Arizona Cardinals: 2017 NFL Draft Preview

Gareon Conley

The Cardinals window is closing fast and with five major defenders gone in free agency and an aging quarterback on his last legs G.M. Steve Keim better get things reloaded fast or his team and his job will be in big trouble before too long.

Key additions

  • ILB Karlos Dansby
  • OLB Jarvis Jones
  • PK Phil Dawson
  • SS Antoine Bethea

Key subtractions

  • CB Marcus Cooper
  • DL Calais Campbell
  • LB Kevin Minter
  • LB Alex Okafor
  • OG Evan Mathis
  • OG Earl Watford
  • PK Chandler Catanzaro
  • S Tony Jefferson
  • S DJ Swearinger
  • TE Darren Fells

Priority needs (Offense)

QB…What can I say? During our mock draft show last year we had the Cardinals taking QB Dak Prescott with their first pick so they could get ahead of the inevitable. Now they have to take a chance in a weaker class when everyone knows what they need. The best organizations think ahead. The Cardinals didn’t. Now they have to deal with it.

OG…Injuries to Jared Veldheer and Evan Mathis exposed the depth on their offensive line and now they have a big question mark at guard. Keim drafted two middle-round players last year including Evan Boehm who appears to have the inside track on the starting job entering camp. The depth is weak and more youth needs to be added to the roster.

TE…It feels like the Cardinals haven’t produced a difference-maker at tight-end since Jackie Smith over forty years ago. And you know what? It might actually be that long. Jermain Gresham has never fulfilled his potential as a former first-round pick with Cincinnati and Troy Niklas is fast running out of time to prove he belongs in the conversation.

WR…After letting Michael Floyd go during last season and with Larry Fitzgerald turning 34 before this season the Cardinals better draft a receiver at some point next week. They also have to safeguard the position with both John and Jaron Brown set to become free agents.

Priority needs (Defense)

CB…Letting Marcus Cooper go was smart because he was an overrated player. But second-year converted running back Brandon Williams can’t be counted on to increase his responsibilities just yet and that’s exactly what it appears like the Cardinals are going to do. That is unless they can find a big-time talent with the 13th pick.

DL…Calais Campbell was a star player for this franchise and will be missed. Keim thought he was getting ahead of the impending loss by taking a chance with Robert Nkemdiche last year, but the initial reports are not good. Even if he does eventually become a contributor, the Cardinals have a weak bunch of players along their line. This position needs help.

ILB…Kein placed a Band-Aid (Karlos Dansby) on one of these spots after losing Kevin Minter to Cincinnati. He might be able to hold off on adding a future starter until next off-season since they have many other needs, but if the right player were available (Yes, you Reuben Foster) he could take care of this situation now.

S…The Cardinals lost their starting safeties and Tyrann Mathieu can’t be counted on to stay healthy. Antoine Beathea is still a decent player but turns 33 before the season and Tyvon Branch missed more than half the season with a groin injury and had to take a pay cut to stick around.

Final analysis

As you can tell the Cardinals have more needs than you would have thought. So much so I would guess a trade down scenario would be of interest. Keim can go any number of ways with the 13th pick. He can overdraft on a quarterback or maybe he’ll get lucky with someone like DeShone Kizer dropping to 45. If he’s available Keim can finally get the franchise tight end that’s been missing here for 40 years and go with O.J. Howard. Reuben Foster would be a great fit as would any of the top cornerbacks on the board like Tre’Davious White. Malik Hooker is a nice option for the backfield and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Jabrill Peppers was taken here either. He might just fit best with this defense than anywhere else in the league. My best guesses for pick 45 would include defenders like Chris Wormley or Dalvin Tomlinson for the line, Budda Baker for safety, or corners like Fabian Moreau and Chidobe Awuzie. A bit later on in the draft Keim might want to add a quality backup running back to the roster. David Johnson is a workhorse, but if anything happens to him the depth is weak and if they don’t give him a break every once in a while it might eventually tear him down.

Top first-round options

  • CB Gareon Conley
  • CB Marlon Humphrey
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • QB DeShone Kizer
  • QB Patrick Mahomes
  • QB Mitch Trubisky
  • QB DeShaun Watson
  • LB Reuben Foster
  • S Malik Hooker
  • S Jabrill Peppers
  • TE O.J. Howard
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