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ESPN’s McShay has Arizona Cardinals nabbing LB Reuben Foster in first round

Alabama's Reuben Foster answers a question during media day for Saturday's Peach Bowl NCAA college football game against Washington in Atlanta, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

There are still nearly three months until the 2017 NFL Draft, but as we know, the mock draft business is thriving even here in early-February.

At ArizonaSports.com, we’ve tracked over 65 mocks since the calendar flipped to 2017 — a number that will increase substantially until the actual draft, which begins April 27.

Certain draft analysts draw more attention when they release a mock. ESPN’s Todd McShay is one of them.

McShay released his second mock draft of the season Wednesday morning, and he has the Arizona Cardinals selecting linebacker Alabama Reuben Foster with the 13th overall pick in the first round.

If the right QB is available here, I wouldn’t count the Cardinals out. With Watson and Trubisky off the board, though, Foster is the pick. He’s one of the 10 best players in this draft; the only reason he might slide a bit is his position. He shed weight and played much faster in 2016, proving to be an every-down linebacker. The Cardinals have six defensive starters set to hit free agency. Whom they re-sign will play a big role in the direction they take with this pick.

As McShay points out, the Cardinals have a lot of free agents, including starting linebacker Kevin Minter, who is coming off a decent 2016 season in which he tallied 95 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. While Minter wasn’t exactly breaking the bank on his rookie contract as a second-round pick, Arizona general manager Steve Keim might look to get younger at the position and let Minter walk this spring.

Foster led the Crimson Tide with 115 total tackles, while adding 13 tackles for loss, five sacks, and two pass breakups in 2016. He had a team-leading 12 tackles in Alabama’s loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff Championship Game in January.

McShay’s first mock draft was released Dec. 13, before college bowl season and before the NFL’s draft order was determined. In that version, he had the Cardinals taking Foster with the 11th selection.

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