Cardinals Draft: First-Round Prediction

Just days away from the NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals' draft room is working in full force. After two incredibly successful first-round picks in a row, Arizona is hoping to continue that trend on Thursday night. Brad Wilbricht predicts who the Cardinals will target in Round 1 and ultimately which direction the team goes at pick No. 26.

While there are several different avenues the Arizona Cardinals can travel with their first-round pick, a handful of scenarios are more likely than others. After examining the Cardinals' current roster, their selection can likely be narrowed down to the linebacker position or along the offensive line. However, GM Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt also favor a best player available mentality when evaluating draft prospects.

Given Graves and Whisenhunt's belief in drafting value over an immediate need, there are numerous scenarios that could occur. Two positions where Arizona may instill this strategy are at cornerback or in the trenches on the defensive line. The Cardinals have been fortunate to satisfy both factors in the past two drafts after CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and RB Beanie Wells fell to them in the first round but the team might not be so lucky again this year.

After predicting who'll be available when Arizona goes on the clock and who it might have interest in, four candidates look to have a good shot at having their names called with the 26th pick. Two outside linebackers, Michigan's Brandon Graham and Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri make the list along with Indiana OT Rodger Saffold and DT Dan Williams from Tennessee.

Dan Williams

Similar to the last two drafts, three of the before mentioned players would address both a need and represent solid value late in the first round. Due to the Cardinals' depth on the defensive line, Williams wouldn't necessarily address an immediate need but could be the answer if Arizona's targeted players are off the board. Additionally, Williams would present tremendous value making him hard to pass up if he's available.

Aside from Williams, the other player of this group most likely to be unavailable at pick No. 26 would be Graham. However, given how Rodgers-Cromartie and Wells both fell into the Cardinals' lap, that notion might be developing into a trend in the desert. Graham would provide Arizona with another edge pass rusher. Meanwhile, Weatherspoon possesses a similar skill-set as Graham and could be the team's backup option is Graham is indeed off the board.

Saffold is one of the drafts fastest rising players in large part because of his size and versatility. Saffold, 6-foot-4, 316 pounds, can play both guard and tackle and could come in extremely handy for offensive line coach Russ Grimm. The Cardinals' offensive line is still a work in progress and current starters such as RT Levi Brown and OG Deuce Lutui have struggled at times. Meanwhile, LT Jeremy Bridges takes over for the departed Mike Gandy and is still relatively unproven.

Aside from the names above, wild cards like CB Kyle Wilson from Boise St or Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham could surface on draft day. Wilson proved to be a productive playmaker in the secondary for the Broncos and is also a threat on special teams. Gresham could develop into the Cardinals long-term solution at tight end but the team is expected to focus elsewhere this early in the draft.

Unless a prospect projected to go in the early to middle of Round 1 drops all the way to pick No. 26, look for Weatherspoon to garner strong consideration from the Arizona front office. Weatherspoon will provide Cardinals' defensive coordinator Bill Davis with yet another pass rusher off the edge and fulfill the team's demand for value at that point in the draft.

First-Round Prediction: Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

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