By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The Cardinals were the surprise team of 2008, going 2-4 over their last six games to limp into the playoffs in the weak NFC West.
They must have been playing possum, though, because they reeled off three straight playoff wins, and were one fourth quarter drive away from being crowned Super Bowl Champions.
Instead, now Arizona will try to avoid the “hex” of Super Bowl losers, and try to march back into the playoffs.
The Anquan Boldin saga is still alive and well, and Arizona easily wants another first rounder. Whether or not they get it will be solved come draft day.
Nevertheless, Arizona has some holes to fill, with bodies getting older. They have a solid eight picks now, but need to make smart picks for potential early contributors.
Arizona Cardinals Draft Picks:
Round 1, Pick 31 (31)
Round 2, Pick 31 (63)
Round 3, Pick 31 (95)
Round 4, Pick 31 (131)
Round 5, Pick 31 (167)
Round 6, Pick 31 (204)
Round 7, Pick 31 (240)
Round 7, Pick 45 (254)
Team Need 1: OLB
Arizona could also look at a DE here, as they need a pass rushing specialist who can switch in the hybrid defensive scheme the Cardinals like to run. Their DEs have injury concerns, and their OLBs are getting up in age, so there is a desire to fill both spots, potentially with the right guy.
For where Arizona is picking, the best option looks to be Larry English from Northern Illinois, who could fill in both slots, and possesses top-notch pass rushing skills.
There aren’t too many other hybrid options below English, so if Arizona chooses to address another need, they will have to look for individual replacements at OLB and DE.
Team Need 2: TE
The current options are mediocre at the run block, and even worse at the receiving game.
None of the three TEs Arizona used in 2008 had a touchdown. Especially if Boldin is traded, Arizona is going to have to use a pick to grab another option, one who could fill both needs. If they are able to grab an earlier pick by trading Boldin, they could use it, but with the limited options they have now, they’ll possibly be looking at a project rather than an immediate impact.
Getting into the second and third round prospects, most lack solid blocking technique, but for a pass-first team, grabbing James Casey, Jared Cook, or Chase Coffman, all who excel at the receiving game, that might not be as big a concern.
Team Need 3: RB
Edgerrin James excelled in the playoffs, but at 32, he’s on the downhill slope of his career.
Tim Hightower was a solid late pickup in the 2008 draft with 10 touchdowns, but a measly 2.8 yards per carry average makes him suspect. There is talk of Arizona looking early to grab a running back, and again, if Boldin is traded, they could do that.
Considering they found success in the later rounds with Hightower, one would expect them to try the same technique. Glen Coffee and Andre Brown are built in the same mold as James and Hightower, so they could be possibilities in the end of the third round. Beyond that, most other prospects are long-term projects.
Arizona is a pass-first team. They know it, and their opponents know it.
If they can solve their running-back woes, that will force defenses to play up more, allowing more long passes down the sideline from Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald.
Defensively, they need to fill the DE/OLB position, preferably with one, rather than two bodies. The Boldin trade is the X-factor in the Cardinals plans, and will continue to be, up until draft day.