By this time it’s no secret what the fans, Valley media, and national pundits think the Cardinals need to do in round one of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Sure, the sentiment may be split 50/50 on the Cardinals taking an offensive tackle or quarterback in round one, but that is pretty much the consensus at this point.
There is one problem with the pick being a consensus in February though… It’s February, so we have no idea what’s going to happen.
I have broken down the Cardinals’ biggest needs, then taken the time to list the top ten prospects at each of those need positions: quarterback, pass rusher, interior offensive lineman, and offensive tackle, but does that make it a slam dunk the Cardinals go with one of those positions at seven?
Let’s look at it another way and suppose the draft’s first six picks go off like this:
Chiefs- Geno Smith
Jaguars- Dion Jordan
Raiders- Sheldon Richardson
Eagles- Luke Joeckel
Lions- Eric Fisher
Browns- Barkevious Mingo
That leaves the Cardinals in a bit of a lurch. They could pull the trigger on Lane Johnson, a guy I called the offensive tackle with the most upside in the draft, but taking a guy like Johnson at seven involves all the risk of taking Levi Brown at five.
Is that the way GM Steve Keim and HC Bruce Arians want to start their tenure, reaching for a possible need on a very inexperienced left tackle, albeit with a larger upside than Brown had?
Then there is the thought of drafting Chance Warmack at seven. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, would be happier if the Cardinals took Warmack at seven, but there hasn’t been a guard drafted in the top 10 in the draft since 1997. Are the Cardinals and this new regime really brave enough to take that leap?
That leaves the list of prospects that fit into what the Cardinals want to do as… shallow.
I saw the outcry of what even mentioning a quarterback at seven can cause; that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but let’s leave that discussion for another day.
Guys like Bjoern Werner and Damontre Moore won’t fit into the Cardinals’ 3-4 scheme, in my opinion, as I can’t see them being as effective standing up as outside linebackers and they aren’t nearly big enough to work as 3-4 defensive ends.
Who are some prospects that could be available at seven if this is how the draft unfolds and the Cardinals aren’t willing to pull the trigger on young Lane or a quarterback?
Star Lotulelei, DT Utah 6-4 320lbs
While many see the defensive line as a strength, the reality is the Cardinals are thin at both defensive end spots after Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett.
Lotulelei has been compared to Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, and that comparison should make Cardinals fans even more intrigued if they decided to truly go “best player available.”
Star would be able to work into the defensive line rotation early and often, working from nose tackle to both end spots, and upgrade a unit that struggled to stop the run consistently.
He also would be insurance for the Cardinals if they decided to let go of Dockett after 2013 or refuse to pick up the club option on Dan Williams’ 2014 contract.
Dee Milliner, CB Alabama 6-1 200lbs
As the NFL continues in its copycat ways, we will see teams looking to grab cornerbacks with more size and ball skills than turn and run athletes.
The Seahawks have perhaps the best secondary in the NFL with this philosophy, and Milliner is that type of corner.
Big, long and athletic, Milliner doesn’t have the elite speed of Patrick Peterson or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but he is a physical ball hawk that loves to play press coverage.
The Cardinals have needs in their secondary, as only three corners are under contract for 2013, and adding a talent such as Milliner never hurts.
Kenny Vaccaro, FS Texas 6-1 218lbs
While the Cardinals and Adrian Wilson decide on their future together, one has to wonder at what point the team will look to getting a safety of the future on the roster.
Kerry Rhodes played extremely well in 2012, but turns 31 in August and is due $6 million in salary for 2013.
Vaccaro is the prototype of the new NFL safety.
Big, fast and versatile, Vaccaro lined up all over the field for the Longhorns in 2012, even covering receivers in the slot at times. He attacks the line of scrimmage with a Wilson-like fury against the run, and has improved on creating turnovers.
Adding a player like Vaccaro would make the transition from the Wilson era much easier for Cardinals fans, and may actually improve the Cardinals defense.
While the three prospects above won’t address the most glaring needs on the Cardinals’ roster, they are all realistic possibilities if the offensive tackles and outside linebackers are gone early and the team’s brass doesn’t see a quarterback worth taking at seven or the value in taking a guard that early.