What can the Arizona Cardinals do in the 2017 NFL Draft to get back on top of the NFC West for 2017 and beyond? How will they upgrade key spots?
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May 6, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians (left) with general manager Steve Keim during rookie minicamp at the Cardinals Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
After a first place finish to end the 2015 season in the NFC West, the 2016 campaign has not quite gone according to plan for the Arizona Cardinals.
Heading into a Sunday road game against the Atlanta Falcons, the Cardinals have regressed considerably, despite the emergence of star running back David Johnson. Johnson has been electrifying, making plays as both a runner and receiver, but the high-flying Arizona offense has taken a significant step back, largely due to the play of Carson Palmer.
Palmer doesn’t look like the same guy out there on Sundays, and thus, neither do players like Michael Floyd or John Brown, who have been a shell of their former selves this year.
Arizona upgraded their defense this past year by trading for Chandler Jones, who remains a fixture for the future. The core of this team is still in-tact, but the future is in serious doubt due to a lack of future plans at the quarterback position.
I want to take a look at ways the Cardinals could improve this offseason, not taking free agency into consideration just yet. Some of these needs could disappear via free agency or trades, but this is how I see it currently. Here’s a shot at a three-round mock draft that could help the Cardinals get back on top in the NFC West…
Oct 1, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) returns a punt against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
DESMOND KING, CB, IOWA
With their first round pick, I like the idea of the Arizona Cardinals adding Iowa cornerback and 2015 Jim Thorpe award winner Desmond King. King is one of the most pro-ready players in this draft. Taking him somewhere in the middle of the first round or in the ‘teens’ would be great value in my opinion, and give the Cardinals a player that can start immediately.
If there’s an area of weakness on the Arizona defense, it’s at the cornerback position where Patrick Peterson obviously can’t cover the whole field.
King’s ability to be physical around the line of scrimmage and shut down receivers are already well-seasoned. He’s going to be a top flight NFL cornerback and would be a welcomed addition in Arizona. He can not only shut down one side of the field at cornerbacks, King is also one of the best return men in the country.
Nov 5, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) drops back to pass against the University of Texas Longhorns in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
PATRICK MAHOMES II, QB, TEXAS TECH
What the Cardinals do moving forward at the quarterback position will be among the more interesting storylines to follow in the NFL this offseason. Carson Palmer is still under contract, but there needs to be a contingency plan, one better than Drew Stanton.
It’s time the Cardinals invest in a quarterback, and this could be the perfect time.
I like Patrick Mahomes’ potential in the NFL, but I think he’ll need time to develop an ability to read NFL defenses. Texas Tech’s offense is certainly not a pro-style offense, and therefore, it’s hard to see Mahomes having wild success as a rookie. However, two, three years down the road, this is a player that could really be something.
Some people have thrown comparisons to Derek Carr around with Mahomes. Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN has Mahomes ranked second among all draft-eligible quarterbacks behind North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky.
He might not play in a pro-style offense, but the skills are there for Mahomes to be one of the best dual-threat QBs to come out of this class, which has a lot of boom/bust potential.
Sep 3, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Eastern Washington Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) is chase down by Washington State Cougars linebacker Dylan Hanser (33) during the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
3. COOPER KUPP, WR, EASTERN WASHINGTON
The Cardinals have proven that the school which you attended does not prevent them from using high draft choices on you, and Kupp is a big receiver worthy of this selection.
With the situation of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd uncertain beyond this season, wide receiver could suddenly become an area of significant need for the Cardinals.
This could be a position the Cardinals look to upgrade in the first round of the draft or with some significant free agent dollars, but one way or another — look for someone to come in and hopefully challenge for a starting spot in 2017.