Arizona Cardinals 7-Round Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition
Arizona Cardinals 7-Round Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition
The Cardinals were one of the more surprising teams last season, going 10-6, but missing the playoffs. Playing in the tough NFC West division, not many people gave this inexperienced team much of a chance, but they overachieved. They got pretty solid production out of their defense, although there is definitely room for improvement. With star cornerback Patrick Patterson suffering a torn ACL, the team will have to come up with some patch up guys in his absence.
It's possible that Patterson could be ready for the first game of the season, but that would be a best-case scenario. More likely, he will miss the first few games of the season and Arizona is going to need some players to step into his shoes and produce at a high level. Whether that happens through free agency or the draft remains to be seen, but even with a healthy Patterson, the Cardinals' secondary needs help. They also need help on the front line on defense. It seems like most teams in the league are always looking for an extra pass rusher and the Cardinals fall into that boat as well.
Having depth on the defensive line makes everything easier because it keeps all players on the unit fresh. That's extremely important because all defense starts in the trenches. The defensive line determines what gaps a running back has to hit and where linebackers have to slant in order to make plays. The less space they give ball carriers, the less work the linebacking corps has to do. How the defensive line plays also has a trickle down effect on the rest of the defense when protecting against the pass. A steady pass rush keeps the opposing offense out of sync and that benefits the secondary.
Offensively, Arizona needs help in the trenches as well. Whether they go with Carson Palmer for the next few years or go younger in a couple years, they're going to need to protect their quarterback. That starts with the line and the Cardinals are going to need to add another guard and tackle at least. Again, these moves can be made via free agency or the draft, but the draft is generally the more exciting way to build a team's future.
As long as they address the concerns listed above, the Cardinals should be competitive again in 2014. How they address those issues, whether it be through free agency or the draft is unknown at this point. Based on their needs at various positions on both sides of the ball, here's how the Cardinals' 2014 draft (consisting of six picks and no seventh rounder) figures to shake out.
Round 1 (20th overall): CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Generally regarded as the top cover corner back in the draft, Dennard would fit the Cardinals' needs perfectly. He's a talent that wouldn't just be holding a spot for Patterson for when he came back, he would be complimenting him on the other side of the defensive backfield. Arizona is really hoping that Dennard falls to them in the draft because he's the most talented player on the board that plays the position of greatest need for the team.
Round 2 (52nd overall): DE Trent Murphy, Stanford
If he's available for the Cardinals in round two, Murphy would completely fit what the Cardinals need in an edge rusher. He's a little bulkier than some of the other edge rushers in the draft, but he can use that girth to power past offensive lineman. Murphy would be able to work his way into the starting lineup very quickly and make an impact in his rookie season.
Round 3 (84th overall): OG Dakota Dozier, Furman
Playing at little-known Furman, Dozier has been largely overlooked. The fact that he's a projected third round pick coming out of that small of a school tells you just how much potential he has. With his large frame, he has the ability to gum up defenders inside in pass protection and move them when run blocking. He still has some fine tuning to his game, but with his raw talent, he's someone who could get playing time relatively early in his career.
Round 4 (116th overall): TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia
The Cardinals have been in search of a play making tight end for a while now and they could have their man in Lynch. He was an All-American playing at Georgia and he has all the skills to make it at the next level. He's long, athletic and has good hands; that bodes well for his future at the position. He can chip block, but will need to improve his pure pass blocking. From a play making standpoint, Lynch could be a steal for Arizona in the fourth round.
Round 5 (148th overall): OT Michael Schofield, Michigan
The Cardinals need to stockpile offensive tackles this offseason because they have a lot of uncertainty at the position. Drafting Schofield out of Michigan would be a solid first step toward doing that. He is rough around the edges, but has all the measurables that teams look for in offensive lineman. Depending on what coaches can do with his large frame in training camp, he could be another surprise mid-to-late round pick that gets early playing time.
Round 6 (180th overall): S Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech
He's very raw and that's why he's a projected sixth round pick, but Thomas has potential to develop into a contributor in the NFL. The most important thing that will separate him from other safeties on the draft board is that he has experience playing special teams. When position battles are going on in training camp, the ability to play special teams can often be a tie breaker. So in a few seasons, Thomas could be a contributing member of the secondary and at the very least can be a contributor on special teams right away.
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