In recent weeks, Arizona Cardinals' general manager Steve Keim has spoken about the importance of properly evaluating young quarterbacks.
During a radio interview Friday, Keim said there are "seven great quarterbacks," and "10 you can win with," in the NFL, and indicated he knows his tenure as a general manager will be judged in part based on how he prepares the Cardinals for the post-Carson Palmer era.
With the NFL Draft approaching in April and Palmer set to enter his 15th season in the league, many analysts expect the Cardinals to consider drafting Palmer's successor in the early rounds this spring.
In NFL.com's latest four-round mock draft, the Cardinals wouldn't waste much time, as draft analyst Chad Reuter has Arizona selecting Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer with the 13th overall pick in the first round.
The Toledo, Ohio native threw 26 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions for the Fighting Irish in 2016, racking up 2,925 passing yards and 472 rushing yards.
According to Reuter's projections, Kizer would be the third quarterback coming off the board, with the San Francisco 49ers taking North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky second overall and the Cleveland Browns using the 12th overall pick on Clemson signal-caller Deshaun Watson.
While plenty of prominent mock drafts anticipate the Cardinals to take a quarterback in the first round, NFL.com's latest mock draft projects what Arizona may do later in the selection process if the organization takes care of its need at quarterback early.
With both of the Cardinals' starting safeties set to hit the free agent market and the team still looking for a quality starting cornerback opposite star Patrick Peterson, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the NFL's mock draft has Arizona opting for help in the defensive backfield in rounds two and four.
Additionally, with franchise icon Larry Fitzgerald potentially playing out his final season in Arizona in 2017, NFL.com's four round mock draft has the Cardinals looking for help at wide receiver with their third round selection.
Which players fit the Cardinals' most pressing needs? According to Reuter's projections, after drafting Kizer in the first round, he anticipates the team will draft Texas A&M safety Justin Evans in the second round, East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones in the third round, and Middle Tennessee cornerback Jeremy Cutrer in the fourth round.
In his final season with the Aggies, Evans racked up 87 tackles and 5.0 tackles for loss. The Evans' selection could be intriguing for Arizona, especially because the team has a history of drafting defensive backs coached by Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis, who worked with Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and 2016 third round draft choice Brandon Williams.
Jones enjoyed a monster season at East Carolina, nabbing 158 receptions for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns, by far his most productive year with the Pirates. The 6-foot-1 Austin, Texas native produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with East Carolina, and could be a welcome addition to a receiving corps looking for young talent.
As for Cutrer, the Middle Tennessee product was a First Team All-Conference USA cornerback in 2016, and led his team with three interceptions this season. A junior college transfer out of Mississippi Gulf Coast, Cutrer was a Second Team All-Conference USA honoree in 2015, his first year with the program.
Editor's Note: Though the NFL Combine won't begin until February 28 and the NFL Draft won't commence until late April, CardinalsSource will continue to keep tabs on a variety of prominent mock drafts throughout the offseason.