They must do everything within their power to add to the struggling offensive line with their first pick.
Based upon where they sit—No. 7 pick in Round 1—there should be one of three top linemen available from which to choose. However, their strategy could change depending on which man goes where.
The three linemen have been identified as LT Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, LT Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and OG Chance Warmack of Alabama.
I suggested last week that these three players would be instant starters for the Cardinals, and while that could be the case, do not mistake these to be similar articles.
And now, a definitive strategy for the Cardinals' first pick of the 2013 NFL draft.
Trading up would be necessary on one occasion only, and that is if Joeckel slips past the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 2.
It is entirely possible.
The Kansas City Chiefs could overdraft one of four quarterbacks with the top overall pick considering that they are the only franchise with as big a quarterback problem as the Cardinals.
Geno Smith has been a popular choice for the No. 1 selection to Kansas City early on, and if that happens, the ball needs to start rolling with the Oakland Raiders for their No. 3 pick.
The chances Jacksonville takes Joeckel are slim, as they are set at left tackle with 2009 ninth-overall pick Eugene Monroe. They need pass-rush help, and any number of top rushers are possible for them.
But, if Joeckel gets to No. 4 and the Philadelphia Eagles have not picked up either of the top tackles available via free agency (Jake Long or Branden Albert), then the chase for the top tackle in the draft may end right there.
This is also assuming the Eagles are not comfortable having Jason Peters’ surgically-repaired Achilles tendon in the lineup as well. He was among the best blindside blockers in the league before suffering the injury last offseason and missing all of 2012.
The trade up would cost a lot, but for a franchise left tackle, it would be worth it.
Draft Eric Fisher
Drafting Fisher would be necessary if Joeckel goes No. 1 to Kansas City. I do not see Fisher landing in Philadelphia at No. 4 if Joeckel is gone.
The thought here is that Fisher, though certainly worth a top-10 pick, may not be the best value at fourth overall.
If Joeckel is the top pick, the chances Fisher falls to Arizona at No. 7 are good. Already mentioned was the fact that Jacksonville needs a pass-rusher more than a tackle. Add to it the fact that the Raiders, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns are also set at tackle, and a feel that he will end up in Arizona starts to take effect.
Fisher would provide plenty of value for the pick, and it would give the Cardinals options along the offensive line.
Would he start from Day 1 as a rookie? He has the ability to do so, sure. But last year, Nate Potter played better than one would expect a seventh-round rookie to play. At the very least, a competition could be in order.
Not to mention, what will be done with returning left tackle Levi Brown?
He missed the 2012 season with a torn triceps muscle, and if he is going to be the third-string left tackle—or even the backup for that matter—he would be among the pricier non-starting linemen in the league.
There is the thought that Potter could switch to guard, where he may be a better fit. Some have even thought that Brown could make that switch to provide the interior line a better run-blocker.
Options are a great thing to have on an offensive line.
Draft Chance Warmack
In the unlikely event that both Joeckel and Fisher are gone by the time Arizona is on the clock, Warmack would be the next logical choice. He is a mean young man on the field. He is a man who overpowers everyone in his way—even those larger than he is.
According to Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller, Warmack is similar in playing style to Mike Iupati of the San Francisco 49ers. That is good for whichever team gets him, and if the Cardinals are that team, they could be forced to cut ties with Adam Snyder.
There is little doubt Warmack would start from Day 1 and be an instant upgrade to the interior line.
Having the chance to make such an immediate and large improvement to one of the interior positions via the draft is rare. Some may say drafting a guard that high—no matter how good he is—is a huge risk. In fact, no offensive guard has been taken in the top 10 since the New Orleans Saints took Chris Naeole 10th overall in 1997.
The chart below shows how many times each position has been selected in the NFL draft, from the first year, 1936, to last year. HOF represents the number of Hall of Famers; No. 1 represents the number of top overall picks; HP represents the highest pick; Avg Pk represents the average pick of players taken in the top 10.
But if there was ever a guard worth the pick, Warmack is it.
And finally, in the even unlikelier event that Joeckel, Fisher and Warmack are all off the board at No. 7, trading back would be the only option.
That follows this scenario: Joeckel goes No. 1 to Kansas City, Fisher goes No. 4 to Philadelphia and Warmack goes No. 6 to the Browns—who still need an upgrade at guard after picking quarterback Brandon Weeden last year in lieu of guard David DeCastro with their second first-round pick.
If that happens, the team cannot think, “Well, since the top linemen are gone, we may as well get our quarterback.”
That mindset could set back the franchise another five years, and there is no time for that. The team is close to contention, and there are no quarterbacks in this draft worth a No. 7 pick.
Let other franchises ruin themselves by over-drafting a signal-caller (look at Jacksonville before arguing that).
Trading back with, say, the St. Louis Rams, who have two first-round picks this year, could be intriguing. With picks 16 and 22 in Round 1, they could be up for trading one of them to get a key piece they like but feel may not be around when their pick finally arrives.
Looking at trade value strictly from a points perspective should that trade happen—completely hypothetically, of course—the Cardinals’ No. 7 pick would be worth the Rams’ No. 16, 48 (Round 2) and 112 (Round 4) picks, giving Arizona picks No. 16, 38, 48, 71, 102 and 112 in the first four rounds.
In a deep draft such as this, that would be well worth the trade back.
Bringing it Home
To briefly wrap up this jumble of nonsensical shenanigans, the main goal for Arizona is to end up with one of the top three offensive linemen in the first round. The new regime cannot get off on the wrong foot by leaving one of them on the board.
If Kansas City passes on Joeckel, trade up. If Joeckel goes to KC, take Fisher. If Joeckel goes to KC and Fisher goes to Philadelphia, take Warmack. If Joeckel goes to KC, Fisher goes to Philly and Warmack goes to Cleveland, trade down to add valuable picks in this deep draft.
Sounds simple enough, right?