2017 NFL Draft: Arizona Cardinals Early March 7-Round Mock Draft

Just before the NFL Combine, the Arizona Cardinals are heading full-steam ahead towards the 2017 NFL Draft. A seven-round mock draft for the Red Birds.

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim currently has eight total picks to work with in the 2017 NFL Draft. He and the Cardinals were recently awarded a compensatory pick in the fifth round after losing five unrestricted free agents in 2016 and signing two.

There are plenty of holes that Keim, along with head coach Bruce Arians, need to hit on to improve off of a mediocre 7-8-1 season. What happens in free agency will influence the whole draft, of course. If Arizona loses Calais Campbell, they could look defensive line in the first round. If they don’t, they can look to the offensive side of the ball and find a top flight weapon for Carson Palmer.

So who should Kiem attack at No. 13? The Arizona Cardinals are on the clock for their first pick in this seven-round mock draft.

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a touchdown against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) during the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Round 1: Mike Williams, WR – Clemson

Is wide receiver a desperate need right now? Not exactly. At least not right now. There’s a lot of talent at the position with the ageless Larry Fitzgerald leading the group.

While not desperate right now, Arizona will be yearning for assets at receiver come 12 months from now. Fitzgerald is close to retiring, John Brown may not be reliable moving forward, and Jaron Brown is coming off a torn ACL. To throw more caution to the wind, both Browns are set to become free agents next offseason. [Insert quarterback] could be in trouble at the start of 2018 season.

With a talent like Mike Williams available at No. 13 there’s no way Arizona can pass on him. With size like Julio Jones, there’s little doubt that he will be a Pro-Bowler right from the start of his career. The 98 catches and 11 touchdowns, along with helping lead a team to a National Championship less than two months ago, are enough to prove his worth.

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a touchdown against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) during the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Round 2: Desmond King, CB/S – Iowa

Cornerback is a big need for Keim and the Cardinals. Outisde of Patrick Peterson, there’s not a reliable option on the outside. If they don’t target one in free agency, it’ll be answered come April.

The first round is a realistic option for the Cards to look at corner. The talent pool is outrageous at cornerback this year, so if they can hit on on another need in the first and have Desmond King fall into their laps in the second round, it’ll be a dream come true.

King would’ve been one of the—if not the very—first corners taken in last year’s draft. After winning the Jim Thorpe Award as a junior for the Hawkeyes, he decided to come back for his senior season to complete his degree. While that may have cost him millions, you can never fault an athlete for that decision with that reasoning behind it.

The big knock on King is his speed. It could ultimately get him moved from corner to safety, a position Arizona may need if Tony Jefferson splits. You’ll see the Combine, however, that King will run a similar 40 to Richard Sherman. It’s safe to say Sherman made a pretty good career for himself, and King has all the tools to do the same.

Round 3: Adam Shaheen, TE – Ashland

Something you’ll find in most Super Bowl caliber teams is a top-notch tight end—one that can be a mismatch running the seam and a big enough body in the trenches. Enter Adam Shaheen. You may or may not have heard of the Ashland University product. At 6-6, 270+ pounds, Shaheen is a mammoth of an athlete that’s built like Rob Gronkowski.

Arizona hasn’t had a top flight tight end in ages. Rob Housler has the most yards in a single season from the position over the span of the last seven seasons with a measly 454 yards. With Jermaine Gresham and Darren Fells sitting as impending free agents (Fells is a restricted free agent), and no top options behind these two, Shaheen would be a welcomed addition.

What he’ll need to do is improve his run blocking. In a scouting report completed by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, his run blocking is noted as his biggest downfall, but his pass catching potential is intriguing enough to be a Day 2 selection. What’s more, the Combine might show everyone that Shaheen is a diamond in the rough that ultimately becomes one of the steals of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Dec 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) warms up before the start of the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Russell Athletic Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Round 4: Brad Kaaya, QB – Miami (FL)

It’s been talk for quite a few months now that head coach Bruce Arians needs to begin finding a replacement for Carson Palmer. Lucky for him, there is a lot of potential for the Cardinals in this year’s draft.

