Hello and welcome to the follow-up to my first “First Round Mock Draft” of the season in which, with compensatory picks announced, I take a look at players and positions that could be selected for the Arizona Cardinals in the upcoming 2017 draft.
This is pre-combine and the main point of this mock, as it is with any mock, is to try and find the positions of need and match that with available players who might be the best “fit” available at that spot and position.
I used Fanspeak’s “On The Clock” simulator for all seven rounds to get a good look at which players might be there for Arizona when they picked and which would be gone, therefore not limiting myself to having to guess if a player would be on the board or not.
Let us begin. With the 13th pick, the Arizona Cardinals select...
Round One, Pick 13:
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
I’m not totally sold that either of the top two safeties in this draft in Adams or Hooker are here at pick 13, but with Quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer going in the top 10 in this simulation, grabbing another safety was a no-brainer for both need and for talent in the draft.
With Tony Jefferson and/or D.J. Swearinger potentially departing and Tyvon Branch a free agency bust so far, Arizona will need to add help in the secondary. Adams is a ruthless tackler, smart in coverage and a day one starter who might be a top five overall talent in this class. No brainer selection here.
Round 2, Pick 13:
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
At this point, I felt very happy with how the draft had fallen, as I rank McMillan as a mid to late first round talent and he’ll help upgrade the linebacking core as the partner for Deone Bucannon as Kevin Minter departs the Cardinals.
I was tempted to look at Forrest Lamp here, as I think he’s an impact Right Guard who could help protect Palmer. And maybe ignoring the offense too early will be a problem but with the additions of Evan Boehm and Cole Toner and no one behind Kevin Minter outside of some special teamers (or maybe a Sio Moore?) this seemed to be a good long-term choice.
It might not be a Rueben Foster-level pick, but it’s excellent value and Cardinals fans should covet a playmaker like McMillan in their front-seven in their hybrid scheme as he’s a fast, instinctual player who will be a solid middle linebacker and allow Bucannon to roam.
Round 3, Pick 13:
Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
There’s definitely a pattern so far and it’s that this is a defensively-loaded draft for the Cardinals.
Now, if Wilson impresses at the Combine, the 3rd round might be a bit unreasonable for Wilson to fall, but the point stands that it is a deep draft at corner and there will be talent that slides down as a result. Wilson is a twitchy, man cover corner who has the size that Arizona covets in the secondary, and would make an excellent long-term partner for Patrick Peterson at a cheaper price than taking one in the top 13 picks.
Even if Wilson is gone and isn’t the corner specifically, unless Brandon Williams or a Harlan Miller take major steps forward, the Cards might have to double dip in the defensive secondary.
Round 4, Pick 13
Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
I chose to pass on Taywan Taylor here, and it was hard because of the great fit with Arizona. After all, Taylor is maybe one of the best big play threats in the entire draft.
40+ yard catches last two seasons:— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 24, 2017
26 - Taywan Taylor
20 - Shelton Gibson
16 - Carlos Henderson
15 - Dede Westbrook, Corey Davis, KD Cannon
But this isn’t about Taylor. Rather it’s about the big, fast and strong receiver that is the 6’4 Josh Reynolds, with good hands and size to compete with Jaron Brown (coming off an ACL) as a possession receiver and potentially work into Arians’ outside 50-50 ball guy that Floyd had been, or maybe as a possession player over the middle.
In short, the Cards already have a player like Taylor....two of them in face.
While many Cardinals fans would love to Reynolds and see that big, strong wide receiver like Michael Floyd replacing him, I wouldn’t be shocked if Arians and Keim went small again.
Round 5, Pick 13:
Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
Oh no, another mid-round strong-armed mobile Virginia Tech quarterback for the Cardinals.
Has Logan Thomas written all over it, right?
Guess again. Evans has shown himself to be much more accurate than Thomas was, and while his path to the job and his great season has been a tumultuous one full of transferring and waiting for his opportunity, it’s certainly better than picking a guy like a Davis Webb here, who worked his way DOWN from his starting job after being unable to beat out Trevor Knight and Patrick Mahomes.
Webb just isn’t very good.
As both quarterbacks were on the board, with the high number of poor decisions and interceptions from Webb, I went with the upside. But this taking of a quarterback in the 5th round DOES show the trend of quarterbacks going higher than the board lists...and it’s not quite assuring for Cardinals fans.
All of the top four quarterbacks were gone by AZ’s second pick, meaning that my decision was very similar to the one that Steve Keim will have to make: do I “reach” on a Quarterback at 13 and pass on a potentially elite player, or do I go into the later rounds ill-equipped to pick a future starter?
The decision will be fascinating. Until then, Evans has the size, arm and took care of the ball as well as Mitch Trubisky did despite having a downfield-aggressive offense.
Round 5, Pick 35 (Compensatory)
Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State
With the “homer” bias out of the way and belief that if a kicker went Round 2 last year Gonzalez is unlikely to make it to the 5th, let me just say this:
I don’t expect Arizona to draft the hometown hero because I doubt that they’ll draft a kicker at all. The value of finding a kicker in free agency versus drafting one as high as the 5th isn’t great, and I could see Arizona simply finding competition to push Chandler Catanzaro.
That said, if Keim did decide to pull the trigger, they’d have a big-legged guy who’s accurate when the pressure is on, which is what Catanzaro struggled with last year. Instant special teams upgrade is the quickest way to take the Cardinals from a Bottom-2 special teams unit to the path to improvement.
Round 6, PIck 13:
Elijah McGuire, RB, UL Lafayette
Even if Chris Johnson returns, the Cardinals need to find a true change-of-pace back who can catch passes behind David Johnson.
Andre Ellington hasn’t been healthy and is leaving, Chris Johnson has gone to IR in consecutive seasons and Stepfan Taylor, while a solid back and special teamer, isn’t as speedy of a runner to threaten defenses or be more than a 5th option.
Enter a true sleeper in McGuire, (who caught my attention thanks to Dane Brugler at CBS)
McGuire caught over a thousand yards on 100 catches as a career small-schooler. The math for that works out to around 10 yards per catch, and to boot he’s had over 3,000 yards rushing and has had double-digit carries in each game, proving his durability.
Arizona should take a good hard look at McGuire and let him become their next big “small school impact” draft pick. They don’t need to spend a premium pick with a top 3 NFL running back, but a piece like McGuire to complement him and add some of the same skills wouldn’t be amiss for the Cardinals in the 6th round.
Round 7, Pick 13
Kenny Allen, P, Michigan
The final selection. And I go back to special teams with a lot of the board and players picked dry, but perhaps there are still gems to be found. There were other players and positions but punter stood out to me with this selection.
Allen was a walk-on who worked his way up to a scholarship at Michigan and, per NFLDraftScout.com, averaged 47.7 yards per punt and downd 4 of the 8 punts he had inside Florida State’s 20 yard line in his bowl game.
For Cardinals fans who put up with Drew Butler, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? If Allen can be a capable punter (and he was even the placekicker this year as well) at the next level, adding him and Gonzalez in the draft will address Arizona’s poor special teams specialist play, while also getting back some of their coverage teams players from injury.
So, to summarize:
Found two starters at Safety and Inside Linebacker in the first round with a possible starter at cornerback in the 3rd, followed by a Wide Receiver, young QB (at least backup-level) and rounded it out with a backup RB and some special teams help.
All in all, if Arizona decides to punt on this year’s QB class, I could see a similar draft like this happening. It’s a defensive-laden draft and the key to Arizona’s offense might be more getting guys healthy versus trying to completely retool the offense in what’s likely to be Palmer’s final year.
Any thoughts? Feel free to sound off in the comments!
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