Cardinals will (hopefully) have options at 13
Every player to be drafted over the course of the next three days is in one. After months of evaluating college games, the Combine and individual workouts, every team ranks each player 1-700, but also groups them together in terms of talent pods. Out of every piece of internal information each of the 32 NFL teams try to keep secret, player grouping is close to number one.
If another team knows how you value a prospect, that can be used against you in trade negotiation.
Pod 1 is the same for every team. Only Andrew Luck and RG3 have a ticket into that group. Every team has Claiborne and Kalil in group 2. The question becomes the value of the RB position and your value on Justin Blackmon.
If you value Trent Richardson above the recent disregard for running backs, he's in group 2. If there's no way you're filling that position this early when there are millions of other RB's you can draft later, Richardson drops to the top of whatever shelf you begin to value RB's. Blackmon, on the other hand, is a special WR but not in the elite class of Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, so he floats between pod 2-4 but gets bounced from any attempt to get on stage with Luck and RG3.
The big question for the Arizona Cardinals isn't where they pick today overall (13th), it's what pod will they enter when they select. Do they want to pick first in the 6th grouping of players or last in the 5th group of players? How will the desires of Jacksonville to trade down from #7 affect Arizona? Who is it they value enough that they would trade up to get if they're convinced that player won't be available to them at 13?
The Kevin Kolb trade really handcuffs the Cardinals in the 2012 draft. They can't trade up to get that special player using any 2012 draft picks because Arizona is already down a 2nd round pick to the Eagles in the Kolb deal. This draft is too deep to be giving up more picks for one player. I was against that trade last year and if the Cardinals don't come away with one of three players in today's first round, I will feel more vindicated.
It was early September of 2011. I was fascinated with the importance of an SEC game early in the year. Georgia had already lost to Boise State which is a loss an entire 8- state region of our country took personally. I knew if Georgia lost to South Carolina there would be calls for Mark Richt's head (admittedly I was also hopeful of this in case Richt would come to Arizona State). South Carolina was coming off an appearance in the SEC Championship Game, so there was huge pressure on USC to take the top of the East right from the start. It was here I met Melvin Ingram.
I had seen Ingram at LB in years past when I watched USC (I've watched a lot of their games because I've loved their RB--Marcus Lattimore--since he was a freshman). I always thought Ingram was a good prospect but not special as a LB. In 2010, he was moved to DE and became special. In the Georgia game he ran a fake punt for a touchdown. First reaction: MAN THAT GUY'S FAST FOR HIS SIZE. Second reaction: MAN THAT GUY'S JUST PLAIN FAST. Third reaction: Holy ____ that's Ingram. Fourth reaction: WHAT'S MEL KIPER THINK OF THAT GUY BECAUSE I WANT HIM HERE.
When the Arizona Cardinals select at 13, if Ingram's on the board and the Cardinals pass him up, it won't be a Terrell Suggs moment, but it will be close. Ingram is the clear choice for Arizona.
Since I assume that other NFL GMs have seen Ingram, I realize the chances of Ingram still on the board by 13 is a stretch. This puts the Cardinals in a quandary. DeCastro or Floyd?
Leaving DeCastro on the board to select Floyd is not going to send me off the deep end like passing on Ingram would do. I would disagree with the pick but I would understand it. There is a good rule to follow at pick 13: NEVER TAKE A GUARD THAT HIGH. There is another rule equally applicable: DONT PASS UP A GREAT FOOTBALL PLAYER!
David DeCastro is Russ Grimm. He's not the athlete Grimm was (Grimm was actually a high school QB) but he's not terribly far off. DeCastro is scary smart and violent on the field but not off it. Guard is not a need for the Cardinals. Pass rusher is number one. Tackle is number 2. WR is 3. DeCastro fills none of those needs. Don't care. He's going to be an elite guard in this league for years. Pass him over and look for another one like him for the next 10 years.
Missing out on Ingram or DeCastro but coming away with Michael Floyd is still a successful day. He's an immediate number 2 receiver. All during 2011 training camp, we were told that the number 2 receiver position is not a weakness and the answers could be on the current roster. I disagreed. I was right. After Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have a great array of 3's, 4's and 5's. Floyd instantly makes the offense challenging to defend. Floyd's arrival would quickly make the receiver depth an asset as opposed to a whole bunch of decent players.
What makes Floyd the most interesting is it would end all speculation about whether or not Kolb is the quarterback of the future. If he has a RB tandem of Wells/Williams, a seam runner as strong as Housler/Heap and a foursome of Fitz, Floyd, Doucet and Roberts as weapons, he should be able to move the chains. Yes, he still has Levi Brown at tackle, but with those options on the outside, Dave Burns would be able to lock up the DE long enough to get the ball out.
The nightmare is if Ingram, DeCastro and Floyd are gone by 13. Although I don't think that would happen, it would be time to trade down. It would be hard to find a team who would trade up but if there's still some DTs/LBs on the board, you might be able to convince someone to get ahead of the Cowboys because everyone knows they're going defense (Upshaw/Barron/Perry/Poe). Even better would be to trick Dallas into thinking you're going to deal with someone else and get something to just switch spots.
I usually love the idea of trading down. My problem with it this year is the hidden meaning. The Cards didn't get Ingram, DeCastro or Floyd and couldn't trade up to get him because the 3rd/4th round pick is too valuable when there's no 2nd round pick.
If the Cards pick up Ingram, DeCastro or Floyd, the 49ers will be challenged for a repeat as division champs. If not, go D-Backs.