Ah, yes. The NFL Draft. The only draft to which people actually countdown the days (and you think I'm kidding? Go to espn.com and click on the NFL tab. The clock is at the top). So it's important. But guess what Cards fans? It's much more important for us.
I'm not saying that to downgrade other teams. But the Cardinals are built through the draft more than the average team (thanks to Rod Graves- who's signed to an extension as of today through 2013).
Of our 20 picks the last three years, only four are not on the team. And many of them have made significant contributions-- Beanie Wells, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Steve Breaston, Ben Patrick, Calais Campbell, Early Doucet, Tim Hightower, and Steve Breaston are a few names you've heard.
Plus, there's some up and coming players who could make an impact soon- Rashad Johnson, Greg Toler, Will Davis, Kenny Iwebema, and Herman Johnson among them. Compare that with the new champion New Orleans Saints. If you look over their last few years in the draft, only two or three guys have had significant roles.
The Cardinals have lived and died off the draft, and this is one heck of an important one. Let's get to the projections, shall we?
Right now the Cardinals have Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor as the only returning starters at linebacker, provided Karlos Dansby doesn't come back. This is why I believe 'Zona will go LB in the first round, whether it be a hybrid rush linebacker, or if Dansby is gone by then, an inside linebacker.
An outside linebacker is a bigger need in my opinion however. The last two games left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone in the Cards organization when it came to the defense.
There are several guys who could fit the bill, whether in the first round or later. Brandon Graham, Ricky Sapp, and Jerry Hughes are some names that immediately come to mind. There are guys like Koa Misi, Thaddeus Gibson, and Eric Norwood to be had later. But I really think the Cards will go with an athletic freak. As such, I just get this feeling they'll go Ricky Sapp in round one.
My feelings on their first pick will change of course, as they already have from last week. If they don't go with Sapp, Hughes could definitely come into play in round two or even round one.
Pick: Ricky Sapp
I could be really specific here and actually say "Nose Tackle." But I really believe that the Cardinals brass knows that it needs to rebuild the D. They've done it in the past through the draft, so I believe they'll do it here.
Their best defensive tackle at the moment, as we all know, is Bryan Robinson, who's 36. And Alan Branch hasn't been all he's cracked up to be. I've seen quite a few mock drafts, and some of them have the Cards taking a nose tackle with their first pick, which is a definite possibility.
It just depends on how the chips fall. But I think their need to get to the QB is greater than run defense right now, hence going with an outside linebacker first. I think they'll go second round with this pick. Somebody like Cam Thomas or Brian Price could be available.
There are not a plethora of nose tackles, so I really think the Cards go early here. Cam Thomas has been leaping up some draft boards, and has the physical tools to make a great DT, although he's not fast. But when you're his size (6-4, 331), who needs to be fast?
My pick: Cam Thomas
An offense as prolific as the Cardinals usually doesn't have too many holes, but the Cardinals could definitely use an upgrade on the O-Line. And although it's difficult sometimes to point to a guy and say "He's going to make a great NFL offensive lineman" (because there have been many busts), the Cardinals have done fairly well since Graves took over.
Not great, mind you, as they don't have any Pro-Bowl caliber lineman, but they certainly have a decent line. They should, however, go the tackle route in this draft, as that seems to be the weak link in the line. The Cardinals could look to take one in the first round, going after someone like Bruce Campbell or Anthony Davis. But I think they'll go in rounds two-four with a selection.
As such, I'm going round three with Arizona selecting Jared Veldheer from Hillsdale. Haven't heard of him? Me either. But, the Cards like the small school guys, and especially ones that are 6-8, 315. Let's hope Leinart can see over him...
Pick: Jared Veldheer
This is only a pressing need at quarterback because of Kurt Warner's retirement. But let me make something clear: the Cardinals will go with Matt Leinart unless they have a really good reason not to. Kurt Warner was that reason, but now he's gone.
However, I do see the Cardinals making a play for a backup or a future QB. As such, there are a few guys I really like for the Cardinals system, such as Tony Pike, Max Hall, and Dan LeFevour.
I've heard that LeFevour has an arm, which is really what the Cardinals would like to have to stretch the field. So I'm going with him in the 4th round.
Pick: Dan LeFevour.
This is where the familiar names start to fade away: round five. Now, I could be completely wrong here on this pick. In fact, I contradict myself- my last article said they could take Jermaine Gresham in round one. But the Cardinals haven't used a tight end for years-- it's just not their "thing."
And, I think they still believe in Ben Patrick (as I do). But there's no reason they can't go for some possible help- after all they got Patrick in the later part of the draft a few years ago. I'm going to say Dennis Pitta here, although I could as easily go Andrew Quarless or Tony Moeaki.
Pick: Dennis Pitta
This could leap the list very quickly if Antrel Rolle is indeed let go. I say my prayers everyday, and one of them now includes, "God, please don't allow the Cardinals to let Antrel Rolle go." What could be going through their heads if they do...ugh, let's change subjects.
If they do let Rolle go, I could see them going for a DB in rounds two-four. But I'll put them down for round 6 at the moment, going for a SS to spell Adrian Wilson or to add to the mix in their hybrid defense. In fact, I think they'll go with another Rolle: the rhodes scholar version.
I can see the nicknames from other players now...on second thought, let's not.
My pick: Myron Rolle
This, like defensive back, could really jump the list depending on whether Karlos Dansby does in fact leave. The good news is that Gerald Hayes is staying, and the Cardinals have enough young guys to fill the gap for a time. But looking ahead is always good.
Who knows who will be left at this point, but I'm going with a homestyle pick here: Travis Goethel from Arizona St. as Mr. Irrelevant for the Cards.
My Pick: Travis Goethel
So, here is my first "mock draft" for the Cardinals in 2010. This will change over the next several weeks. I guarantee it.
1. Ricky Sapp, OLB, Clemson
2. Cam Thomas, DT, UNC
3. Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale
4. Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan
5. Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU
6. Myron Rolle, DB, Florida St.
7. Travis Goethel, ILB, Arizona St.