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Mayock, McShay release final mock drafts; project defensive players to Cardinals

The NFL Draft is here.

After months of preparation and speculation, the first round of the NFL’s annual event kicks off Thursday night in Chicago with the newly-relocated Los Angeles Rams making the first pick.

The Arizona Cardinals own the 29th pick in the first round (or 30th, depending on how you view the New England Patriots’ forfeited pick one slot earlier), and needless to say, it’s difficult to project what general manager Steve Keim and his staff will do.

Do they go offense and maybe invest a pick in the heir-apparent to quarterback Carson Palmer? Do they go defense and continue to shore up a pass rush that was a weakness in 2015? Do they trade out of the first round in order to stockpile more picks?

Since March 1, 35 different players have been slotted to the Cardinals in the first round in various mock drafts from around the country.

Two of the heavy hitters in the draft business – Mike Mayock of NFL Network and Todd McShay of ESPN — released their final mock drafts, and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve both got different players headed to Arizona.

Mayock has the Cardinals selecting Miami cornerback Artie Burns in the first round. Writes Mayock:

The Cardinals don’t have a second-round pick, so they could trade back here with a team looking for a quarterback. I know teams with a third-round grade on Burns and others that believe he could end up the best corner in this draft.

Burns played three seasons for the Hurricanes, registering 93 total tackles, seven interceptions and 14 pass break-ups. Last season, Burns had six interceptions, which led the ACC and ranked tied for fourth in the nation.

McShay, meanwhile, sees the Cardinals fortifying their defensive line with Florida’s Jonathan Bullard.

Bullard has experience playing both inside and outside, so he brings a lot of versatility to the table. He doesn’t have elite physical tools, but he’s a grinder.

Bullard was a four-year player for the Gators, racking up 178 tackles, 12 sackes, 29 quarterback hurries and five pass break-ups. He was an All-SEC selection in his senior season.

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