Cardinals' draft profile: Will Holden

The Arizona Cardinals drafted offensive linemen in back-to-back rounds in this year's NFL Draft, and fifth round selection Will Holden has the potential to fit in at guard or tackle.

Player: Will Holden

NFL Draft: 5th round selection

Position: Offensive line

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 311 pounds

Hand size: 10 1/8 inches

Arm length: 33 1/4 inches

Strengths: As a fifth round draft choice, it's unlikely Holden will have an opportunity to make a difference for the Cardinals right away, but one of his main strengths is he can impact the depth chart in a variety of ways. Holden played both tackle positions at Vanderbilt and appears equally fluid at either spot, although his long-term future in the NFL is probably as a right tackle. Nevertheless, Holden has a really smooth kick step in pass protection and showcases solid fundamentals when moving back off the line of scrimmage. Last year, the Cardinals drafted a tackle in the fifth round, Cole Toner, who we felt played too upright in pass protection. That's not an issue for Holden, who despite having a 6-foot-7 frame, plays with a good pad level and maintains a relatively low center of gravity that allows him to use his frame to adjust to the movements of defensive players. Holden is also a fluid run blocker for his size, which is a challenge for taller offensive linemen who aren't extremely athletic for their size. Holden is able to make plays in the run game because he keeps his feet underneath him and uses his hands to square up defenders, which then allows him to drive them backward. While Holden doesn't necessarily have any traits that would make a scout say, "Wow," he's a dependable, consistent player who doesn't have many obvious weaknesses.

Weaknesses: Holden's main limitation at the NFL level is likely going to be his athleticism, which is relatively limited for a player who will need to be able to lock down outside lanes in pass protection. Even though Holden has a quick first step and has a solid fundamental base when he's kick stepping in protection, a pass rusher's ability to change direction and re-route to a new lane tended to give Holden a bit of trouble at Vanderbilt. Though Holden should fare well when his quarterback is playing from a shotgun alignment and is expected to have the ball out of his hands quickly, pro-style concepts that will require Holden to hold his blocks longer and fend off perimeter rushers while his quarterback is setting in a five-step drop are likely going to create challenges for Holden. A final element of Holden's game that could prove to be a weakness over time in the NFL is his ability to get to the second level and execute blocks in the run game. Holden is strong at the point of attack, but when he's asked to work up the field against more athletic, rangier linebackers in the NFL, he won't have the benefit or relying strictly on his large frame and solid footwork.

Holden's fit: The selection of Holden caught us by surprise because we didn't anticipate the Cardinals to draft multiple offensive linemen in 2017. What this selection suggests is either A) The Cardinals believe they found an excellent mid-round value in Holden and took the best player left on their board or B) Arizona isn't as enamored of 2016 fifth round draft choice Cole Toner and the rest of the team's depth at guard and tackle. Last year, we thought the Cardinals may have misevaluated Toner, and while Toner is certainly a project and might need another year or two of seasoning before he's ready to contribute, this franchise is in win-now mode and can't afford to have another season where injuries force the team to scour the free agent market for healthy bodies to plug in and play on the offensive line. To us, Holden is a more ready-made prospect than Toner and though Arizona hopes it won't have to rely on using a backup offensive guard or tackle in 2017, Holden is the type of player who probably isn't going to represent the same type of liability that Toner might if the Cardinals had to play one or the other this season. While the comparison between the two players isn't perfect because Toner's long-term future is likely as a guard, Arizona still needed a young offensive tackle to back up D.J. Humphries and Jared Veldheer and even though the team has veteran Ulrick John in the fold, Holden's versatility and ability to play multiple positions gives the franchise an asset it can work with and develop. 


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