Arizona Cardinals' Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer
After waiting two extra weeks for the NFL draft, Day 1 is finally upon us. This Arizona Cardinals draft primer will focus on the events of Thursday night, when general manager Steve Keim will make his selection at pick No. 20—unless he trades picks, that is.
We will briefly discuss the team's departures and additions this offseason, touch on team needs and top targets for Day 1, highlight what the experts say the Cardinals should do with their first pick, inform you of the latest rumors and reports on the team and, finally, give you one last full mock draft to get you pumped for Thursday night.
Which positions have holes that need to be filled? Which players are the Cardinals targeting to fill those holes? Which players should be made Arizona Cardinals this weekend?
Those questions will all be answered here in the slides to follow.
Departures and Additions
The Cardinals gained more talent than they lost this offseason. While key parts of both the offense and defense departed for greener pastures, replacements are in place, and most should produce at least as much as their predecessors.
Replacing inside linebacker Karlos Dansby may appear daunting to some—like ESPN's Josh Weinfuss, who believes it will take the team "a couple of years to rebound" from losing him. While it could be initially difficult to get the type of play that Dansby showed in 2013 beside Daryl Washington, it may not be that arduous at all in the long term.
We'll take a look at that later. For now, here's a rundown of what the Cardinals lost and added this offseason.
Karlos Dansby OLB
Andre Roberts WR
Daryn Colledge OG
Rashard Mendenhall RB
Dontay Moch OLB
Jasper Brinkley ILB
Dan Giordano LB
LaRon Byrd WR
Jared Veldheer LT
Antonio Cromartie CB
John Carlson TE
Jonathan Dwyer RB
Ted Ginn Jr. WR
John Estes C
Ted Larsen C/OG
LeQuan Lewis CB
Eddie Whitley CB
Larry Foote LB
The Veldheer signing eliminated the need for a left tackle in the draft. Keim still may draft one, but he can wait until later to nab a developmental guy who doesn't have to learn on the fly.
The Cardinals also signed enough cornerbacks that there isn't a need for one this weekend. But Cromartie is on a one-year deal and could be gone in 2015, and the rest of the signings are purely for roster depth and to fill the camp roster. If a top guy is there early, Keim may pull the trigger with the future in mind.
Strong safety could be upgraded, but that has been a subject of debate between fans this offseason. Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson can play both safety spots, and Tyrann Mathieu is technically the starting free safety—though he spent most of his time at nickel corner as a rookie last season.
Here are Arizona's immediate needs (mainly depth at positions).
With Daryn Colledge cut and gone, right guard is left to a 16-game starter who played horribly most of last season (Paul Fanaika) and a second-year player with good upside but no game experience (Earl Watford).
Taking a flyer on a guard on Day 3 seems like a good move here. Watford was a fourth-round pick, and the team has high hopes for him. If Keim doesn't like any of the guards in this draft and is not sold on the present condition of right guard, he could bring Colledge back on a cheaper, short-term deal.
Like right guard, right tackle is in need of a player to grab hold of the position and not let it go. Eric Winston signed a one-year deal late in camp last season and thus far has not re-signed with the team.
That leaves 2012 fourth-round pick Bobby Massie—who lost favor with Arians, leading to the Winston signing—and Bradley Sowell, last year's midseason replacement for Levi Brown. Massie showed promise late in 2012, but he made too many mistakes during camp in 2013, and Arians may never trust him again.
A Day 2 pick could step in and play right tackle early, depending on the player.
Yes, strong safety can be upgraded during the draft. Should Keim spend the No. 20 pick on one like Calvin Pryor, Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix or Deone Bucannon? By now, you know I'd take only one of those safeties (Bucannon), but I'm not certain No. 20 is the right spot for him.
The Cardinals may be able to trade back to near the end of Round 1 and still get a top safety while adding a pick or two later in the draft.
There is a misconception that former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier is a premier edge-rusher. He's not. Not even close. Shazier has inside linebacker written all over him, and to draft him at No. 20 means the Cardinals are drafting someone to complement Washington and rival the 49ers for the best, most-athletic inside linebacker combo in the NFL.
That being said, Shazier is a premier pass-rusher. He will do his rushing from the middle, however. Adding Shazier would make the transition from Dansby much easier and nearly seamless. He can play all over the linebacking front and is just as athletic as Washington is—perhaps more so.
The Cardinals get back a bevy of outside linebackers from injury this offseason, including Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and Alex Okafor. None of them scream premier pass-rusher, however, so it's possible Keim adds one this weekend.
3-Tech Defensive End
Look, Darnell Dockett won't be around forever. The 10-year veteran has spent his entire career with the Cardinals. That's cool. But he's getting up there in age and declining in production. No longer is he the pass-rushing defensive end he once was.
