We are finally late enough in the NFL season to begin to peek ahead to the NFL Draft next year. For the Arizona Cardinals, though, things are still very much in the now with the playoff race. Nonetheless, the draft is something many fanbases are already anticipating.
As such, ESPN's Todd McShay has published his first mock draft for the 2016 class and he has the Cardinals taking potentially their quarterback of the future.
It shouldn't come as a surprise. Mock drafts have been projecting quarterbacks, tackles and pass rushers to Arizona based on team needs for years. But this pick is a little intriguing.
He has Arizona taking quarterback Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State with the 30th pick of the first round.
He fits the Bruce Arians mold at 6-6, 235 pounds and a big arm.
Wentz would be the ideal quarterback for Bruce Arians to groom behind soon-to-be 36-year-old Carson Palmer. The FCS product isn't ready to start from Day 1, but he has a lot of developmental upside, with good size, arm strength and mobility. He's coming off a wrist injury, so his draft stock could be impacted by how that checks out with teams. But it won't surprise me if Wentz winds up among the top 40 picks.
While he hasn't been on the radar of a lot of fans, I did hear his name come up recently. Of course he won't generate a lot of press early during the college season, as he does play in the FCS, but he plays in a pro-style system and has shown an ability to read coverages and handle running an offense with multiple reads and protections when he comes to the line of scrimmage. Former ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who spent a little time in the NFL, saw this coming in a recent interview on Arizona Sports.
Palmer is going to the the quarterback for the Cardinals in 2016. But we don't know how long after that. Arizona has shown it is willing to draft a guy early for the future (they did it this season with tackle D.J. Humphries). While you ideally get more impact early on with a first rounder, if you can take a franchise quarterback and allow him to do what Palmer himself did under Jon Kitna all those years ago, that makes for a good plan.
It is still early for real draft talk, but like Noah Spence, a pass rusher mentioned in our latest podcast, Wentz is a player to start looking into and researching (if you are that sort of fan).