The Arizona Cardinals are somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to their 2017 NFL Draft possibilities, but we tackle them in this seven-round mock draft.
Now just two weeks away from the 2017 NFL Draft draft rumors are becoming more clear, and that includes the Arizona Cardinals camp. Usually as we get closer to draft day, the more smokescreens we read and the less real news we receive. However, there are ways we can track what our favorite teams are really thinking as draft day approaches.
One thing to look at is which players are coming in on official visits. A team is allowed 30 official visits from prospects to their team facilities. Often they’re not wasted on guys they’re not interested in.
The biggest question in the desert revolves around their 13th overall selection: Do they go quarterback, wide receiver or cornerback? General manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians have a big decision to make. So what will they do? Let’s take a look in this seven-round mock draft.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 13: DeShaun Watson, QB – Clemson
Signs keep pointing towards the Cardinals taking a quarterback in the first two rounds. With Carson Palmer aging, they need someone coming in and learning the ropes at the professional level sooner rather than later. It’s all about picking the right one.
Who better than the man with a National Championship ring? DeShaun Watson was undeniably successful at the collegiate level, leading the Clemson Tigers to two consecutive national championship appearances. He finished his career with over 10,000 passing yards and 90 touchdown passes including a near 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The Cardinals brought Watson in on an official visit showing interest in the former Tiger. However, they brought other quarterbacks in such as Davis Webb and DeShone Kizer for visits, too.
Who Keim wants and when to take him depends on other draft trends and a vision for the Arizona’s future at the quarterback position. Best-case scenario here would be to trade down and possibly select Webb at the tail end of Round 1. Chances are, though, that won’t be an option either.
Mar 3, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2, Pick 45: Adam Shaheen, TE – Ashland
If you love NFL Draft talk then you’re loving all the possibilities at tight end this year. From O.J. Howard down to Greg Kittle, there’s a batch of eight-ish tight ends that teams are falling in love with. The guy Arizona needs to keep pursuing is Adam Shaheen.
You know who Shaheen is by now. Or, maybe you don’t. He’s a small-school prospect putting Ashland, OH and the Ashland University football program on the map this spring. In the span of just over three months, he’s taken 159 career receptions and 26 touchdowns and turned them into baby Gronk comparisons.
The comparisons are fair. He’s gone from a 200-pound high school senior to 277 pounds in the last four years. And at 6-7, he’ll be the tallest player running through a secondary.
Arizona brought him in for a private workout, making it known that a combine look wasn’t enough. I expect they’ll be bringing him in on a visit in the coming weeks.
Round 3, Pick 77: Corn Elder, CB – Miami
Like Shaheen, the cornerback-needy Cardinals brought Corn Elder in for a private workout. Aside from Sidney Jones, Elder is my favorite cornerback coming out this year for more reasons than just this play.
That play shows a lot about not only what kind of player he is, but what kind of competitor, too. His aggressiveness comes out, but so does proof of time spent watching tape during the week. Elder isn’t hesitant to get involved in the run game or rush the passer. Last year he had 76 tackles, including three sacks.
This pick concludes addressing three big needs Arizona has coming into draft weekend. Quarterback for the future, dynamic (big) option for the offense and another quality cornerback to add to the secondary.
Nov 9, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) carries the ball after a catch against Toledo Rockets defensive back Connery Swift (3) during the second half at Guaranteed Rate Field. Toledo defeats Northern Illinois 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4, Pick 120: Kenny Golladay, WR – NIU
From North Dakota to Northern Illinois, Kenny Golladay spent five seasons at the college level, which included a year of sitting out after a transfer in 2014. In two seasons with the Huskies he saw a lot of success — albeit against MAC competition — catching 160 passes for 2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Ralph Mancini over at Lombardi Aveconducted an interview with the 6-4 Golladay, going in-depth on why he decided to transfer and his success at NIU. Keim would welcome a big, speedy receiver to Arians’ arsenal this season. He’ll need a solid year to mold into an NFL receiver, but as a fourth round pick it’s a shot worth taking.
Round 5, Pick 157: Nazair Jones, DT – North Carolina
The Calais Campbell departure from Arizona has been well documented this offseason. It was unlikely he’d be retained given what many expected him to demand. Keim prepared for it last year when he drafted Robert Nkemdiche 29th overall in last year’s NFL Draft. Whether or not Nkemdiche can fill the void left by Campbell is left to be seen.
Depth on a defensive line is needed regardless of the expectations of the starting unit. Someone that would be a great asset to the defensive line is Nazair Jones, a run-stuffing tackle/end that should be solid at the next level. He only had five total sacks as a Tar Heel, so at this point he’s one dimensional, which ultimately hurts his stock.
4.50-second speed and a 39-inch vertical jump is enough to garner attention. To add 32 bench reps at 225 pounds — the same that Ndamukong Suh put up at the NFL Combine — makes you worry why he slipped to the cracks.
The knock on Cole is the competition he played against at the collegiate level. While FCS players find great success at the professional level, it’s hard to project what they’ll do making the jump to the NFL.
Keim likes Cole which is why he scheduled a private workout immediately following the Missouri State pro day. Cole has also taken an official visit to Arizona’s facilities. If he’s available at No. 179, then he’ll be a Cardinal in 2017.
Sep 26, 2015; Lincoln, NE, USA; Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles center Cameron Tom (70) holds the ball as time expires before he can get the snap off against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 36-28. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6, Pick 197: Cameron Tom, C – Southern Miss
The Cardinals utilize a zone-blocking scheme under Arians, something Cameron Tom played in at Southern Miss. He’s a reliable lineman, playing in 27-straight games all while being named to the first-team all-Conference USA both his junior and senior seasons.
These last two rounds are about depth and Tom provides that on the offensive line where Arizona needs it.
Round 7, Pick 231: Johnathan Ford, S – Auburn
Johnathan Ford is entering the NFL after making 280 tackles at Auburn. One tackle he missed was on this year’s top running back, Leonard Fournette.
That’s the kind of effort that’ll get you benched (if not released) at the NFL level. Ford should have a shot at playing time on defense at the NFL (possibly more-so in nickel situations) ,but should otherwise be a solid special teams contributor.
Ford was one of Arizona’s official 30-man visits thus far. Keim has interest in the former Tigers safety. For a team that needs more depth at the position it never hurts to bring in an SEC defensive playmaker.