5 NFL Draft Prospects Who Can Be Instant Starters For Arizona Cardinals
5 NFL Draft Prospects Who Can Be Instant Starters For The Arizona Cardinals
A sound argument can be made that the Arizona Cardinals were the best team to not make the NFL playoffs in 2013. They finished with a 10-6 record and became the only team to beat the Super Bowl Champion, the Seattle Seahawks, in their home stadium. The NFC West will not be getting any easier, but the Cardinals can certainly improve enough to make the playoffs if they use the offseason to find immediate starters at the positions most in need.
With a solid core and innovative schemes on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals' needs are much more concentrated than most teams'. This should allow the front office to create a simple plan for addressing these needs fast.
It all starts upfront with the offensive line, an area where the Cardinals struggled immensely in 2013. They graded out as the worst offensive line in the entire NFL according to advanced statistics and Pro Football Focus. The line was at its absolute worst in pass protection, where only center Lyle Sendlein did not finish with a negative grade.
Offensive line, of course, is the same unit that the Cardinals chose to focus on in the 2013 NFL Draft. They spent their first-round pick on guard Josh Cooper. Unfortunately, Cooper never played a snap in the regular season after going down with a season-ending injury in the preseason. They also drafted tackle Bobby Massie, who wound up not playing much during the season. The team is reported to be considering the idea of starting Massie in 2013, but it would be major leap considering he couldn't win a starting job last season on the worst line in the league.
The Cardinals have a solid bridge quarterback in Carson Palmer, and he has good weapons in the passing game. However, the Cardinals offense requires a bigger back to run in Bruce Arians' power-blocking scheme. Rashard Mendenhall was serviceable in 2013 when not on the injury report, but finding a stronger and more explosive running back can take this offense to the next level.
On defense, the Cardinals' combination of consistent talent throughout every level and a great defensive scheme made them one of the best units in 2013. If you are looking for one glaring weakness, it could be in the secondary. On his way to potentially winning Defensive Rookie Of The Year, safety Tyrann Mathieu tore up his ACL and MCL before completing the season. Depending on how long his recovery takes, the Cardinals could be in the market for one or two safeties to sure up their secondary.
The following are five prospects who I think could start for the Cardinals immediately in 2014.
5. Calvin Pryor
Calvin Pryor possesses that unique range and ability to cover the deep half of the field that every GM covets. Pryor can come in on day one and play either safety position for the Cardinals. However, as long as Mathieu can make it back for Week 1, Pryor will serve as a free safety, which will allow Mathieu to make plays near the line of scrimmage and inside the box.
4. Cyrus Kouandjio
Because Cyrus Kouandjio struggled a bit in 2013, many draft circles have questioned whether or not he is going to become an impact player in the NFL. The fears are unwarranted however, because Kouandjio has the willingness to learn his position and drive to succeed in the NFL. The talent was never in question, and he possesses surprisingly quick feet for someone of his size and strength. He would be a great fit in the Cardinals’ power blocking scheme.
3. Carlos Hyde
Carlos Hyde is one of the most underrated talents in the entire draft. Don't be clouded by selective history when it comes to drafting running backs, because a guy with a similar build to Hyde named Eddie Lacy turned out to be a real asset to his team last season. Hyde has the size to be a true every-down back in the Cardinals offense. More importantly, he possesses a second gear and rare explosiveness for someone his size.
2. Zack Martin
Drafting Zack Martin makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals because he can play multiple positions along the offensive line. He excelled as a tackle in college, and many draft experts believe he could be even better as a guard in the NFL. The Cardinals need multiple starters and they need depth along the offensive line. Martin can come in from day one and play either guard or tackle spot.
1. Taylor Lewan
Although Taylor Lewan is projected strictly as a tackle in the NFL, he should turn out to be a pretty good one. Lewan plays with a mean streak that will be welcomed by the Cardinals coaches and players. Lewan sometimes lets his emotions get the best of his focus on the field, but this is due to his eternal drive to never fail. When he puts it all together, he has an All-Pro caliber ceiling in the NFL.