NFL Draft experts widely expect the Arizona Cardinals to shore up their defensive pass rush this summer, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper is included. In his 2.0 mock draft, Kiper has the Cardinals picking Boise State outside linebacker Kamalei Correa with their first-round selection.
Correa offers some of what we saw from a young Freeney as a quick-twitch edge rusher who can beat tackles with quickness and could be a useful situational pass-rusher early in his career for a team that needs to close out games as teams play catch-up throwing the ball. See the QB, get the QB.
Correa, who left Boise State following his junior year, recorded 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks for the Broncos in 2015, down from his Mountain West Conference-leading 19 tackles for loss and 12 sacks during his sophomore season.
At 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, Correa overwhelmed college opponents with his speed, instincts and motor but could use some coaching up when it comes to getting off blocks and using his hands, according to scouting reports.
With veteran Dwight Freeney’s eight sacks potentially gone in free agency, Arizona certainly could use more depth in its front seven and Correa could be valuable as an outside linebacker or defensive end, where he played in college.
However, the Cardinals already have two prospects from last season’s draft that would compete with Correa for a role in 2016. Outside linebacker and second-round pick Markus Golden showed promise by recording four sacks and forcing two fumbles, while Arizona hopes fifth-round selection Shaq Riddick can force his way into a contributing role.
Plus, as Kiper mentions, there’s a lot of time between now and draft day that could change the franchise’s direction when it comes to need.