When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the Arizona Cardinals have the No. 15 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.
Who would you pick and why?
TOP 5 NEEDS
- Quarterback: Given Sam Bradford’s injury history and Mike Glennon’s almost immediate failure in Chicago, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to think the Cardinals are capable of even replicating an 8-8 finish again let alone expect to make the playoffs. As bad as Bradford’s knees are, he might not even make it out of training camp or the preseason. Glennon, meanwhile, can’t seriously be considered any type of a long-term solution. That means Arizona has to turn its attention to the draft and either bite the bullet to move up from the 15th overall pick to get one of the top four quarterback prospects or roll the dice that a franchise-type quarterback will be there at 15. However it happens, the Cardinals know they have to address this position in a serious and swift tone. They need a young quarterback they finally can build around and everyone knows it.
- Cornerback: As good as the Cardinals’ defense has been over the past four or five seasons, it’s always going to be exploited on one side of the field until the team finds a suitable starter at cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson. They have tried every year to find a suitable one on the cheap and have had moments of both success and failure. But they haven’t been able to identify and sign a capable corner for the long haul, which is only hurting Peterson, who is in his prime. Even if they think Bene Benwikere might be the answer, and that’s doubtful, the Cardinals need to address the position in this year’s draft and likely do it with one of their first two picks.
- Wide receiver: When a 35-year-old is your only real threat, you know you’re behind the 8-ball, even if the soon-to-be, 35-year-old is named Larry Fitzgerald. Though the veteran has had his most productive NFL seasons in each of the last three years, it’s difficult to call him a No. 1 receiver when he plays mostly out of the slot and is no longer a deep threat. Arizona doesn’t even have a legitimate No. 2 man here. They have a handful of No. 3s and No. 4s, maybe, and even that can be put up for debate. In a perfect world, the Cardinals are able to find a target with some size that can also gain separation to split safeties and make game-changing plays. They will either have to be incredibly lucky to find one or end up using one of their top picks to do it, which would take away from their top priorities.
- Offensive lineman: Though they feel they’ve protected themselves — and Bradford — with the additions of Justin Pugh at right guard and Andre Smith at right tackle, the Cardinals could always use more depth up front and look for a potential starter in this draft. If they don’t use their first-round pick on one of the three aforementioned positions, it won’t be a surprise if the team selects the best tackle still on their board and let him compete with Smith for the starting job on the right side now that Jared Veldheer is gone. Arizona could also use a top prospect it can develop at left guard considering that position looks wide open and free agent Alex Boone hasn’t re-signed.
- Tight end: Believe it or not, the Cardinals only have one viable tight end under contract who isn’t returning from some type of serious injury. That would be Ricky Seals-Jones, a younger cousin of Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, who had three memorable games but nothing else to show as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2017. Jermaine Gresham, their best tight end, likely won’t be ready for the start of the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. Former second-round pick Troy Niklas was let go as a free agent because he, too, could never stay healthy. All of this opens the door wide for the Cardinals to find a capable tight end in this draft that can come in and get some playing time almost right from the start.
–BEST FIT: Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame. Their fans are going to be shouting at the top of their lungs to take a quarterback, but since the only two possibly worth drafting this high that figure to still be available are Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph, the Cardinals will likely have to pass. They can either trade down to get one of those prospects, who figure to require a ton of work, or they can wait until the second round. At No. 15, Arizona has to do the responsible thing and add to its trenches. The 6-foot-8, 309-pound McGlinchey is considered the best overall blocker in this year’s draft and he can push the veteran Andre Smith right away for the starting job at right tackle. Paired opposite D.J. Humphries, the team’s young starting left tackle, the Cardinals would have two talented anchors up front for years to come. They just might not have a capable starting quarterback.
–Rob Rang: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Cardinals may very well opt for a young quarterback here but adding the draft’s smoothest receiver would also be a swift step to sparking the passing attack. A polished route-runner with excellent explosiveness, Ridley could feast upon the one-on-one coverage he’d earn playing opposite Larry Fitzgerald before ultimately replacing him as the Cardinals’ go-to target along with star running back David Johnson.
–Dane Brugler: Vita Vea, DT, Washington. Arizona is expected to mix-and-match their defensive front and Vea has the unique blend of athleticism and power to line up as the nose just as easily as outside the offensive tackle, providing the Cardinals with a versatile presence.
FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD
OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.