We get through the 2013 season with a similar record to the year prior, and find ourselves drafting in the 6-10 range again, according to most mock drafts you see out there. So, I ask you this, birdgang, to draft, or not to draft a quarterback?
What do we know? Well, Carson Palmer signed a two-year deal, meaning he is in place to play the 2014 season, if he is retained next offseason. The Cards skipped drafting quarterbacks like Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson, in favor of trading for Palmer and signing Drew Stanton from Indy, Arians' former stomping ground. Palmer, 34, is not the long term solution, we all know this, paving the way for a successor to be drafted in 2014, what are the options?
Teddy Bridgewater is the consensus number one prospect at the position going into this season. Looking at his 2012 stats, he was phenomenal. A seasonal passer rating of 160.5, 68.5% completion percentage, resulting in 3718 yards, 27 TDs and 8 INTs, leading Louisville to a 10-2 record, and then ending the season with a win in the Sugar Bowl. Likened to Aaron Rodgers in terms of play-making ability and arm , Bridgewater would be an ideal fit for Arizona. Not seen as on the same level of Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III, but Bridgewater is pretty darn good. How about the rest?
Tajh Boyd and David Fales are two quarterbacks on the rise. Boyd had a seasonal passer rating of 165.6, with a completion percentage of 67.2%, throwing for 3896 yards, 36 TDs and 13 INTs. Boyd is a quarterback who can be an effective runner, not a theme of an Arians offensive system, but rushing for an additional 514 yards on 186 carries, makes him a dynamic weapon, following the recent trend of mobile quarterbacks taking the league by storm, notably in the NFC West.
David Fales had arguably the best statistical year of the three in 2012. A seasonal passer rating of 170.8, completion percentage of 72.5%, passing for 4193 yards, 33 TDs and 9 INTs, leading San Jose State to a win in the Military Bowl. Not having the same body of work at Bridgewater or Boyd, Fales is still developing, and not widely seen as a first round talent. Your prototype pocket passer, Fales showed elite levels of composure and has the NFL-caliber arm talent to be successful is Arians' system.
How about an offensive tackle? Giving up a league-high 58 sacks in 2012, the offensive line needed a major revamp, which is well underway. The returning Levi Brown will likely slot back in a left tackle, a major upgrade on D'Anthony Batiste and Nate Potter, the release of Adam Snyder, a liability at RG opened the door for first round pick Jonathan Cooper to start day one. He takes the job at left guard where Daryn Colledge has started the past two seasons, while Colledge moves over to right guard. Fourth round selection Earl Watford will likely be a long-term successor to Daryn College. Bobby Massie showed signs of improvement late on last year, and appears to be a solid RT for years to come.
Much like 2013, the 2014 draft is stacked with offensive tackles, which is a target for the Cardinals, who are still unsure what they have in Levi Brown. Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan are the standout candidates next year. Matthews was seen as the better A&M tackle, his team mate Luke Joeckel was widely touted as the top overall prospect last year, putting into perspective how good Matthews is. Lewan had the opportunity to come into the NFL a year earlier, where he would have likely been a first round pick also, but returning to Michigan is not a bad option.
The Cardinals' pass-rush has not been great. Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield have been average at best. Addressing this in the draft to an extent with fourt-rounder Alex Okafor should provide help, but there is no dominant edge guy on the roster, luckily, the 2014 draft is stacked with options. Alabama prospect C.J. Mosley recorded 107 tackles, 8 for a loss and 4 sacks in 2012. Not the most impressive stat line, but Mosley does a good job of affecting the passing game, with 19 career passes defended.
Anthony Barr enjoyed very productive year, tallying 83 tackles, 21.5 for a loss, and 13.5 sacks. A presence off the edge is what we have been lacking, and that sack total is better than both Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo from this past draft, who both went in the top six picks. Brigham Young prospect Kyle Van Noy is also an option. 22 career sacks is the most of the three prospects, along with 5 career INTs and 11 forced fumbles, Noy has the best record in terms of turnovers and sacks.
All three positions are stacked with talent which would provide a significant upgrade at areas of 'need'. If we go by the theory the Cardinals are drafting between 6-10 again in 2014, my own opinion see's Bridgewater, Boyd, Clowney, Matthews and Barr all being selected before that 6th overall pick. In that range, I would personally select San Jose State's David Fales, giving us a QB for the future. I don't see Fales making it out of the top 10 because of the demand for the position, and you need to have a long term answer at quarterback. Taylor Lewan and Kyle Van Noy are two very capable suggestions for that pick, but if in doubt, side with the quarterback.