Of all the teams in 2013 none were closer to the playoffs than the Arizona Cardinals. That is why they must get their draft picks right in 2014.
Round 1 – Dee Ford – DE – Auburn
John Abraham was a welcome surprise for the Cardinals in 2013 but he is 35 and the team has to keep that outside pass rush going to maintain their defensive flexibility. Dee Ford is a late riser on draft board who has the explosion, speed and athleticism to come off the edge to constantly harass the quarterback.
Round 2 – Tre Mason – RB – Auburn
Rashard Mendenhall proved to be a bust as the feature running back in Arizona. Andre Ellington has a future but he’s not built for full-time duty. So the Cardinals go get him a wingman. Tre Mason made the best defenses in college football looks silly at times late in the season. He’s low to the ground, tough, strong and has enough speed to break big plays.
Round 3 – Joel Bitonio – OT – Nevada
Both tackle spots aren’t entirely settled so waiting until the third round might not get a solution for the left side. However, Joel Bitonio has the bend, size and power to anchor quite ably from the right side. He has the flexibility to handle pass rusher and does his best work going forward when run blocking.
Round 4 – Zach Mettenberger – QB – LSU
Carson Palmer did a fabulous job for Arizona but it’s hard not seeing the team investing in a young quarterback at some point. Zach Mettenberger is built much like Palmer: tall, big, strong arm and the confidence to use it. The LSU product showed marked progress throughout 2013 but he’s still inconsistent. That and a torn ACL are why he falls to the 4th round.
Round 5 – Walt Aikens – CB – Liberty
Prospects in the 2014 NFL mock draft need to stand out if they come from a small school. Walt Aikens certainly did that at the Senior Bowl despite coming out of tiny Liberty. He has the height and length of a pro corner along with good speed and fluidity. A three-sport athlete, he has outstanding leaping ability and great hand-eye coordination.
Round 6 – Rob Blanchflower – TE – Massachusetts
If he were a tad more athletic then there’s no question Rob Blanchflower would go much higher in the draft. The Massachusetts tight end has good size and height (6’4″, 260 lbs) to go along with a keen understanding of how to attack defenses. His greatest attribute is an excellent pair of hands that rarely if ever drop a ball.
Round 7 – Calvin Barnett – DT – Oklahoma State
Defensive line is the core strength of the Arizona Cardinals defense but it’s also becoming a tad seasoned. Keeping the depth chart rich with talent in that area is pivotal. Calvin Barnett was an overlooked force for OklahomaState in 2013. While not having the preferred length, he is very difficult to move off the ball, making him a terrific run stuffer.