With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Next up is the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals were one of the hottest teams in the league at the end of the season. However, they only have six draft picks to use in an attempt to take another step forward in a loaded NFC West.
Safety: Arizona’s two starting safeties from last season may not be on the roster for Week 1. Yeremiah Bell is a free agent and hasn’t been re-signed and Tyrann Mathieu could start the season on the physically unable to perform list while he continues to work back ACL and LCL tears in his knee. Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson are decent depth options but the Cardinals need to find a more productive option in the back-end of their defense.
Alabama’s Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor could be options in the first round for the Cardinals with the No. 20 overall pick. However, they could wait until their second or third round pick to address the position. Washington State’s Deone Buchanan or Florida State’s Terrence Brooks could be had on day two of the draft.
Tackle: The Cardinals offensive line has been a problem area for several seasons. While it was better last season, the team still needed to upgrade several positions up front this offseason. Arizona signed former Oakland Raiders tackle Jared Veldheer to be their left tackle for the next several seasons. However, the right tackle position still needs to improve as well.
Bobby Massie, Nate Potter and Bradley Sowell have been inconsistent in their chances to start. The return of Jonathan Cooper from injury should help solidify the line at guard but an upgrade at right tackle should be a focus during the draft as well.
Outside Linebacker: John Abraham had a very strong season for the Cardinals last season racking up 11.5 sacks as an edge rusher in Arizona’s 3-4 defense. However, he was the only outside linebacker to be consistently effective in the Cardinals’ pass rush. With Abraham also being 35 years old, Arizona will have to add a complementary piece that has the potential to be a long-term replacement for Abraham as a pass rusher.
It also may be the position they will have the best chance of addressing in the first round. UCLA’s Anthony Barr or Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier could be options with the 20th pick.
Tight End: Rob Housler hasn’t been able to provide the consistent production the Cardinals need from the tight end position in their passing game. Jake Ballard and free agent signing John Carlson have both been plagued by injury in recent season leaving them somewhat reliable reserve options as well. While addressing the position may not be among the highest priorities for Arizona in the draft, trying to add a receiving threat to complement Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn Jr. in a potentially high-powered passing attack should be considered.
Inside Linebacker: With a possible suspension upcoming for Daryl Washington and the departure of Karlos Dansby to Cleveland, the Cardinals are thin at inside linebacker. Kevin Minter, last year’s second-round pick should be likely move into a starting role this season but only managed four tackles last year in limited duty. Dansby was a second-team All-Pro last season. His production will be difficult to replace. If Washington were to miss time, the Cardinals will need another option to fill in at least on a short-term basis. The depth behind Minter is thin as well and could use upgrading.