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Mel Kiper’s second mock has Cardinals drafting wide receiver

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, file photo, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) is tackled by Clemson linebacker James Skalski (47) in the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game in New Orleans. How much does Alabama lean on Ridley in the passing game? The junior has 59 catches for 935 yards to lead the Tide. No other receiver has more than 16 receptions of 244 yards. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

There are still 64 days until this year’s NFL Draft, which gets underway April 26 in Arlington, Tex.

As of Wednesday morning, the Arizona Cardinals still own the 15th overall pick in the first round. General manager Steve Keim could go in any number of directions with the pick, if mock drafts are any indication.

A total of 19 different players have been projected to go to the Cardinals in that slot, according to the over 100 entries in ArizonaSports.com’s Mock Draft Tracker.

Some of those mocks hold more weight than others, based on the author.

Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN is one such expert, and his second mock of the season was released on ESPN.com Wednesday morning. It has Arizona selecting Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley with the 15th pick.

I love this fit for both sides. Take a look at the Cardinals’ depth chart from the end of the season. Larry Fitzgerald will be 35 when the 2018 season begins. John Brown and Jaron Brown are free agents. They need a No. 2 receiver. Ridley is far and away the best wideout in this draft class, and getting him at No. 15 is good value. He had 19 career touchdown catches with inconsistent quarterback play. Arizona also needs a quarterback, of course, but I think new coach Steve Wilks & Co. are more likely to go the veteran route. But watch out for the Cardinals if one of the top four QBs falls.

Ridley is considered by most to be the best receiver prospect in this year’s class. In three years in Tuscaloosa, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Ridley caught 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was a key cog in helping the Crimson Tide win two College Football Playoff championships in three appearances.

The Cardinals certainly need help at the receiver position. Yes, veteran Larry Fitzgerald is coming back for 2018, and his production has shown no drop-off in recent seasons. Where there has been a drop-off is in the contributions of the rest of the receiving corps. Jaron Brown had 31 catches in 2017, the second-most among any wideout. He is a free agent, as is John Brown, who had 21 catches for 299 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Both players will become free agents March 14.

J.J. Nelson is expected to return, but the undersized speedster has been affected by dropped passes throughout his three-year career.

The Cardinals are also (no secret) looking for quarterbacks, and could pluck one in the first round, but Kiper’s latest mock has four signal callers being selected in the top 11 picks, leaving Arizona holding the bag in this projection.

Kiper’s first mock draft, released on Jan. 18, had Arizona selecting Iowa defensive back Josh Jackson in the first round.

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