After a few days of the NFL version of March Madness -- the beginning of free agency -- ESPN's Mel Kiper has released his latest mock draft. In version 3.0, he has the first couple of days of free agent moves to help shape his projections.
At the top of the draft, he goes with an unexpected player. It isn't any of the top quarterbacks or even Jadaveon Clowney. It is Buffalo edge rusher Khalil Mack. The quarterbacks don't start coming off the board until the Browns pick fourth and take Blake Bortles.
As for the Arizona Cardinals, as many recent mocks have projected, Kiper sees them taking Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard with the 20th overall pick.
"Free agency certainly plays a role here because the Cardinals put out a fire at left tackle with the addition of Jared Veldheer. Carson Palmer sleeps a little better at night, and the draft picture for Round 1 opens up. I like the idea of taking Dennard here. You already have Patrick Peterson and hopefully a healthy Tyrann Mathieu, but in Dennard you get another player who can play right away, doesn't get lost in a variety of coverages and will play physical and attack the line of scrimmage when you need him to. He could be gone earlier given the need at the position, but I like the fit here if he's around."
Even if the Cardinals pick up Antonio Cromartie, which they might still do, this is not a bad pick at all, assuming he is capable and solid at doing more than man press. Seth Cox raised that question on one of our recent podcasts, but Kiper's description says that he can. If so, there is no problem with this pick and it could even allow Arizona to save some money by making Jerraud Powers expendable.
Seattle showed that a strong defensive backfield goes a long way. Is adding Dennard just another step in that direction for Arizona?
- Jared Veldheer talks to local radio about his journey to Arizona, more
- Jared Veldheer, according to Steve Keim, Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer
- NFL free agency: Arizona Cardinals managing contracts well so far
- NFL free agency: Arizona Cardinals hitting offseason goals, what is still needed?
- Larry Fitzgerald talks about loss of Karlos Dansby and looking ahead at the offense for 2014