With the start of free agency looming, we can start to truly put the pieces together for the 2013 NFL Draft and have a better idea of not just the positional targets of the Arizona Cardinals, but the players that will fit those needs.
However, that is at least a week away, and I still have one scenario to play out come draft day. This is the one I am guessing most Cardinals fans are hoping comes to fruition.
The question isn’t whether or not the Cardinals fans want a left tackle with the seventh pick; it is if they will be happy getting the second or maybe even third-best left tackle on the board.
The Chiefs, Eagles, and Lions all present possible obstacles in the Cardinals’ draft day plans for attaining their best left tackle since Lomas Brown. But for now, I’ll allow for us to dream together about Eric Fisher falling to seven, and what that could lead to in rounds 2-6.
Round 1: Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan – 6-7, 305 lbs
Fisher is an amazing physical specimen who grew into a potential franchise left tackle over his four years at Central Michigan. He now looks like a top 10 lock, and likely top 5 pick in this draft.
Fisher blends great athleticism with excellent technique, shows a natural bend in his knees in pass pro and uses his length to keep defenders at bay while mirroring them in their pass rush.
In the run game, he displays an easy get off and does a good job walling off defenders at the point of attack and controlling them, although not necessarily rooting them out.
He isn’t a finesse player in any way, but he can be slow to initiate contact and will get stood up at times by a defender’s punch that can allow them to counter and get past him.
While he isn’t flawless (no prospect is), he projects at the very least as a Jordan Gross-type — a 10-year starter at the left tackle position, but could be an upgraded version of Joe Staley if he reaches his full potential.
Round 2: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State – 6-2, 185 lbs
Banks had a rough combine and that poor showing may be a benefit to a number of teams including the Cardinals.
Banks is a part of a new breed of corners: long, lean, lanky and athletic man cover corners that excel in shadowing receivers and attacking the ball.
While Banks may not be elite in his long speed, he shows the technique necessary to mirror and shows an amazing ability to change directions and make plays when the ball is in the air.
He’s a former safety and it shows in his run support, as he loves to attack the play downfield and get after the ball carrier.
The concerns on Banks are two-fold. One, he isn’t a track star athlete, and two, he needs to add weight which could possibly make him slower.
While some people worry about Banks, I think he could be the next Aqib Talib (without the crazy) and be a great compliment to a thin Cardinals secondary.
Round 3: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee – 6-6, 235 lbs
Bray has special arm talent, something that will be looked at more deeply over the next couple of weeks.
His technique, footwork and mechanics all need work and he needs to show that he has grown up off the field, but I think with Bruce Arians and Tom Moore behind him, they could get the absolute most out of Bray’s skills.
Round 4: Brian Winters, OG, Kent State – 6-4, 320 lbs
Winters is likely going to be making the transition from tackle in college to guard in the NFL and that could be a fun move to watch.
Winters is a former high school wrestler who brings that mentality to the football field. He is the type that likes to attack, latch on and then punish his blocking assignments.
Winters plays with a natural feel to the game in pass protection and does an excellent job of mirroring or attacking when needed.
In the run game, Winters does a good job at the point of attack, churns his legs and redirects his opponent well.
Round 5: Michael Buchanan, OLB, Illinois – 6-5, 255 lbs
Buchanan was on his way up draft boards before an altercation left him with a broken jaw that was required to be wired shut. In turn he lost 20 pounds and disappointed in 2012, but that could be to some teams’ benefit.
Buchanan does a good job getting to the quarterback and shows a nice ability to rush the passer using both speed rushes and power moves to get by tackles.
He has excellent hips and showed a good ability in coverage when asked to line up at linebacker in college.
He needs to get stronger, which is something he was unable to do after the incident. He can get run at too often because he lacks the strength to stack and shed blockers at the point of attack.
Round 6 (Pick 166): Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State 6-2, 243 lbs
The injured linebacker from “Linebacker U” may be a bargain on draft day.
Mauti isn’t a physical freak like some playing the inside linebacker position now. But in the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense he would be the perfect run-stopping strong side middle backer next to Daryl Washington.
What’s better is that the chatter coming off the combine is that teams feel like Mauti’s experience in rehab and his love of the game makes teams less fearful of taking a chance on him come draft day.
Round 6: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State 6-3, 194 lbs
Early Doucet is gone, the Cardinals need a deep threat in Arians’ offense and Wilson was a day two pick at worst before he was booted out of Washington State.
He is a long strider, not a burner, but knows how to create separation and wins with an impressive vertical and possesses a tenacity to go after the ball.
I have no idea whether or not Wilson will even be here at this point, but the Cardinals need another weapon, one that can attack vertically, and Wilson could be a steal at this point.
As free agency begins, the Cardinals and their newfound cap space (although it’s still not a lot) will help clarify what they could do come draft time, but it is fun to go through all the possibilities.