After what’s expected to be a surge of quarterbacks taken in the first round, it’s up in the air when the next batch of signal callers will go. Between Brady Kaaya, Davis Webb, and Nathan Peterman, any of those three could go between Rounds 2 to 4.

Kaaya is one of my favorite quarterback prospects in the 2017 draft class, sneaking into my top-three at the position. He’s had three seasons as a starter in Coral Gables, improving each and every season since taking over. As a senior, he threw for 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes for 3,500+ yards.

Those numbers don’t jump off the paper and his mechanics are tabbed as being flawed, especially under pressure. However, with his experience at the collegiate level and at least a year to learn behind a seasoned veteran, Kaaya has the physical tools and potential to become a viable starting option for Arizona down the road.

Oct 8, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Brigham Young Cougars running back Jamaal Williams (21) runs the ball for a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Round 5: Jamaal Williams, RB – BYU

David Johnson is a prototypical every-down back in today’s NFL. He can beat you with his power and agility on the ground or as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, and Stepfan Taylor are all impending free agents. What Kiem needs to do is target someone that can give David Johnson a play or two off, not be a replacement by any stretch. The Cardinals need someone that can continue to pound the rock with DJ catching his breath before Johnson can come back in and do the rest.

Williams scored 35 touchdowns on the ground throughout his four years at BYU, all while running for over 3,900 yards. That’s enough production alone to warrant any looks from NFL scouts.

Round 5 (Compensatory): Nazair Jones, DT – North Carolina

If Calais Campbell isn’t around come draft time, Keim will need a big man to replace him. Nazair Jones is huge. At 6-6, 295 pounds he’s one of the biggest interior defensive lineman in the draft this season. For that reason alone, this may be a stretch to get him this late—but Cardinals fans can wish.

Not only is he big, but he produced in his time as a Tar Heel. Only three separate times this past season did he have less than five tackles in a game, proving that he’s a tough guy to get past. Coupling that with a strong defensive coaching staff and his size, he could develop into a real force in Arizona.

Sep 17, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Idaho Vandals place kicker Austin Rehkow (5) makes a field goal against the Washington State Cougars during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 56-6. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Round 6: Austin Rehkow, K/P – Idaho

Chandler Catanzaro took a Blair Walsh-esque nose dive this past season as he struggled to be consistent. After making 87.9 and 90.3 percent of his field goals his first two years, respectively, he made just 75 percent this past season. He’s also missed nine extra points the past two seasons.

Like the kicker position, there wasn’t a punter in Arizona in 2016 that effectively did his job either.  Of the four players that kicked punts last season, not one averaged over 44 yards a punt. Ryan Quigley had the most attempts (34) and averaged just 41.6 yards a punt.

A special teams unit needs to be trusted. While the selection of Rehkow is primarily to take over punting duties, he proved he can make field goals as well. If you’re curious about his leg strength, just skip to 30 seconds in on the video below.

That was a 67-yard field goal that he kicked while in high school. There’s no reason to doubt he’s only improved his leg strength since. Rehkow averaged over 46 yards a punt his senior season at Idaho, making him an automatic upgrade.

Round 7: Jerry Ugokwe, OT – William & Mary

Round 7 is solely used as a depth/development round.  As we all know, it’s not very often that seventh-rounders even make the original 53-man cut, depending on how much a team truly needs the depth at that position.

Lance Zierlein provided a great bottom line in terms of what Ugokwe is worth in his profile on NFL.com:

Didn’t pick up the sport until his junior year of high school but has shown rapid growth over the last three years. While there is a lack of consistency in his technique at this time, he has the traits and potential that should provide offensive line coaches with enough ammo to correct his issues.

There’s not a lot of highlight film on small school offensive lineman, but what there is shows a big man with massive potential considering how late in his life he picked up the sport and position. He’s certainly worth a flyer for a team like Arizona.

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