Draft Strategy: The Next Tier

Vince Young? Jay Cutler? Vernon Davis? Great, the arguments for the first pick are hot and heavy, with sure things that could turn into huge mistakes, but the draft isn't just about the first round, and CardinalInsider Associate Editor Brad Keller knows it. In the third installment of his 'Draft Strategy' series Keller breaks down the rest of Day 1.

To fill out the rest of the draft, a deep linebacker class means that they can find a quality player in the 3rd round and depth at tight end means that they can find a good one in the 5th or 6th round (after all, the two tight ends on their roster were undrafted). 

 

When you're talking about 3rd round talent, even with the depth that exists at linebacker, there aren't going to be any "can't miss" guys that fall there, regardless of position.  Every linebacker, with the possible exception of AJ Hawk, has a hole.  At this juncture of the draft, it seems, everyone has a plus for each minus.  Prospects such as AJ Nicholson (great size at 6'1", 252, decent speed, college production at Florida State) seems like a great pick in the 3rd until you count the minuses (off-field issues, bad work-outs), then he's just a good one.  I go with college production over work-outs, but I've never trusted in a Seminole and I never will.  On the other side of the coin, you can go with small guys that didn't produce, had great work-outs, are great in coverage, but overmatched versus the run (such as Louisville's Brandon Johnson or Virginia Tech's James Anderson). 

 

In Prendergrast's system (which is similar to the Cover 2 run in Indianapolis and Lovie Smith's version of the Cover 2 in Chicago) you're better off drafting fast cover guys that are serviceable against the run in the hopes that the defensive line keeps them clean.  That's why I'd go with Johnson or Anderson, but it's hard to pass on a guy (even one with off-field issues) that has been productive and already looks the part.  However, look for the Cardinals to draft one of the two small, fast guys that didn't play as much on the first day.

 

In round 6, tight end seems to be the way to go, as no one stacks up well against Vernon Davis, but many of these guys are at least serviceable.  As far as this round is concerned, it's mostly populated by guys with high ceilings and even lower floors.  They could be the next Tom Brady or the next… uh, what's that guy's name?  He played for Cleveland…

 

This round is mainly populated by sociopaths with bad knees that somehow managed to have good work-outs.  But, if you can find a guy that's a decent blocker, good in the red zone, and was productive in college but ran a terrible 40 and seems too awkward for the pro level like Purdue's Charles Davis, count yourself lucky.  Or, guys with a huge upside and a very noticeable downside like Colorado's Quinn Syniewski would be an option as well. 

 

As with any late day 2 pick, expect the worst, but hope for the best.  After all, there are 53 roster spots and only 24 starters for a reason.

 

If they don't take Jay Cutler in the first round, they could take a chance on Kellen Clemens of Oregon in the 5th or 6th round and possibly another lineman (defensive or offensive) in the 7th.

 

The important thing to remember is this: they're not going to patch all their holes with one draft.  No team in history (except for some really lousy ones) has been able to draft 7 quality, contributing starters in 7 rounds.  However, if they can add depth, possibly plug in two starters (preferably at FS, WLB, or DT), and draft a quarterback of the future, they'll be set to take on a division that features three teams that choose in the first 11 picks.  The NFC West is still weak, but it won't be weak forever.


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