickoffs. Stephens-Howling is a free agent, so the opening might there for Franklin to grab.
At UCLA, Franklin put up 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging more than six yards per carry. Those are numbers that haven't been seen out of the backfield in Arizona in the last decade. Combine Franklin with Taylor and the Cardinals could have a Pac-12 backfield that could do some damage,
Round 6: Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State
Stoneburner catches a touchdown against UCF.
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Jake Stoneburner of Ohio State is a tight end who might be able to help the Cardinals in multiple facets of the game. Stoneburner (6'5", 245 pounds) has decent speed to cause matchup problems all over the field.
He won't blow you away with his stats. Stoneburner had 14 receptions in 2011, but half of them went for touchdowns so there is some value. All told, he had 37 catches in 36 games but has been under two head coaches and two different offenses in his time at Ohio State.
Stoneburner didn't get a call to the Senior Bowl but could be a replacement selection for the tight end spot if Zach Sudfeld of Nevada is off the board by this time in the draft.
Stoneburner was used by the Buckeyes as a wide receiver, tight end and H-back so his versatility is the draw here. He could be able to block as well as release and catch passes on delay routes, which would really creates mismatches in the middle of a play.
He was whistled for a few holding penalties, which might have been why he got moved outside when Urban Meyer took over the Buckeye program.
When Meyer coached the University of Florida, he did the same sort of setup with another player and it turned out well for him. That player was Aaron Hernandez, who is a star for the New England Patriots.
That's not to say Stoneburner will turn into the next Hernandez, but he could be an interesting part of the Cardinals offense as it tries to play catch-up to some of the other teams in the league in terms of using its tight end more effectively in the passing game.
Round 7: Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan
Robinson runs away from the South Carolina defense in the Outback Bowl.
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No one saw his stock drop more than Denard Robinson of Michigan, who is having problems with the transition from quarterback to receiver.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Robinson may have gone from the middle rounds to the later rounds because of the difficulty he's having adapting his skills to the new position.
This actually could work in Arizona's favor. It's no secret that Robinson has the speed and elusiveness to be a contributor on offense. In his college career, Robinson has run for 4,495 yards and 42 touchdowns. He's also thrown for 6,250 yards with 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions.
Robinson could be a surprise in the final round if Arizona can find a spot for him on offense. Given how things are being rebuilt with a new coach, general manager and possibly quarterback, Robinson might find a niche fit with Cardinals. He reportedly had difficulty fielding kicks and punts so that option is likely off of the table.
If nothing else, he can confuse defenses since he's got the skill to run or pass. The name that pops into your mind might be Antwaan Randle-El, who made a similar move years ago. He was a quarterback at Indiana who converted to be a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Could Robinson be the next Randle-El? It would be worth a seventh-rounder to find out.