Now that the dust is starting to settle on the Arizona Cardinals season, it's time for ROTB to kick it into another gear. We'll be bringing you off season awards and positional breakdowns in the near future but one of the dominating story lines over the next couple of months will be the NFL draft. There has been some regular fanpost threads discussing various draft scenarios and needs but we've strayed away from the subject on the front page until now. Over the course of the next couple of months we'll be bringing you countless mock draft updates as well as some potential draft picks to ponder. We'll also have our annual ROTB mock draft so be thinking of teams you'd like to represent (and no you can't pick the Niners just to select Bobby Bouche as their first round pick). With all that being said here's our first official mock draft look-in (first round picks only unless otherwise noted):
(Disclaimer: I know some of you guys may not be ready to talk NFL draft so if you're still in mourning or simply don't think the draft should be a topic of discussion yet, just keep scrolling down to the next story.)
Draft Countdown: Anthony Davis (OT-Rutgers) - The Cardinals have one of the most explosive offenses in the league but one position they need to shore up is left tackle. Mike Gandy has quietly been a serviceable player for many years but he is the type you are always looking to replace, plus he's now in his 30's. It goes without saying that when you have a quarterback who is almost 40-years-old it's always a good idea to protect him. There may not be another draft-eligible blocker with more natural ability than Anthony Davis of Rutgers. A great athlete and imposing 6-6, 325 pound physical specimen, Davis is undeniably a first round talent and word is he's leaning towards going pro. Concerns about his conditioning and intangibles could hurt Davis on Draft Day but considering the great demand for blindside protectors it would be a bit of an upset if he escaped the first round. Anthony Davis | Rutgers Scarlet Knights Another interesting possibility is tight end and this could be a potential landing spot for Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham. Linebacker is another option since Karlos Dansby still hasn't been signed to a long-term contract yet and guys like Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor and Clark Haggans are all getting a bit long in the tooth. The Cardinals pass defense ranked near the bottom of the league once again this year so it probably wouldn't hurt them to bring in another starting - caliber cornerback either.
Walter Football (3 rounds): Jerry Hughes (DE/OLB-TCU) - Arizona compiled 43 sacks on the year, but only a few came from the rush linebackers. The leader in that department was Bert Berry, a 35-year-old free agent who had six sacks. After that, 33-year-old Clark Haggans notched five sacks, followed by Chike Okeafor's 4.5. Okeafor, 34, is also a free agent. The Cardinals spent a second-round pick on Cody Brown last year, but he hasn't played a single down in the NFL because of a wrist injury. Clearly, rush linebacker is a dire need for Arizona this offseason - and this was evident before the Cardinals couldn't put any pressure on Drew Brees in their playoff loss. This may seem a bit low for someone as talented as Jerry Hughes, but teams are much more hesitant to take rush linebackers now because the conversion is so unpredictable. Just look at last year's results - no one in the top 15 selections took a rush linebacker. The Chargers (No. 16), Broncos (18) and Packers (26) went with one, but only Green Bay's selection (Clay Matthews) has panned out thus far. It wasn't just last year; in 2008, the Jets were burnt by Gholston. They were the only team to gamble on a rush linebacker in the first round. I think some of these 3-4 guys will take a tumble come April.
- Round 2: Kyle Calloway (OT-Iowa) - If you weren't convinced that the Cardinals needed tackle help, you have to be now after watching the Saints put tons of pressure on Kurt Warner in the second round of the playoffs. Mike Gandy, who just entered his 30s, surrendered 6.5 sacks in 2008, and gave up eight sacks and eight penalties this year before landing on IR. He'll be a free agent after the 2009 NFL season. Backup Jeremy Bridges played relatively well in relief of Gandy at first, but was exposed as the season progressed.
- Round 3: J.D. Walton (C-Baylor) - Lyle Sendlein has played better this season, but you saw it in that Monday night game - the 49ers just had a beat on Sendlein, which is how they were able to get to Kurt Warner so easily. The Cardinals, who don't have very many needs, could use an upgrade at the center position.
