It’s almost here. One day before free agency starts and the Arizona Cardinals have been linked to numerous free agents (hello, Jared Veldheer *crosses fingers*) including their own; players like Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy.
That means that a mock draft at this point, a pre-free agency mock draft, would be almost pointless. ‘Almost’ being the key word.
You see mock drafts serve a fantastic purpose, no not predicting which team will pick which player, it helps fans get to know players in later rounds, and it helps to paint a very broad picture in what the positions could be available to address throughout the rounds.
Last year, the exercise was looking at different positions that could be addressed, and one of those faux seven-round Cardinals mock drafts yielded the result of drafting a first round guard, albeit the wrong one, something that many, myself included, didn’t think would happen because it almost never happens.
Over at RevengeoftheBirds.com, we’ve look at the Cardinals addressing the safety early, the cornerback early, and that pesky tight end position, but there are two positions left before we’ve hit all the “Keim needs” not named offensive line early.
That leads us to this six-round mock draft projection:
Round 1 – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Cardinals spent time at the Golden Gophers Pro Day, and they seem very intent on finding defensive line depth and adding young talent to the rotation.
Hageman is a monstrous force who can run hot and cold at times, but would fit well learning behind fellow monster Calais Campbell, and the persistent Darnell Dockett.
Round 2 – Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
The Cardinals have lots of free agency money, so there is a good chance that they address safety before the draft, but we won’t know that until Tuesday at the earliest.
Bucannon is an elite athlete, and showed that at the combine.
He wasn’t asked to do a ton in coverage at Washington State, but working with a guy like Todd Bowles would get the most out of him.
Round 3 – Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
Perhaps the biggest winner of the combine, Bitonio is an explosive, athletic tackle/guard prospect who, if the Cardinals sign a left tackle in free agency, can come in and compete at right tackle or right guard immediately.
Bitonio is a tenacious non-stop worker who will give it his all on the field and bring a nasty attitude to the Cardinals offensive line.
Round 4 – Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
Grabbing a speed wide receiver deep in the draft is something Bruce Arians does well consistently and Ellington has some of his cousin in him (Andre Ellington, for those that do not know).
Ellington isn’t the ideal size WR, but he has elite speed and change of direction skills, and will add another dimension to the Cardinals’ offense.
Round 5 – Aaron Lynch, Edge Rusher, South Florida
Lynch has first-round talent, but numerous off-field red flags (alleged) have many wondering if he’s even draftable.
The Cardinals are not afraid to take players with checkered pasts, and Lynch would be reined in by the likes of John Abraham and Calais Campbell.
Lynch has a very good first step, shows the ability to bend the edge and has the length and strength to set the edge in the run game.
He could be a game changer found in late rounds.
Round 6 – Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
Maybe the Cardinals aren’t in the market for a quarterback in this draft, maybe they are, but one thing is sure: Savage has the size/arm/knowledge that Arians loves in his quarterbacks.
Savage took a bit of a weird route to Pitt and that has caused some concern among evaluators that he may not be up to facing in-house competition. But for a sixth round pick with upside, he’s about all you can ask for.
With the Cardinals going full-bore into free agency, a mock draft, especially a six-round mock draft is more about the positions, than about the names at those picks.
More importantly, the Cardinals may not have to look for a left tackle in the draft at all if the rumored signing of Veldheer pans out.