Hopefully, fingers crossed, eyes raised to the heavens, Novenas said, Arizona was able to snag Joe Thomas in the first round. This means that the Cardinals have more options and don't have to reach when they arrive at their selection in the second round.
A number of intriguing guys that the "experts" (myself included) labeled as locks for the first round in their mock drafts will still be available. Who will be there?
Alan Branch, DT, Michigan. Branch came into the Combine as a top 10, if not top 5 prospect. A number of misguided sportswriters (myself included) became infatuated with the massive space-eater and declared that their team must absolutely, positively take Mr. Branch with their selection.
A lackluster Combine where he became winded and underachieved in his position drills... and a Pro Day in which he did the same thing have sent his stock plummeting. However, with the vanity and ego that surrounds fellows of my profession, he has not fallen completely off of everyone's draft board and is still hovering in the 20-35 range in most rankings.
When attitude and work ethic are involved, bad things can happen to a player on draft day. Look what happened to LenDale White and Winston Justice last year. And, leave us not forget the small matter of Branch's former teammate, Gabe Watson, who plummeted all the way to the fourth round before the Cardinals mercifully scooped him up. Too many teams have been burned too many times by big guys from big schools that leaned a little too much on their talented teammates in their collegiate days for them to trust these types of guys anymore.
Beggars, though, can't be choosers.
Branch will be there. He might be there in the third round. The reason Arizona should grab him in the second round is because you simply cannot teach someone to be 6'6", 324 and have the kind of natural strength Branch possesses. Strength Coach John Lott (wearing a clown wig) will whip Branch into shape. Watson will teach him about the rigors of an NFL camp and the regular season. It's a good situation for the big man from Michigan.
If the Cardinals decide to pass on Branch, there should be a couple of viable options available that fit their needs.
If they decide to go for a guard prospect, Ryan Kalil of Southern Cal (listed as a center) or guard Arron Sears of Tennessee should be available. Kalil is the top center prospect and could easily play guard. Sears is listed behind Ben Grubbs of Auburn as the #2 player at his position. For me, even though Grubbs is still #1, it's a 1 and 1a type of situation. I met Sears at the Combine and he just looks like a guard. I can visualize him in pads, lined up between Joe Thomas and Al Johnson. The only issue is that I see him lined up at practice, opposite Branch.
They could also decide to go for a linebacker, which would be a good call, but something that I see them pursuing later in the draft. Available players in that situation would be Stewart Bradley of Nebraska, Florida State's Buster Davis, or possibly Jon Beason of The U.
The only issue is that I still like Branch. I like his personality. The defense needs a face and a spokesperson. Branch can do that. The defense also needs to get stronger up the middle. With a little work, Branch can do that, too. It could very well be that he assumed his draft stock was untouchable because he foolishly listened to people like me. Getting drafted a round late and $5 million short should send a message to him. I hope.
Editor's Pick: Alan Branch, DT, Michigan.