ARIZONA CARDINALS

Mel Kiper’s first 2018 NFL mock draft has Cardinals taking DB

Jan 18, 2018, 8:25 AM | Updated: Jan 19, 2018, 12:38 pm
Iowa's Josh Jackson (15) celebrates with teammate Miles Taylor, left, after intercepting a pass dur...
Iowa's Josh Jackson (15) celebrates with teammate Miles Taylor, left, after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against North Texas, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Four teams are still vying to win Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis next month.

The other 28 teams are in the midst of their offseason processes, which may include a coaching search, evaluation of free agents and draft preparation.

Yes, it’s officially mock draft season in the NFL — that time of the year where experts (and a lot of non-experts) project what will happen in April when the draft rolls around.

Mock draft season is especially newsworthy when ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. publishes his projections. He did that Thursday on ESPN.com, and has the Arizona Cardinals going defense with the 15th overall pick in the form of Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson.

This is a tough spot because the Cardinals don’t have a coach yet. Could they target a quarterback? … that also could come in free agency. Arizona has been looking for years for a corner to play opposite of superstar Patrick Peterson, and Jackson is a good fit. He was phenomenal in his lone season as a starter, picking off eight passes, including three in the Hawkeyes’ win over Ohio State. He has great length at 6-1 and has long arms. The question will be his straight-line speed, so his 40-yard dash time will be big. But Jackson was the best corner in college football in 2017.

As Kiper points out, Jackson was phenomenal in 2017 for Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes. The junior from Corinth, Texas had 18 pass breakups to go along with his eight interceptions for 168 yards, which led the nation. Jackson also returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 38-14 loss to Wisconsin, becoming the first player in Big Ten history to accomplish that feat.

He was a unanimous All-American selection, was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and won the Jack Tatum Award, which is presented to the nation’s most outstanding defensive back.

In early mock drafts, the Cardinals have been linked mostly to offensive players, more specifically quarterbacks. Many Arizona fans feel that the Cardinals, by having the 15th pick, might be left out in the cold when it comes to finding their quarterback of the future. Kiper’s first mock, at least temporarily, confirms those fears.

Kiper’s projections include four quarterbacks going in the top 13 picks — Josh Allen of Wyoming first overall to Cleveland, Josh Rosen of UCLA going second to the Giants, USC’s Sam Darnold fifth to Denver and Oklahoma’s Heisman-winning Baker Mayfield landing in Washington with the 13th pick.

That doesn’t leave much for the Cardinals in terms of signal callers. Kiper doesn’t have another QB going in the first 32 picks in his projections right now.

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Mel Kiper’s first 2018 NFL mock draft has Cardinals taking DB