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NFL Draft Needs: Cardinals

Rotoworld

Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential solutions in May's draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

No. 1 Team Need: Linebacker

Silva's analysis

John Abraham's tank is nearing E going on age 36, while a pedestrian foursome of Matt Shaughnessy, Sam Acho, Alex Okafor, and Marcus Benard round out Arizona's outside linebackers. This club desperately needs fresh legs at edge rusher. Inside 'backer is an additional concern with Karlos Dansby gone to Cleveland, and Daryl Washington likely facing another suspension. The Cardinals did use a 2013 second-round pick on Kevin Minter and may stay in-house with Dansby's replacement, though Minter earned zero playing time as a rookie.

Norris' options

First day option: Dee Ford, Auburn - Many are pigeonholing Ford as solely an edge rusher with speed and flexibility. He absolutely offers both of these things, but turn on the Texas A&M and Missouri games and you’ll see plenty of hand use to keep his opponent on skates and work through their chest. Ford’s upfield presence and ability to turn the corner can force tackles to overset. Couple that speed with some power at the correct time, and Ford can set up his blocker when pass rushing. He does need to improve his anticipation in the running game. Ford might be tabbed for a sub-package role early on, but don’t let that deter you from liking him.

Second day possibility: Marcus Smith, Louisville - Smith is one of the best at converting speed to power in this class. He is used to standing up prior to the snap and refuses to get stuck at the line of scrimmage. Smith plays in the opponents’ backfield and makes the most of free rush opportunities when asked to loop inside.

Third day flier: Aaron Lynch, USF - Lynch is my favorite “upside” prospect in this class from a talent perspective. He was a budding star as a down defensive lineman in an odd man front as a freshman at Notre Dame. He then transferred, sat out a season, lost 30 pounds and looked far more uncomfortable on the edge. I love his burst and natural strength, but Lynch either needs to learn technique on the edge or gain weight and play inside.

 

No. 2 Team Need: Quarterback

Silva's analysis

Coach Bruce Arians likes Drew Stanton as a backup, but he isn't 34-year-old Carson Palmer's heir apparent. Arians did keep Ken Whisenhunt holdover Ryan Lindley on the 2013 roster and may have seen some potential. The structure of Palmer's contract indicates he's entering his final year in Arizona. The Cardinals are a sleeper team to draft a quarterback in May's first round. We definitely anticipate GM Steve Keim pulling the trigger on a signal caller by the draft's second day.

Norris' options

First day option: Derek Carr, Fresno State - Many focus on Bruce Arians’ vertical style. Per Greg Peshek, only 11.35% of Carr’s passes traveled 20-plus yards downfield, and he had an adjusted 44.23 completion percentage on said throws. That is good for second worst among the quarterbacks Peshek charted this season. We all know how frustrating Fresno State’s offense is, and while Carr has enough arm to throw vertically, he needs a better base. Arians might think he can fix these issues.

Second day possibility: Tom Savage, Pitt - Savage is a true downfield thrower who has generated a ridiculous amount of buzz in recent weeks. I believe his poor pocket movement is being overlooked thanks to a terrible offensive line. Not to mention he was a poor decision maker on multiple occasions. However, Savage is doing something right while meeting with teams and has a big frame and a big arm.

Third day flier: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech - I am shocked that Thomas is not receiving Savage’s buzz. That is not to say I love Thomas’ talent, especially poor accuracy, but he is a very good downfield thrower. I think he displays more poise in the pocket than Savage.

 

No. 3 Team Need: Offensive Line

Silva's analysis

The Cardinals boast a respectable left side with Jared Veldheer signed to play alongside LG Jonathan Cooper, and incumbent C Lyle Sendlein is a quality starter. Right guard and tackle are both big question marks, however, with Earl Watford and Bobby Massie currently penciled in with the first team. Arians believes in a vertical passing attack complemented by a power run game.

Norris' options

First day option: Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA - Su’a-Filo has left tackle experience, but he will certainly play guard in the NFL. Su’a-Filo is very agile for a guard and can rarely be seen unoccupied. He is active, willing and powerful when getting to the second level and blocking until the whistle. He is the top true guard in this class.

Second day possibility: Trai Turner, LSU - It is not out of the realm of possibility that Turner becomes the top guard from this class. In fact, he has some Larry Warford to his game. Turner lacks a lot of starting experience and can get a bit overextended, but he is powerful when pulling/trapping.

Third day flier: Jon Halapio, Florida - Halapio dealt with chest injuries in 2013 and produced poor performances. With that said, I really liked what I saw in 2012 thanks to his natural strength, and he looked far more healthy and balanced during Senior Bowl week.

Cardinals 2014 Draft Picks (6)

First Round (No. 20)

Second Round (No. 52)

Third Round (No. 84)

Fourth Round (No. 120)

Fifth Round (No. 160)

Sixth Round (No. 196)

 

Current Cardinals First-Team Offense

QB: Carson Palmer

RB: Andre Ellington

WR: Larry Fitzgerald

WR: Michael Floyd

TE: Rob Housler

TE: John Carlson

LT: Jared Veldheer

LG: Jonathan Cooper

C: Lyle Sendlein

RG: Earl Watford

RT: Bobby Massie

 

Current Cardinals First-Team Defense

RE: Calais Campbell

LE: Darnell Dockett

NT: Dan Williams

ILB: Daryl Washington

ILB: Kevin Minter

OLB: John Abraham

OLB: Matt Shaughnessy

LCB: Patrick Peterson

RCB: Antonio Cromartie

FS: Tyrann Mathieu

SS: Rashad Johnson

 
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