Justin Bethel (left) was a sixth-round pick who made the Pro Bowl in his second season.
The Arizona Cardinals have struck gold in the sixth round in each of the last two NFL drafts. They hit it big with running back Andre Ellington last year and cornerback Justin Bethel two years ago. Ellington shows plenty of speed and promise while Bethel is coming off his first Pro Bowl berth.
The Cardinals don’t have a seventh-round pick as of now. That pick belongs to Oakland as part of the Carson Palmer trade from last April. This means Arizona is going to have a different draft strategy, as they’re done after the sixth round.
We’ll take a look at six players who could be a great fit for the team and fill needs that may still be left over after the earlier rounds.
Start the slideshow below and see who would make a great fit for the Cardinals on the third day of the draft.
Devon Kennard would be a steal late in the draft for the Cardinals. Outside linebacker is an area of need for the Cardinals. Kennard led USC with eight sacks last season and finished the year with 10 tackles for loss.
He’s a bigger player at 6'3" and 257 pounds, and his 40-yard dash time is a slightly slow 4.86 seconds. Kennard could fit as a linebacker or possibly convert into a smaller defensive end who can bring pressure.
A torn pectoral muscle cost him his 2012 season, but he looked good in 2013.
Kennard has a local background, as he was a two-way star for the Desert Vista Thunder when he went to high school in Ahwatukee, Ariz.
Wesley Johnson could help the Cardinals in the later rounds of the draft. He has the background of playing against SEC competition, which helps in the NFC West.
Johnson’s real value comes from versatility and durability. Johnson has been able to effectively start at left tackle, right tackle, center and right guard. That’s something you don’t see every day.
He’s made 50 straight starts in the process, and statistically speaking, he is a solid lineman. Johnson has been flagged for holding penalties twice—in his career. He’s allowed 7.5 sacks in his career on a total of 1,281 drop backs. It averages out to a sack allowed per 171 snaps.
The Cardinals are always looking for help on the offensive line, and Johnson could provide it to them late.
L’Damian Washington would be a nice addition to the Cardinals at the wide receiver position. Like Johnson, he is battle-tested from playing in the SEC. Washington stands 6'4", 205 pounds and burns down the field with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash.
Washington would make a nice compliment to Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. That would be three tall targets for quarterback Carson Palmer to throw the ball to.
Washington performed well on the field with 853 yards on 47 receptions. He scored 10 touchdowns last season, including two-touchdown games against Vanderbilt and Georgia in consecutive weeks.
Silas Redd was the biggest name to transfer away from Penn State when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke.
Redd had a solid second season at Penn State with 1241 yards and seven touchdowns on 244 carries. He transferred to USC and rushed for 905 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season with the Trojans.
Head coach Bruce Arians likes his running backs to be guys who can primarily run the ball and add a little in the passing attack. With 32 receptions in four seasons, Redd fits the blueprint Arians has for the running back position.
He suffered from a torn meniscus last March and another knee injury that kept him out of the Las Vegas Bowl so his health is a question. If he stays healthy, he could be another Ellington-caliber steal.
The first thing that stands out about Cornelius Lucas is his sheer size. At 6'8" and 329 pounds, Lucas takes up a lot of room. His 36" arms should give him plenty of length to hold defenders at bay and open up rushing lanes.
Lucas has a mean streak that is always a plus for a lineman. He earned all-conference honors in 2012 and has upside to go with his size. The Associated Press also named Lucas to the All Big-12 second team for his performance in the 2013 campaign.
The size and power he has should raise some eyes at the draft. Arizona could be thinking about him with the team’s final pick of the draft to bolster the offensive line.
Spencer Long is a well-decorated lineman who made 27 starts at right guard between 2011 and 2012. He was named a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection and picked up second-team All America honors. At 6'4" and 315 pounds, he has the size to succeed at the NFL level.
So how does a decorated player wind up as a third-day sleeper? Long suffered a season-ending knee injury when Nebraska took on Purdue in October. It required surgery, and that is the reason why he is at this position in the draft.
Players have been able to recover from serious knee injuries quickly. Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III come to mind, but it’s unknown how long Long could be missing in action before the start of the season.
Starting right guard Daryn Colledge will have salary cap hit of more than $7 million, according to Spotrac.com. Long could be a cheaper option to develop into that role for less money.