2011 NFL Mock Draft: The Arizona Cardinals' Draft Take
The Arizona Cardinals lost a lot of key players before the 2010 season, and those losses were just too much to overcome. The biggest loss came when Kurt Warner retired from football, as the group of quarterbacks that started for the Cardinals in 2010 have no business starting in the NFL.
Ken Whisenhunt’s main objective this offseason is to find a franchise quarterback, because if he doesn’t, he could find himself out of a job soon.
Derek Anderson was just plain awful last season, and I would really be surprised if he’s back in Arizona next year. Rookie John Skelton played a little bit better toward the end of the year, but I doubt the Cardinals view him as the quarterback of the future.
Arizona has pretty good depth at the running back spot, which they need because of starter Beanie Wells' injury problems. He is the most talented back on the roster, but Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling will get plenty of carries next year as well.
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best wide receivers in the game, but he needs a quarterback who can get the ball to him on a consistent basis. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are solid second and third options, but both of them are free agents. Andre Roberts may get more opportunities in his second season.
The tight end position is in serious need of an upgrade, where the combination of Ben Patrick, Stephen Spach and Jim Dray just isn’t getting it done.
The offensive line struggled a bit last season, and you could see multiple upgrades. Levi Brown struggled last year at left tackle, and Brandon Keith wasn’t a whole lot better at right tackle. Guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui, plus center Lyle Sendlein, are free agents, so this entire unit is a question mark heading into next year.
The defensive line is pretty solid, particularly at the defensive end position. Darnell Dockett is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, and the combination of Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema is pretty solid on the other side. Dan Williams struggled at nose tackle as a rookie, but he started to improve toward the end of the season, and I expect him to be a solid player.
The weak link on the Cardinals’ defense is at linebacker, where you could see a lot of changeover before next season.
The outside linebacker combo of Joey Porter and Clark Haggans just isn’t getting it done, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of those players released before the start of the season. O’Brien Schofield has good pass-rushing ability, so expect to see him get more playing time next year. Daryl Washington struggled at times at inside linebacker, and he would be much more effective if he added some more weight. Paris Lenon is a below-average starter at the other linebacker spot, so this could be a position the Cardinals address in the draft.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie struggled some last season, but he is still the best cornerback on the Cardinals’ roster. Greg Toler is the other starter, but he is better suited for a back-up role. Arizona will most likely take at least one cornerback to help improve the depth at this position. The safety tandem of Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes looked very impressive last season, but the depth behind them is suspect.
2010 Draft Recap
1. (26) DT Dan Williams, Tennessee: He started very slow, but he progressed as the season went on, and I expect him to have an even bigger role next year; 15 GP/0 GS.
2. (47) ILB Daryl Washington, TCU: Washington played pretty well last season, but he needs to add some weight to be more effective in the Cardinals’ defense; 16 GP/11 GS.
3. (88) WR Andre Roberts, The Citadel: Roberts looks like he will be an excellent weapon in the slot, and he really improved as the season progressed; 15 GP/2 GS.
4. (130) OLB O’Brien Schofield, Wisconsin: He missed the beginning of the year with an injury, but he should become an excellent pass-rusher; 10 GP/0 GS.
5. (155) QB John Skelton, Fordham: Skelton played decently after being forced into the lineup, but I don’t see him as the long-term answer at quarterback; 5 GP/4 GS.
6. (201) CB Jorrick Calvin, Troy: He never played for the Cardinals, as he was traded to the Eagles before the start of the season; 0 GP/0 GS.
7. (233) TE Jim Dray, Stanford: He played pretty well for a seventh-round pick, but he is an average tight end at best; 16 GP/3 GS.
Summary: This draft class underachieved last season, but they all looked like they were improving as the season went on. Williams and Washington have to play better for a full season for this class to be considered a success though.
I expect this group to improve next year, but a lot more was expected of this class in 2010.
Team Need: Quarterback
The Cardinals have had a lot of change at the quarterback position in the past year, but not for the better; Kurt Warner retired, and the team gave up on former first-round pick Matt Leinart.
That left the team with Derek Anderson and rookies John Skelton and Max Hall as the quarterbacks of the roster. None of them performed well on the field, and none of them are the long-term answer.
If the Cardinals want to get back to the playoffs anytime soon, they have to find a long-term option at quarterback.
Potential Quarterback Targets
Round 1: Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert
Round 2: Ryan Mallett, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick
I think the Cardinals will take a quarterback either in the first or second round. Quarterbacks will be a hot commodity in this year’s draft because of the questions surrounding the labor issue, so the Cardinals' best option, in my opinion, would be to take Gabbert in Round 1.
