The Cardinals are a… surprising 4-4.
Surprising because if I told you before the season started that the Cardinals would get zero impact from their first and second round picks, that Rashard Mendenhall would make you yearn for Beanie Wells and that Carson Palmer was second in the league in interceptions thrown, only 15th in the league in touchdowns and had a quarterback rating higher than only two starters in the NFL right now, Eli and Geno, you'd scoff at the idea of 4-4.
Yet, the Cardinals are not just 4-4, they are 4-4 and in the thick of the playoff chase with a now seemingly easier schedule than anyone expected.
Sure the offense is still rated as one of the worst in the league, and the defense has obvious deficiencies, hello tight ends, but this team is in a good spot moving forward.
The winnable games and easier schedule also means that the Cardinals will likely not be able to have a shot at addressing their biggest needs with the top talent available at the positions, quarterback and offensive tackle, and will look into other needs, especially if they are drafting in the late teens, or heaven forbid the 20’s because they made the playoffs.
If the Cardinals are picking in these areas, here are the five players to know at five positions that could likely be addressed.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
6-1 208lbs JR
Clinton-Dix has made some waves with off the field problems, but the junior has more than made up for it on the field.
He has the length and athleticism to play as a single high free safety in the back end, shows fluidness in his movements to, change of direction and reactions.
Clinton-Dix is a ball hawk in the backend, but has shown a more physical nature this year that has teams intrigued with his ability to flip between both safety positions depending on a teams need (hello Cardinals).
While some have thrown around the Earl Thomas comparisons, I am not ready to put that much pressure on the kid, but he has a special ability that would allow Todd Bowles’ to do even more with his defense.
OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
6-5 300lbs JR
Welcome to left tackle university.
Ogbuehi is the next in the A&M lineage of possible left tackles to go early in the NFL Draft, and in my Jake Matthews obsession I’ve become enamored with the long, lean, and athletic Texan.
He isn’t as physical as you’d like a tackle to be at the point of attack at this time in the run game, but he has the length, quickness, hand usage and that special footwork that seems to be in the water in College Station.
If he decides to come out in 2014, he could be a target in the middle of round one for the Cardinals.
TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
6-4 245lbs JR
Despite being at North Carolina, Ebron has done quite a bit to improve his 2014 draft stock, that’s just how good he can be.
He plays with a physicality that most didn’t see previously, he’s a very good straight line athlete, and has shown a little more flexibility to his game this year.
He is a worker along the line and plays with a ferocity in his blocking, even if he isn’t exactly Rob Gronkowski at it.
OLB Aaron Lynch, South Florida
6-6 240lbs Soph (RS)
Lynch is the prototype hybrid pass rusher for the NFL, and he could be a great fit in a 3-4 as an outside pass rusher.
An extreme burst off the edge, understands how to turn that speed into power, and uses his length to stack and shed blockers.
Needs to work on pad level to become a consistent everydown type, but he could be an intriguing Bruce Irvin/Aldon Smith type in year one.
QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
6-3 215lbs SR
When the quarterback class dust settles, the most interesting thing will be where the seniors land.
If the underclassmen not named Teddy come out, how far down can a guy like Carr get pushed, and could he be in play for the Cardinals?
Carr’s fit in the Arians vertical offense would be a match made in heaven. He has a very strong arm, is athletic enough to avoid pass rushers, and can get the ball vertical with accuracy, but he isn’t asked to do it, really at all, in his offense at Fresno State.
The hard part will be extrapolating enough "Arians" throws out to determine if he is a viable choice to be the quarterback of the future for the Cardinals.
If the Cardinals continue on their pace, and there is no reason they shouldn’t, this team without a doubt should be picking outside of the Teddy, Mariota, Matthews range, and in doing so that means finding gems in the first round that can have as much impact as those players.