Draft Preparations Continue in Arizona

The Arizona Cardinals continue to prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft with hopes of improving of last year's terrific season. The Cardinals' front office has their eyes on several players that will address immediate areas of need. Brad Wilbricht outlines which players are on Arizona's radar and who could be headed to the desert.

Of the most glaring needs for the Arizona Cardinals, the running back position arguably sticks out the most. Unlike recent years, the 2009 draft class doesn't offer top-notch talent in the backfield but there is tremendous depth. The Cardinals should be able to take advantage of a rather deep group of running backs in any of the first three rounds of the draft.

While recent reports speculate that Georgia's Knowshon Moreno has dropped on several draft boards, it's still unlikely he'll be available at pick No. 31. In addition, Chris Wells of Ohio St has soared up the draft charts due to an excellent Pro Day and pre-draft workouts.

Shonn Greene

Even with Moreno and Wells off the board, the Cardinals are still in a position to acquire a talented runner. Of the remaining options, Iowa's Shonn Greene and Donald Brown of Connecticut are the most likely to end up in Arizona. Furthermore, the Cardinals could utilize a late-round selection on a change of pace back who could contribute on third downs.

On defense, landing a pass-rushing specialist remains a top priority in the desert. The Cardinals went into last year's draft striving for the same goal but they opted for more balanced defensive ends in Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema. With last year's free agent headliner Travis LaBoy struggling with injuries, look for Arizona to add a youthful pass rusher later this April.

Like the running back position, there is a great deal of depth amongst this year's pass rushers. There are several hybrid prospects that possess the ability to thrive in the 3-4 defense. The Cardinals continue to transition to the odd-man front and adding a versatile weapon will be crucial to the team's defensive success in coming years.

Cincinnati's Connor Barwin certainly fits the mold of a Ken Whisenhunt type player. Barwin exhibits an extremely high football I.Q. and can play both outside linebacker and defensive end. His tremendous showing at the NFL Combine has catapulted him to a late first-round grade, although he could be selected earlier.

In addition to Barwin, Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech and Northern Illinois' Larry English are possible options. Both players display extreme versatility and have added value due to their ability to play multiple position on the defensive side of the ball.

Cornelius Ingram
(AP Photo)

While securing a running back and a pass rusher are at the top of the Cardinals' wish list, there are other areas Arizona will look to shore up later this month. The Cardinals are still searching for a go-to tight end and there are numerous prospects that may get a hard look from GM Rod Graves and company.

While the Cardinals are unlikely to invest a day one pick on a tight end, there should be plenty of capable performers available in Round 3 or later. If Florida's Cornelius Ingram slides into the third round, he'd be tough to pass up.

Although Arizona struck gold in the secondary with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a year ago, the Cardinals could bring on another cover corner. Darius Butler of Connecticut and Wake Forest's Alphonso Smith are likely options late in Round 1 and would supply Arizona with one of the best young cornerback tandems in the NFL.

While the Cardinals are expected to focus on the areas mentioned above, there are potential wild card scenarios. With Matt Leniart's status in limbo, Arizona could swoop up a talented signal caller if one falls into its lap. Additionally, help along the offensive line has always been a focal point of Whisenhunt and there's a good chance help in the trenches is also on the way.

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com
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