Draft Tek (5 Round Simulator): Ricky Sapp (DE/OLB-Clemson) - A highly adaptable pass-rusher that can line up all over the field in the Cards' hybrid defensive alignment - the Clemson standout fits the bill at both DE and OLB for Whisenhunt.
- Round 2: Ciron Black (OT-LSU) - (Editors Note: The original pick for CMD #12 here was Von Miller, who has decided to return to Texas A&M) A healthy OL is key to keeping Arizona's potent offense firing on all cylinders. Black was a 4 YEAR STARTER at LSU. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Black started at LT for 4 YEARS while at LSU ?! - Drafttek Staff (Hawk's note: Wouldn't it be weird if this happened and big Herman Johnson and Black ended up starting on our OL.)
- Round 3: Daryl Washington (ILB-TCU)
- Round 4: Sean Canfield (QB-Oregon State)
- Round 5: Lance Kendricks (TE-Wisconsin)
FFToolBox (Dimon): Trent Williams (OT-Oklahoma) - A massive presence on the offensive line, Williams was solid for Oklahoma this season even though the Sooners were not what the used to be. While the Cardinals' offense is better than their defense, they still need to improve up front.
FFToolBox (Long): Brandon Spikes (LB-Florida) - The Cardinals still have an average to below average defense, so head coach Ken Whisenhunt needs to address the needs on that side of the ball. LB Karlos Dansby is a free agent, and OLBs Clark Haggans, Chike Okaefor and Bertrand Berry will all be 33 or older in 2010. Spikes would be a nice addition since he would fill a need as he can play multiple spots in their defensive scheme.
FFToolBox (Standig): Jermaine Gresham (TE-Oklahoma) - Cards still looking for OLB/pass rush help in their new 3-4 defense and adding an offensive tackle is likely. for now they solve their long standing hole at TE with Gresham.
FFToolBox (Wesler): Sean Weatherspoon (LB-Missouri) - Sean Weatherspoon is a great playmaker and the Missouri defense never gets the credit that it deserves. The 2008 Missouri team would not have been nearly as good without Weatherspoon and it is the defense that has spurred the relatively quality play of the Tigers in the 2009 campaign. His size, or lack there of, will keep him down some draft boards, but every team could use a playmaker like Weatherspoon.
Draft Daddy: Bruce Campbell (OT-Maryland) - Campbell is an athlete but lack of starts could hurt his value. The cards need a new LT.
The Football Expert: Jermaine Gresham (TE-Oklahoma) - The Cards could use an impact tight end and will hope Gresham falls. They missed on Leonard Pope in the third round (2006) and he is now a Chief. Remember Stephen Spach's dramatic wild card game against the Falcons? He hasn't been the same since. Left tackle is also wobbly with Gandy aging. Last year right about here (#20) the Lions took Oklahoma State's Pettigrew and this year it is a different Big XII player looking like the consensus top tight end in the field. His knee injury makes his draft stock hard to gauge right now, but this feels right.
NFL Draft Dog: Mike Iupati (G-Idaho) - Iupati is a mammoth (6' 5" 330 lbs) road grader. He has great feet and uses his hands very well.
New Era Scouting: Brandon Graham (DE/OLB-Michigan)
Pro Draft Party: Eric Norwood (OLB-South Carolina)
Lastly guys, if our infrequent draft threads aren't satisfying your thirst for the subject, check out our sister site Mocking the Draft. I know several ROTB regular's are frequent commentors over there, Bezekira and Pyro among others. They cover the draft and everything related to it all year long so they'll have more than enough to fill your draft cup.
As for the mocks around the net, I know it's too early to have much of an idea where players will actually go but it at least gives us an indication of where "outsiders" see holes in our team and which collegiate players might best fill those holes. At this point I can't squabble too much with any mock that has either a ILB or OLB headed to Arizona and I won't raise too much fuss over any offensive tackle not named Trent Williams as well. I can't stand the mocks that have Gresham headed to the desert but our lack of consistent play from the tight end spot is going to push some people in that direction. Thoughts?