When LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson's name was called with the fifth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Arizona Cardinals fans rejoiced. While Arizona hit it big with its first-round selection, the real success of this year's draft is still to be determined.
With Rounds 2-3 set to kick off this evening, the Cardinals should have options when they go back on the clock at pick No. 38.
Already shoring up a suspect secondary, Arizona is expected to turn its focus to improving the team's pass rush. Those plans can change, however, and how the draft board falls will dictate who'll be the pick in the second round.
Two prime candidates still available are outside linebackers Brooks Reed of Arizona and UCLA's Akeem Ayers. Reed is reportedly drawing interest from the New England Patriots, owners of the first pick in Round 2 (33rd overall), but the Patriots are notorious for trading down, as they already proved on Thursday night.
In addition to New England being interested in acquiring a pass rusher off the edge, the Buffalo Bills are also in the same boat. If both Reed and Ayers are off the board, the Cardinals may need to shift gears.
When analyzing the combination of need and value, only a handful of other names make sense to be taken under consideration.
Arizona has longed for a dependable pass-catching tight end and Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph, head and shoulders the best TE prospect, will likely be available. Rudolph would provide whoever ends up under center with another weapon, but more pressing areas of need should probably be a priority here.
Illinois' Martez Wilson is another linebacker prospect, but unlike Reed and Ayers is projected to play on the interior. With Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon the only true contributors at inside linebacker, Wilson will garner strong consideration from general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt.
The wildcard position early in Round 2 could be quarterback. Sure, the Cardinals like John Skelton but need to have some sort of contingency plan in place if his development stalls in the slightest. Free agent to be Marc Bulger continues to be a hot name but he's purely a short-term solution.
Is Colin Kaepernick too much of
a developmental project?
Meanwhile, Dalton and Mallett are much more polished quarterbacks who have the potential to step in and contribute immediately. Dalton appears to be a better fit in the Cardinals' offense and is a high-character guy. Mallet, on the other hand, has dropped because of off the field concerns, and the Cardinals' brass might stay clear of his checkered past.
Even if Arizona was interested in Dalton, the Cincinnati Bengals will be a major road block at pick No. 35. The chronicles of Carson Palmer have been well documented, and his threat to retire leaves the Bengals almost no choice but to address the quarterback position.
Cincinnati could fancy a different signal caller and if Dalton – once thought as a candidate to jump into the first round – falls to the Cardinals in Round 2, he might be too good to pass up.
Help is still needed along the offensive line but there is no adequate value to be had early in the second round.
After Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod (taken 32nd overall by the Green Bay Packers), there's a substantial drop in talent. Furthermore, names such as Danny Watkins (23rd overall to the Philadelphia Eagles) and James Carpenter (25th overall to the Seattle Seahawks) went earlier than expected, leaving only second-tier prospects available.
Of course, Arizona may also opt to trade down. One advantage of the long intermission between the first and second round, is the ample opportunity to jockey up and down the draft board. Should the right deal present itself – and the Cardinals feel at least one of their targets will be available later – acquiring additional draft picks would be an ideal scenario.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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