NFL Draft: Evaluating Cardinals team needs
The Arizona Cardinals enter the Bruce Arians era with more questions than answers. The answers will begin to roll in over the next couple of months as we enter the free agency period and my personal favorite time of year, the NFL Draft.
For the Arizona Cardinals, the first thing we need to do is identify the areas of greatest needs that should be addressed in the 2013 draft.
I have gone back and forth over how to determine the greatest needs of the Cardinals, and decided I wanted to do a little digging first.
Using the great resources of Pro Football Focus, I decided to take a look at the teams that participated in the Super Bowl the last five seasons in order to figure out if there is a consistent position or positions that they rated highly.
Let’s see if there is any correlation to the highest-rated non-QB position on each of the last five Super Bowl participants. Maybe that can lead us to whether or not that position needs to be looked at by the Arizona Cardinals.
(Note I am not listing half time players such as FBs.)
|San Francisco 49ers||Baltimore Ravens|
|Joe Staley – OT||Marshall Yanda – OG|
|Anthony Davis – OT||Ray Rice – RB|
|Alex Boone – OG||Haloti Ngata – DL|
|New England Patriots||New York Giants|
|Rob Gronkowski – TE||Jason Pierre-Paul – DE|
|Brian Waters – OG||Hakeem Nicks – WR|
|Wes Welker – WR||Kenny Phillips – DB|
|Green Bay Packers||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Josh Sitton – OG||James Harrison – OLB|
|Desmond Bishop – LB||Lamarr Woodley – OLB|
|Tramon Williams – DB||Lawrence Timmons – OLB|
|Indianapolis Colts||New Orleans Saints|
|Dwight Freeney – DE||Jahri Evans – OG|
|Robert Mathis – DE||Carl Nicks – OG|
|Reggie Wayne – WR||Jon Stinchcomb – OT|
|Arizona Cardinals||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Larry Fitzgerald – WR||James Harrison – OLB|
|Levi Brown – OT||Troy Polamalu – DB|
|Antonio Smith – DE||Willie Colon – OT|
• 7 Pass rushers
• 6 offensive guards
• 5 offensive tackles (I did not distinguish between left and right tackle, but only 1 made the list.)
After that we see a total mishmash of talent that received the highest Pro Football Focus grades, but it shows that there are consistently three positions that matter in the NFL outside of the QB position: pass rusher, offensive guard and offensive tackle.
When we look at the Arizona Cardinals, we see holes at all three positions and at that point we have established our board of team needs for the Arizona Cardinals:
Quarterback – While Kevin Kolb proved his mettle in his five starts this year, there are persistent questions about his ability to stay healthy as well as a concern from at least one person, me, that he won’t be able to fit into Arians’ offense.
While some draft analysts believe this is a weak QB class, I see a lot of players with potential and only need a little polishing.
Pass Rusher – Anyone that follows me on Twitter has heard me say during the season that the Cardinals need a pass rusher. At the time the position was obviously an OLB, but with the possible switch to a more 4-3 based look, that position may become a need at defensive end.
In today’s NFL there aren’t a lot of differences in players manning the position anymore, and most defensive ends are ranked as outside linebackers by most draft publications. But, the reality is that the Cardinals need a player that can get to the quarterback on a consistent basis from the edge, and this draft class seems to be teeming with talent.
Offensive guard – While some will point to the pass blocking ability of Daryn Colledge, a guard needs to be able to open holes in the running game consistently and Colledge was one of the worst in the league.
Couple that with Adam Snyder being an absolute bust of a free agent signing and it may be time to address the guard position earlier in the draft, at least in day two. In this draft, there will be a lot of talent in day two that could be added.
Offensive Tackle – While there was marked improvement at the end of the season from rookies Bobby Massie and Nate Potter, there certainly is room for improvement at the position.
The addition of Levi Brown back to the rotation may cloud this slightly; I think the fact that there’s a new coaching regime could make Brown the odd man out in any situation. Everyone knows about the potential tackles at the top of the draft.
Other High Priority Positions of Need:
• Defensive Back
• Tight End
Now we know what positions the Cardinals need to begin focusing on for draft day, but what players can fill those roles?