The Arizona Cardinals have made tremendous strides of improvement since last year. Some may not be impressed by a 5-4 record, but when you consider how bad this team was in 2012 you ought to be. But let’s not jump ahead and say the rebuild is complete. There are still holes and weaknesses evidenced by those four losses in nine games. What will their needs be in the 2014 NFL Draft? Glad you asked.
The biggest need is quite simple: Quarterback. Carson Palmer has been an upgrade over the revolving door that was 2012, but considering the talent in this year’s class they’d be crazy not to grab a young signal caller at some point. Take one early on and let him learn for a year or two before being thrown into the fire. The best fit for head coach Bruce Arians‘ offense in my opinion is LSU‘s Zach Mettenberger, who the Cards can take either at the end of round one or in early round two. Mettenberger fits the mold of what Arians looks for in QBs: big, strong, smart, howitzer attached to the shoulder, big game experience and can take a lick.
The receiving corps is solid. Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer and Michael Floyd continues improving, but an upgrade in the slot will likely be addressed either in free agency or the draft. Jeremy Gallon (Michigan) and Jalen Saunders (Oklahoma) would be absolutely ideal fits here, and both can be found in the middle rounds.
Rob Housler has slowly come alive at tight end, but considering the amount Arians loves two-tight end sets, I could see them adding another young and athletic playmaker here as well. A dark horse candidate is former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, who’s been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately. Still, no one can deny his immense talent, and the Cardinals have successfully adopted troubled-yet-talented prospects before (most recently FS Tyrann Mathieu). Lyerla is a first round talent who will more than likely still be available in the mid to later-rounds.
The offensive line continues to be a position of need, but there’s some talent here. RT Eric Winston is running on a one-year deal and might not be brought back, RG Paul Fanaika is probably best suited as a backup and the jury is still out on young tackles Bradley Sowell, Nate Potter and Bobby Massie. The healthy return of 2013 first round pick LG Jonathan Cooper, who’s missed all of his rookie year, should make an immediate impact in 2014.
Defensively there’s not a whole lot to complain about. This is a darn good defense. The pass D isn’t great statistically, but there’s a lot of young talent. Draft-wise, I see the Cards targeting more depth in the secondary, potentially finding a new starter at strong safety and adding another pass rusher or two. A good fit would be LSU SS Craig Loston. He’s a big, physical prospect who has a lot of experience playing with two other starters in the Cards’ secondary (Mathieu and CB Patrick Peterson). He’s a good second round prospect who could start right away.
All in all, this is a pretty good team, but they’re far from perfect. A strong draft next May will help continue the Cardinals progress trying to catch up to divisional foes in the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.