ESPN’s Kiper presents some pass rush options for Cardinals to draft
Few people understand the NFL Draft like Mel Kiper, Jr. does, so when the ESPN NFL analyst shares his thoughts, it’s probably best to pay attention.
His most recent mock draft, which was released on Feb. 18, had the Arizona Cardinals selecting Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa with the No. 29 pick, with the understanding that the team is fairly desperate to find a pass rusher in the draft.
A guest of the Off the Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday, Kiper talked about how while not necessarily common, history has shown a team can find quality pass rushers late in the first round.
“Because it’s hard to identify some of these guys,” he mused. “They grow into a position as an outside linebacker or a defensive end once they are in the NFL, or they develop better technique, better counter-moves. Coaching has a lot to do with the development of a player.”
Indeed, some of the game’s best pass rushers have not been selected among the draft’s first 10 or 15 picks, though at the same time, many of the best were. As it is with any position talent can be found all throughout the draft, it’s just a matter of finding it and then having the patience to let the player mature and become an effective rusher.
And for the Cardinals, Kiper has a few players in mind.
“I think the pass rushers this year that you have to look out at and look out for for Arizona would be late in Round 1, Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State, who had I think a decent but not a great year but then had a phenomenal workout — he looked like a two, now maybe he’s a late one,” he said. “Kevin Dodd from Clemson who had a great year but didn’t test well, he could be around at that particular point.
“And then Noah Spence is going to be interesting because he had a great start to his career at Ohio State, then moved on to Eastern Kentucky — had an off the field issue — has a great year at Eastern Kentucky, great Senior Bowl week, then just an average workout. So will he be there? We’ll see. Leonard Floyd from Georgia tests a little bit better than he plays. Kamalei Correa, Boise State, just a heck of a football player.
“So I think those are some of the options that are really in play late in round one for Arizona.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the ArizonaSports.com Mock Draft Tracker shows Ogbah, Dodd, Spence, Correa and Floyd linked to Arizona fairly often, with a handful of other players mixed in.
One position they are not often projected to draft is cornerback, though the Cardinals also seem to have a need there, too.
If he was running the Cardinals and had to address pass rush or cornerback in the first round, Kiper said he would choose pass rush but sees some defensive backs who could help.
“It depends on what type of corner you’re looking for,” he said. “I’ll throw Artie Burns from Miami of Florida, I’ll throw his name out there if you want a corner who could be viable in the late first.”
But, Kiper said, there figures to be more opportunity for the Cardinals to land a rusher in Floyd, Correa or maybe Spence. He also mentioned Jaylon Smith, who was considered to be one of the best defensive players in the country before he tore his ACL and MCL in Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State.
“I look at Jaylon Smith as a guy, who, where’s he going to go,” Kiper asked. “Is he going to be a mid-one, a late-one, a two? Here’s a guy who would have been in the mix to be the No. 1 pick in the draft.”
The knee injury will keep Smith off the field in 2016, meaning whatever team takes him is essentially going to redshirt him in preparation for 2017.
“He’s a kid that we really don’t have a handle on as to where he’s going to go.”