Insiders

NFL Draft Primer: Arizona Cardinals

on

Team needs: Pass rusher, Inside linebacker, Running back, Cornerback, Quarterback and Defensive tackle.

Round 1 – 24th overall

Round 2 – 55th overall

Round 3 – 86th overall

Round 4 – 159th overall

Round 5 – 159th overall

Round 6 – 197th overall

Round 7 – 241st overall

Round 7 – 256th overall

Good fits early:

Melvin Gordon: Over the past two drafts, there hasn’t been a running back taken in the first round. With the league becoming more pass friendly, the value of the back has diminished dramatically. With that being said, if there’s one team to break this first round trend, it would be the Arizona Cardinals.

In 2014, Arizona ranked 30th in total rushing yards and rushing yards per carry. Their leading rusher was Andre Ellington, who only averaged 3.3 yards per carry.

With Carson Palmer returning from injury, its vital Arizona has a reliable running attack to take some pressure off Palmer, which is why Melvin Gordon may be the guy here at No. 24. Gordon is a big back that possess good speed and vision. He rushed for 2,587 yards on 343 carries to go along with 29 rushing touchdowns during his senior campaign at Wisconsin.

Bud Dupree: Other than quarterback, the most important thing to have in today’s NFL may be an elite pass rusher. With the rules favoring the pass attack, its essential to have players capable of disturbing the rhythm of the quarterback.

Getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks is something Arizona was unable to do in 2014. The Cardinals didn’t have one single player in double digit sacks, which is why Kentucky product Bud Dupree deserves serious consideration at 24.

Dupree is a freakish athlete, as he was a four-year starter at tight end in high school and a three-year starter at defensive end. Oh yeah, he also won a state title in basketball. Dupree posted a 40-time of 4.47. With his crazy athletic ability, Dupree figures to be an ideal fit in Arizona’s 3-4 defensive scheme.

During his senior season, Dupree finished with 7.5 sacks and 23.5 for his career, which was the most by any active SEC player.

Marcus Peters: Sure, Arizona has arguably the best corner in Patrick Peterson, but what about on the other side?

Antonio Cromartie bolted back to New York, which leaves a void. Arizona could turn to veteran Jerraud Powers or Justin Bethel, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them going cornerback in the first round if Marcus Peters is available.

The former Washington Husky has been noted for having emotional issues. He was dismissed from the program last season after an altercation with an assistant coach during practice.

However, there’s no denying his talent. In 2013, Peters received second-team All-Pac 12 honors. He has prototype size for his position at 6-foot, 197 pounds. Putting Peters in a winning environment like Arizona, surrounded by veterans could do wonders for him moving forward.

Although its more likely for the Oakland Raiders to make a good pick, lets not completely rule out a free fall for Marcus Mariota. Entering the NFL combine last year, most projected Johnny Manziel to be a top 10 pick, but he ended up falling to Cleveland at 22 and we all know about Aaron Rodgers.

If Mariota somehow falls out of the top ten, the need for quarterback begins to decrease among teams and maybe Arizona would feel tempted to trade up for Mariota. Lets face it, Carson Palmer won’t be playing much longer and Arizona doesn’t have much hope behind him moving forward. I’m not saying Mariota to Arizona will happen, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out. We’ve seen crazier things before.

Potential late-round targets:

Taiwain Jones: It’s essential to have solid inside linebacker play in a 3-4 scheme and Taiwain Jones appears to be a fairly safe pick. Jones played in every game of his four-year career at Michigan State. In 2014, Jones finished with second team All-Big Ten honors. He’s someone that will help stop the run, as he led Sparty with 12.5 tackles for loss.

Xavier Cooper: When you have to face Marshawn Lynch twice a year, you’ll probably want to make sure your defensive line is up to par. With the loss of Dan Williams, Arizona has a hole to fill.

Defensive tackle Xavier Cooper is someone who deserves a strong look. The Washington State product started in all 25 games over the past two seasons and gathered 23 tackles for loss during that time frame. Cooper is a former basketball player and tight end, so as you could imagine, his footwork is top notch, which allows him to cause havoc in opposing backfields.

Garrett Grayson: As mentioned before, Carson Palmer won’t be able to play forever, so it’ll be wise for Arizona to start looking for his replacement. Garrett Grayson is an interesting prospect. A year ago, he wasn’t on the NFL radar, but his improvement in 2014 has him on the board for sure.

Grayson has good size at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds. He displayed great touch and accuracy this past season, completing 64.3 percent of his passes to go along with 32 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He would be a good value pick in the later rounds.

The Arizona Cardinals ended their four year playoff drought last season, despite missing Carson Palmer for the tail end of the season. In order for the Cardinals to take the next step, staying healthy is key and they must find a way to develop some type of balance offensively.

As of right now, Seattle is still the favorite to win the NFC West, but Arizona is right there.

 


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.