Team Need: Outside Linebacker
Joey Porter really didn’t work out well as a free-agent pickup, and he won’t be back with the team next year. The other starter, Clark Haggans, will be 34 years old next season, and he is also a candidate to be replaced next year.
I think O’Brien Schofield will be an excellent pass-rusher if given the chance, so look for him to challenge for a starting spot. Even if Schofield grabs one of the starting spots though, the Cardinals don’t have any other pass-rushers on the roster, so they need to grab one early in the draft.
Potential Outside Linebacker Targets
Round 1: Von Miller, Robert Quinn
Round 2: Dontay Moch, Brooks Reed
Round 3: Sam Acho, Jeremy Beal
The Cardinals would be best served to take a quarterback in Round 1, but if they decide to hold off on taking a quarterback, then Miller is the likely pick. He’d be the impact pass-rusher the Cardinals desperately need.
Team Need: Cornerback
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t play up to his true abilities last season, but he is still a No. 1 quality cornerback. He has one cornerback spot locked up for a long time, but the other side is a concern.
Greg Toler isn’t starting material, so the Cardinals need another impact cornerback opposite Rodgers-Cromartie.
Arizona may decide to use an early pick on this position. If Von Miller and Blaine Gabbert are somehow gone before their pick, the Cardinals will strongly consider Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara.
Potential Cornerback Targets
Round 1: Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara
Round 2: Aaron Williams, Brandon Burton, Curtis Brown, Ras-I Dowling, Johnny Patrick
Round 3: Jalil Brown, Davon House, Kendric Burney, Rashad Carmichael
Round 4: Chimdi Chekwa, Shareece Wright
Round 5: Chykie Brown, Buster Skrine, DeMarcus Van Dyke
The Cardinals already have a No. 1 cornerback, but they could decide to go with the best player available in Round 1 and take Patrick Peterson. If not, they can still find some quality corners in the second or third rounds who can be an upgrade over Greg Toler.
Team Need: Inside Linebacker
Daryl Washington underachieved at times last season, but he is the best long-term option the Cardinals currently have on their team. He should have one spot locked down for next season, but the other spot is still a question mark. Paris Lenon is slated to be the starter as of now, but he is probably more suited for a back-up role.
This may not be the highest of priorities for the Cardinals, but it is definitely on the list of positions to consider for the upcoming draft.
Potential Inside Linebacker Targets
Round 2: Martez Wilson, Greg Jones
Round 3: Kelvin Sheppard, Quan Sturdivant
Round 4: Akeem Dent, Casey Matthews
As I said, this isn’t the highest of priorities, but the Cardinals could consider a mid-round inside linebacker if they are worried about the long-term potential of Daryl Washington. Quan Sturdivant would be a great pickup for the Cardinals, and he could compete for the starting spot with Paris Lenon next season.
Team Need: Tight End
The Cardinals have ignored the tight end position for a long time, and it could finally be time for them to address it.
Jim Dray had a nice season for a seventh-round rookie, but he is an average tight end at best. Ben Patrick and Stephen Spach are not starting material, so the Cardinals will need an upgrade.
This is another position Arizona won’t necessarily target high in the draft, but they can still get a mid-round player who is better than any of the current talent.
Potential Tight End Targets
Round 3: D.J. Williams, Lance Kendricks, Luke Stocker
Round 4: Virgil Green, Charles Clay, Lee Smith
Round 5: Julius Thomas, Rob Housler, Jordan Cameron
The Cardinals could look to target someone like Green or Clay, who would instantly become the Cardinals' top tight end. This would also give the new franchise quarterback just one more weapon in the passing game.
Other Possible Needs
Offensive Tackle: Levi Brown and Brandon Keith are one of the worst offensive tackle duos in the league, so an upgrade is needed at that position.
Offensive Guard: Alan Faneca did not have a great season in 2010, and he is also a free agent that I don’t expect the Cardinals to re-sign.
Wide Receiver: Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are both free agents. If one or both of them isn’t back next season, the Cardinals could look for some upgrades.
Team Draft Strategy
The Cardinals have fallen very far in a very short amount of time. Three seasons ago they were playing in the Super Bowl, and last year they were the worst team in the worst division in football.
One main reason for that is the lack of a starting quarterback, which I expect the Cardinals to address very early in the draft this year.
Arizona will likely take a mix of offensive and defensive players in the draft this year, as they have some glaring needs on both sides of the football. They have lost a lot of talent within the past year, losing Kurt Warner to retirement, Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby to free agency and trading Anquan Boldin.
They need to build the talent base of the team back up, and even with a solid draft, I just don’t see them competing for a playoff spot next season.