The Arizona Cardinals season ended early yet again in 2012. With not much more than pride to play for over the final few games, the Cardinals, like their fans, must have been looking ahead to the offseason for months.
There has been no shortage of moves thus far. Key players around the league have been cut or their contracts restructured.
One of the bigger events of the offseason is nearly upon us. The NFL Scouting Combine is right around the corner, and the discussion on whom the Cardinals should target will start to heat up.
Arizona general manager Steve Keim has been in the scouting industry for a while and will be no stranger to the events of the combine.
He will have a lot of decision-making to do between now and Feb. 23. From picking out players to watch to settling on questions for the interviews, his breaks will be few and far between over the next few weeks.
Here are seven scouting combine prospects who best fit the Arizona Cardinals' draft needs.
Possibly the best prospect in the draft, Luke Joeckel is one of 58 offensive linemen who will be at the combine.
He is in the top 10 of just about every mock draft, and some even have him going first overall to Kansas City.
The Texas A&M product has received high praise from many scouts and writers alike. Bleacher Report NFL Draft lead writer Matt Miller described him as the best pass-blocking left tackle he has ever scouted.
Fellow Arizona Cardinals featured columnist Shaun Church is on the wagon as well. As he pointed out in a recent article, it would even be worth trading up for the franchise left tackle.
There are many intriguing options for the Cardinals with the seventh overall pick. If Joeckel is still on the board, though, there will not be much to think about.
The 2013 draft class was set to be one of the greatest in recent memory. That was until offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan decided to stay at school for another year—decisions that left teams like Arizona sulking.
On a positive note, it gave offensive tackle Eric Fisher an opportunity to shine. The Central Michigan prospect has impressed a lot of scouts and has shot up draft boards over the past couple of months.
With Joeckel expected to be off the board by pick No. 7, several draft experts have the Cardinals selecting Fisher.
While he would be an upgrade over Nate Potter, this team has other needs to address. There will be a lot of talented players available on defense and even the interior line.
You can be sure that new head coach Bruce Arians and company will want to take another look at him before making the call.
There is a very interesting debate on where Chance Warmack will be selected. While many people consider him one of the most talented players available, guards do not tend to be selected early.
In fact, we have seen just one guard taken inside of the top 15 in the 21st century. You have to go back to 2001, when Arizona selected Leonard Davis with the second overall pick.
The Cardinals could definitely use some help at guard. Replacing Adam Snyder on the right side should be one of their priorities.
They do have a few viable options other than Warmack, however. There could very well be multiple guard prospects available in the second round. Kicking Levi Brown inside is also a possibility.
Arizona has several quality pass-rushers in its division alone. Although guard is a need, it is not necessarily the best option at No. 7 overall.
Warmack would be a great addition, but this pick seems too safe for a team with multiple needs.
Perhaps overshadowed by his teammate, Warmack, Barrett Jones is heading into the draft as “that other Alabama lineman.”
Yes, Warmack is one of the draft’s top prospects, but Mr. Jones would not be a bad pickup, either.
His versatility is something that Arizona could certainly use. He can play guard or move to center if need be.
If they are passing on Warmack with the seventh pick, though, then they are certainly passing on Barrett Jones. He will only become an option for this team in the second round or if they trade back.
Note: This is the last offensive lineman in this article. Other linemen to watch for are North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper and Wisconsin center Travis Frederick.
The Arizona Cardinals do not have a huge need at the quarterback position, but there is no denying that one exists.
In the past I have said that any quarterback taken inside of the top 10 this year would be considered a reach. Until proven otherwise, I will stick by that statement.
Arizona should, however, take a serious look at Tyler Wilson over the next couple of months. He is someone for whom they may trade back to get. They may also even trade up a few spots in the second round to pick him up.
Either way, he is currently the best-value quarterback in the 2013 class. If they are going to look to the draft for a signal-caller, then he should be the Cardinals first target.
Another player to watch is Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy. He is currently projected to go early in the second round, but that could change based on his performance at the combine.
If he impresses, then Lacy could end up being a first-round pick. Ideally for the Cardinals, he will not stand out to many teams, and Arizona will be able to steal him on day two.
LaRod Stephens-Howling is not a No. 1 back, and the health of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams is questionable.
Arizona is in need of another body in the backfield, and in a perfect world Eddie Lacy would be that body.
A healthy backfield plus an improved offensive line spells success for the Cards running game going forward.
This is a pick that could bode quite well for both sides. Arizona needs someone to play alongside Daryl Washington at middle linebacker, and Manti Te’o needs some help with the ladies.
Te’o can provide the Cardinals with solid play, and Darnell Dockett can help him out with his off-field troubles.
It will be interesting to see how his draft stock is affected over the next couple of months. The Heisman Trophy finalist is in need of a solid combine and quality interviews to be taken early in the first round.
Te’o will not be the Cards first choice, but he certainly fills a need and is someone to keep an eye on between now and April.