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Versatile lineman Holden confident skill translates to NFL

Vanderbilt offensive tackle Will Holden competes in a drill at the 2017 NFL football scouting combine Friday, March 3, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals added to their offensive line with the first of their two fifth-round picks Saturday, choosing Vanderbilt’s Will Holden 157th overall.

The 6-foot-7, 311-pound lineman said the Cardinals see him as a tackle.

“They’ve got me slotted as a tackle, which would be nice, but I’m ready to get in there and compete for a job whether it’s at tackle or guard,” he said.

Holden started 37 games at Vanderbilt, with the last 25 coming at left tackle. His future seems to be at right tackle, however, especially with the Cardinals moving 2015 first-round pick D.J. Humphries to the left side.

“Another guy, extremely smart, versatile, understands the game, good technician,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said. “Really good feet and natural bend for a big man — almost 6-foot-8 — went down to the Senior Bowl, played inside, played outside.”

Holden was the second offensive lineman the Cardinals drafted Saturday, following the selection of Dorian Johnson in the fourth round. Last season, Arizona added linemen Evan Boehm and Cole Toner in the draft.

Keim said the plan has been to continue adding depth to the offensive line with hopes that some of the younger players could potentially develop into starters.

“We all know that you can’t pay everybody,” he said. “There are three or four guys on our offensive line making some good money and it’s good to have some young talent infused at that position, particularly guys who love it and, more than anything, are smart.”

Holden described his style of play as being cerebral because it starts before the play is snapped in diagnosing defenses and schemes.

“And then going from there and, I like to run the ball,” he said. “Run-blocking, just powering it down the throat of the defense is always good.”

Keim said if he had to point out somewhere Holden needs to improve, strength would be it. But, he noted, few offensive lines in the NFL feature first-round picks all the way across.

Holden is seen as someone who is mostly solid, though with short arms and not particularly quick, may struggle with some of the league’s better edge rushers. That said, he was projected to be taken sooner than where the Cardinals got him.

He said he did not necessarily expect the Cardinals to be the ones who called him since he spoke with them at the Senior Bowl and the Shrine Game but that was about it. He feels his versatility was attractive, as was his skill set.

“It’s not every day you get a player like myself, a kid coming out of Vanderbilt who can bend, who’s 6-7,” he said. “There’s a lot of tall guys who can’t bend down and play lower, so I think that’s going to translate really well with their organization.”

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