He is still a leader on one of the best defenses in the league, though, and his presence in the locker room is a necessity. How much longer can he play? That is something Keim must ask when entering the draft.
The defensive line class is a good one across the board—especially at the top—and the team must get younger at the position. Now might be a good time to find Dockett's replacement.
Keim and the Cardinals have a plethora of options on Thursday night when deciding which direction to take the franchise. If Arizona trades at all, it would most likely be to move down and add picks. Moving up seems unlikely on Day 1 given that they have only six picks with which to work at the outset.
The players listed here would be good picks anywhere from pick No. 20 to the end of Round 1 considering it's possible Keim trades back and not up.
(Players with link attached to position have visited the Cardinals.)
Ryan Shazier, OLB/ILB
We touched on why Shazier would be a good fit for the Cardinals in the previous slide. There isn't much else to say about this possible pick other than the fact that it's possible he could drop the weight he added since leaving Ohio State and play strong safety if linebacker doesn't work out at the next level.
While he played at around 218 pounds with the Buckeyes, he currently weighs in at 238 pounds—a clear move to show he can play linebacker on Sundays.
Kyle Fuller, CB
One of my favorite prospects this draft season, cornerback Kyle Fuller would play nickel as a rookie, allowing Tyrann Mathieu to play free safety full-time and roam the defensive secondary.
In many ways, Fuller is a lot like Mathieu. He is incredibly instinctive, and his reaction to the ball in the air is as quick as any player in the 2014 draft. He is not afraid to make a tackle despite his slightly undersized frame (he's 6'0" but is a slender 190 pounds).
It would be nice for the Cardinals to have some insurance in the likely event that Cromartie departs following the 2014 season. Fuller is the best insurance policy of the draft.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT
He's big, strong and quick, and he could be a perfect replacement for Dockett—if someone can get him to play an entire game without losing interest, that is. That is one of the knocks on Hageman, but when he's on, he's one of the best interior defensive linemen in the draft class.
The Cardinals likely can have him at the end of the first or top of the second, so if they chose to trade back and add picks, Hageman could be on their radar.
Deone Bucannon, S
Another player who could be an option in the event the Cardinals trade back, Deone Bucannon is arguably the best pure strong safety coming out this year. His strength is in playing up near the line, but he can hold his own in coverage and could be the guy to replace Adrian Wilson.
Rashad Johnson has done an admirable job at safety in his short career, showing toughness and leadership. But the chance to add a franchise safety doesn't come around very often. Bucannon could be just that.
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG
The only way Xavier Su'a-Filo is Keim's guy could be if he trades down, and Shazier, Fuller and the top safeties are all off the board. If that's the case, then "XSF" would be a fantastic pick.
Much like Cards starting left guard Jonathan Cooper, Su'a-Filo is very athletic and strong at the point of attack. Pairing the two alongside Lyle Sendlein would really help the aging center, which in turn would legitimize the offensive line as one of the best in the NFL. What a remarkable turnaround that would be for a unit that allowed 50-plus sacks three straight years from 2010 to 2012.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Here is a collaboration of expert picks, ranging from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. I'll give my analysis on whether or not they have made a good choice as well.
Carson Palmer turns 35 this season, and I've addressed the offensive line in free agency and will get my No. 1 pick from last year back. I like the state of the roster, so I'll draft a potential No. 1 who could use a year to learn behind Palmer.
Drafting a quarterback who might not play for a year or two probably doesn't strike fans as a win-now move, but it's the right pick. Keim and Arians can't become so focused on 2014 that they forget their quarterback, Palmer, is 34 years old and has already considered retirement once.
If a quarterback were to be the pick here, it would not be one who is similar to Kevin Kolb. Kolb, the big-armed, semi-athletic mid-major quarterback who could not stay healthy, is skittish in the pocket; that causes his accuracy to wane at times.
Derek Carr is similar in that regard. He comes from a spread offense at Fresno State that forced him to throw too many bubble screens and dump-offs, which limited his development as a pro-style passer. To get an idea of the quarterback he could be, you have to look at his 2011 tape, when Pat Hill was still the head coach and ran more of a pro-style offense.
Carr could be a solid pro quarterback, but the fact is that Keim very likely will not take one this early.
Todd McShay, ESPN (subscription required): Ryan Shazier, OLB/ILB, Ohio State
As we explained in [mock] version 5.0, linebacker is something of a need position for the Cardinals. Karlos Dansby departed in free agency, and his presumed replacement, Kevin Minter, played just one snap as a rookie last season. And Daryl Washington is facing a possible league punishment for an off-the-field incident. Shazier doesn’t possess ideal size for the position but does have very good speed and sideline-to-sideline range against the run.
If you haven't gathered by now, I absolutely love this pick. I think Shazier fits perfectly into coordinator Todd Bowles' defense and is the most likely to replace Dansby and produce as the Dirty Bird did in 2013.
