TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals, like every team, have plenty of holes they can fill through the NFL draft.
They would like to add a power running back and an edge pass rusher, could use some depth at linebacker, cornerback and offensive line.
But, like most of the teams that made last year’s playoffs, the Cardinals don’t have any glaring needs, particularly after general manager Steve Keim addressed a few weaknesses through free agency.
So instead of being locked into finding players for a specific position, Arizona will have multiple options with each of its eight picks in this week’s draft.
”There’s not a dying need at any position, so that we can take the best players available in this draft and not reach for need at all,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. ”Free agency was such a big part of what we did to fill needs and get quality people. I’ve said it a couple of times, we can take the team we have now and go play.”
TURNING IT AROUND: The Cardinals have turned things around quickly under Keim and Arians. Arizona has matched a team record with 21 wins in their two seasons at the helm and reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009 despite a litany of injuries.
The Keim-Arians brain trust has had some success finding immediate contributors during their first two drafts, including safety Deone Bucannon, linebacker Alex Okafor and running back Andre Ellington.
NOT PERFECT: Some of the top picks have struggled with injuries, though. Guard Jonathan Cooper, linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Tyrann Mathieu have all missed significant time the past two years.
BEEFING UP: Keim beefed up the roster during the offseason, adding six players the first week of free agency, including guard Mike Iupati and inside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
That leaves the Cardinals with plenty of flexibility, starting with the No. 24 overall pick, where they could pick up a running back such as Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley, a pass rusher or a cornerback.
”Going into this thing right now, we feel like we can be pretty picky about the type of players we draft, and draft the player who has the most immediate impact for us,” Keim said.
INPUT EVERYWHERE: The biggest thing Keim, a former Cardinals scout, has learned from those first two drafts is to involve everyone, to talk less and listen more.
”At the end of the day, you want everybody in the building to have a high morale,” Keim said. ”You want the coaches to be excited about the players they’re going to coach, because they have to fit, schematically, what our coaches are asking them to do.”
TARGETING THE BACKFIELD: Many mock drafts have Arizona using its first-round pick on a running back.
The Cardinals found a later-round gem in 2013, when they used a sixth-round pick on Ellington, a small-but-elusive player who became the featured back last season. But there have been concerns about Ellington handling being an every-down back at his size – 5-foot-9, 199 pounds – so the Cardinals wouldn’t mind adding a power back to complement him.
They could have a few good choices at No. 24 to fill that need.
Georgia’s Gurley tore up opposing defenses before tearing his ACL, but has been cleared by doctors. He may get picked before the Cardinals have a chance at him, but Wisconsin’s Gordon could still be there. He’s a punishing runner who was the Heisman Trophy runner-up after rushing for 2,587 yards last season, second most in FBS history.
”You look at him (Gordon) and Todd Gurley who a lot of people talk about as the top two backs, it’s pick your poison,” Keim said. ”They’re two different styles. One is a little more of a straight-line banger and uses his size and physicality, and the other guy is a little more of a dynamic perimeter runner. They have a different skill set, both are very good players, though.”
Arizona does have plenty of options – with that pick and all the others.
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