ESPN’s Kiper Jr. mocks QB Jackson to Cardinals, who must draft offensively

Apr 1, 2018, 3:58 PM
Lamar Jackson warms up before his workout in front of NFL scouts during Louisville's football Pro D...
Lamar Jackson warms up before his workout in front of NFL scouts during Louisville's football Pro Day, Thursday, March 29, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Realistically, the Arizona Cardinals would need a lot of things to go right — and more than a few surprises — to become a Super Bowl contender in 2018.

Even if a playoff appearance is in play, the team’s long-term outlook doesn’t favor Arizona on the offensive side of the ball.

The Cardinals’ two new quarterbacks, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, don’t appear to be more than stop-gaps. Larry Fitzgerald could always retire after one more season.

After David Johnson, the offense needs renewed talent at the skill positions.

That’s why ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay believe the Cardinals will draft a quarterback, even if a handful are off the board when they select 15th overall.

On Wednesday, Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft had the Cardinals selecting Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson after four quarterbacks went in the top-five picks.

Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon are short-term solutions for a team that has seen a talent drain since it went to the NFC title game in the 2015 season. There are holes all across the Cardinals’ roster, particularly at wide receiver, as Larry Fitzgerald will be 35 when the season begins. Jackson is one of the most dynamic quarterback talents I’ve ever scouted, but he’s raw. As I wrote in my updated Big Board, if a smart offensive coordinator builds his offense around Jackson’s strengths, the former Heisman Trophy winner could be a star.

Project or not, Kiper Jr. said in a follow-up First Draft podcast that any quarterback selected at 15th better be ready to play as a rookie.

“Bradford, the issue there is health. And Glennon, can he even play at a high level?” Kiper Jr. said. “And their offensive line, even though they added (guard Justin) Pugh and have (tackle Andre) Smith, and (left tackle D.J.) Humphries is back, that offensive line has got to come through for Bradford.

“You got Johnson coming off injury, and wide receiver is a big, big question. That offense looks shaky right now, with Bradford or whoever. You’re a young quarterback playing for Arizona, you better be ready to play.”

McShay’s early March mock draft had UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen falling to Arizona at the No. 15 pick. McShay believes Arizona, even with a defensive-minded first-year coach in Steve Wilks, must shore up its offensive issues early on in the draft.

That goes beyond the quarterback position, where he joins Kiper Jr. in doubting Bradford’s ability to remain healthy.

“This is what happens when you spend a lot of your early resources in the draft on one side of the ball — and they needed to,” McShay said of the Cardinals’ recent drafts. “When you do that and you miss on a couple guys, all of a sudden you’re deficient in an area. I think clearly they’re deficient in their offensive skill positions outside of David Johnson.”

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ESPN’s Kiper Jr. mocks QB Jackson to Cardinals, who must draft offensively