Some are scared off by the fact that Shazier doesn't have an official position leading into the draft. That's an unwarranted fear at this point. All you have to do is go watch film of him at OSU, and you will see him making plays on the ball no matter where he lines up pre-snap. Point blank: Shazier is an instant-impact player who can help out in the pass rush, against the run and in coverage.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
This is ideal for both Bortles and the Cards. He can sit behind Carson Palmer for a year before taking over.
Again, quarterback isn't something the Cardinals should be looking toward with their first-round pick. Ryan Lindley is still on the roster for a reason, and it's not because Arians likes the way he holds a clipboard.
While Blake Bortles would be my quarterback pick over Carr, Johnny Manziel and even Teddy Bridgewater, the fact remains that quarterback is a bad pick for Arizona. Palmer has at least one more season in the desert (he could earn another contract if Keim, Arians and Co. feel comfortable with him after the 2014 season).
Even if Palmer is gone after 2014, you have to believe the Cardinals have enough faith in Lindley and Drew Stanton to give them a shot at becoming the Week 1 starter in 2015.
Note: For what it's worth, this will be really interesting to watch if Bortles falls to No. 20. Arians loves big, tough, mobile quarterbacks with big arms. Bortles doesn't have the best arm in the class, but he's got plenty and can make every throw. His leadership makes him an intriguing pick.
Mike Florio, PFT: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
If the Cards are going to keep up with the 49ers and Seahawks, they do, indeed, need pass-rushers—notice how I left out the Rams in that sentence; Arizona did, in fact, finish two games ahead of last-place St. Louis last season. Anyway, I'm trying to be nice in my analysis here, but it's difficult when Florio assumes the Rams are already better than the Cardinals.
Anthony Barr is one of the most overrated players in this year's draft, and it pains me to see someone who should be far more polished as a football player mocked to a team ready to compete for the NFC West title. This is simply my own humble opinion, but of the potential first-round picks at outside linebacker, Barr would be the last one I choose for the Cardinals.
Dan Shonka, Ourlads: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Cardinals need OT's, a CB and a pass rushing OLB. Murphy is a native of Mesa, Arizona and may be moving back. He is a productive multiple position player who has a lethal inside rip move. He’s planted more than one quarterback after shedding the block and closing on his target. Combines instincts and intensity to rush the passer. A versatile defender who is quick off the ball, explosive, and relentless.
Define "reach": A player picked during a round in which he could be had by the same team at least one round later.
Trent Murphy will very likely be there for the Cardinals at No. 52 in the second round, and should they decide he's the best player available then, he would be a solid pick. Murphy is a violent pass-rusher with, as Shonka pointed out, a great rip move. But he's unpolished as a rusher and needs some fine-tuning. No. 20 is simply too high for the former Brophy Prep and Stanford standout.
Latest Rumors, Reports and Analysis
With this time of year being mostly about smokescreens and concealment of the truth, it's difficult to believe anything you hear the closer we get to the draft. But rumors sometimes turn out to be true, so let's go over some of them and try to sort out what's real and what's fake.
Cards Trading Down?
Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com reported Sunday that Keim "is about the draft picks" and would love to add more of them in this draft—Arizona has only six picks as of Thursday morning.
Here is Keim's take on trading down, from Urban's report:
If we're trading back, in particular, what clump of players are we looking at in our own (top) 120 that are still going to be there? Dropping back six or seven picks, then you know you have to have six or seven guys left on your board that you like or have a similar value to the player you're possibly missing out on. That's the one thing you really drive home with the [war] room is, 'Guys, we may miss out on this player, but here are the five or six guys that could be in contention.' As long as you're OK with those players and they fit what you do, I think trading back makes sense.
Of course, it takes two willing franchises to pull off a draft-day trade. Someone of note usually falls on Day 1, and depending on who that is and how far he falls on Thursday night, the Cardinals could find themselves in a perfect situation to add picks.
Blake Bortles at No. 20?
Recent speculation—and multiple reports—suggests the Cardinals might be in play for Bortles at No. 20 if he’s there. One such report comes from Peter King:
Turns out I might be wrong about Blake Bortles (the horror!). Cleve, Az interested higher than I had him (26th, to Cleve).— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) May 6, 2014
7-Round Arizona Cardinals Mock Draft
In case you missed it, I wrote up a final seven-round Cardinals mock draft on Tuesday. You can peep it and the full analysis right here. Below are the individual picks listed without comment.
Round 1 (26 from CLE): Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Round 2 (52): Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Round 3 (83 from CLE): Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Round 3 (84): Weston Richburg, OC, Colorado State
Round 4 (120): Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Round 4 (127 from CLE): Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Round 5 (160): Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Colorado State
Round 6 (196): DeRon Furr, SS/OLB, Fort Valley State