2013 Draft: Cardinals spotlight
Now that the Cardinals have Carson Palmer under center, the team will look to protect their new investment come the 2013 NFL Draft. In his Cardinals draft spotlight, Jeff Reynolds has Arizona targeting Eric Fisher, and Larry Warford to bolster the line, while looking down the road at Mike Glennon as the team's quarterback of the future.
Spotlight on: Arizona Cardinals
2013 draft picks: 7, 38, 69, 103, 140, 174, 176 (from MIN)
Primary needs: OL, DB, TE
General manager: Steve Keim, first season
Recent draft picks that clicked:
--CB Patrick Peterson , fifth overall, 2011
--LB Daryl Washington , 47th overall, 2010
--CB Greg Toler , 131st overall, 2009
--DE Calais Campbell , 50th overall, 2008
The Arizona Cardinals insisted in the face of doubt that they didn't need a quarterback. First-year coach Bruce Arians even backed Drew Stanton as a capable starting option at the March owners' meetings in Phoenix.
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Two weeks later, the Cardinals might've found a short-term answer at quarterback, as acquiring Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders after Oakland pulled the plug on the 33-year-old former first overall pick (2002).
What Palmer has left in the tank is a pressing question that will have to be anwered by first-year GM Steve Keim, a scout in the organization since 1999, and Arians. More important: What will they put around him to make certain they cash in on what's left in that once-golden arm?
The situation for Palmer isn't unlike 2005, when Kurt Warner started 10 games for the Cardinals at age 34 and went 2-8 playing for his third team in three seasons. Warner's renaissance came when he was united with offensive coordinator Todd Haley and head coach Ken Whisenhunt, but before he went 19-12 in his final two seasons with the Cardinals (at age 37 and 38), Warner was 8-18 in Arizona.
The Cardinals can contend if they repair an offensive line that was turnstile-friendly -- 58 sacks allowed in 2012 -- against the pass rusher haven that is the NFC West and generated little push in the running game (3.4 yards per carry).
Quarterbacks are prone to taking hits in Arians' offense. Ben Roethlisberger 's competitiveness and mobility caused some of the abuse he absorbed, but Andrew Luck was hit more than any quarterback in the NFL last season behind a wobbly offensive line in Indianapolis.
Palmer threw 565 passes last season and was sacked 26 times. That would be a gold standard goal for the crew in Arizona. That would be rated as a gold star success if duplicated this season with the Cardinals.
But Arizona cannot be shortsighted -- it does need a quarterback, eventually.
The primary competition in the West as of draft day is in San Francisco and Seattle, teams with young, franchise-caliber quarterbacks and a horde of draft picks -- 24 combined. St. Louis isn't far away, with a young, energetic defense and pieces to build around offensively.
Five players who should be on the Arizona Cardinals draft radar:
Player, school (overall rating, position rating)
The likelihood of Fisher falling to No. 7? Minimal. Our draft experts think Fisher is off the board by No. 5, but he rates ahead of Lane Johnson by a wide margin and is worth a move up if the Cardinals see an opening. That opening could play out -- depending on the way the top four come off the board. If the Detroit Lions see three or four players available that they rate on a similar plain, a swap with Arizona would make sense. Fisher is more physically mature than Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and earned top-10 reviews at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine. The Cardinals drafted Bobby Massie 112th overall in 2012 and he survived a baptism by fire to start 16 games as a rookie. Levi Brown , who has 75 career starts since being drafted fifth overall in 2007, would be better off at right tackle.
The Cardinals would have to take a hard look at Glennon if he's there with the 69th overall pick. John Skelton showed he's not a starter, today or in the future, with wildly inconsistent performances over the past two seasons and 2012 draft pick Ryan Lindley isn't the quarterback of the future. Glennon has a rocket for an arm that needs to be harnessed. As part of a play-action passing offense, he's the ideal target in the middle rounds -- upside with little risk in terms of investment and, at that point in the draft, bust factor.
Warford drew raves at his pro day and will likely be drafted before the middle of the third round. He can move at 332 pounds and even went through center position drills for some teams in Lexington. To contend with the earth-movers in the division, the Cardinals and any quarterback will not survive behind light-pegged Daryn College or Adam Snyder , two players overpaid in free agency in recent years.
Robey won't be a top-75 pick because of his 5-7, 170-pound frame, but he was the best cornerback on the Trojans' roster and started every game in three seasons at Southern Cal. With short arms and legs, he'll never match up with No. 1 receivers in the NFL. He plays bigger and, in an era of specialization, Robey can fill a valuable role as a durable, reliable and hungry nickel cornerback who can match up with slot receivers.
He's not bulked up enough to be a three-down defensive end. He's not mobile enough to play in the base 4-3 defense as an outside linebacker. But if the Cardinals hold true to their "hybrid 30" defense plan, Smith should be on the radar as a late value pass rusher. He beat Alabama for three sacks in a game and led the nation with 1.25 sacks per game last season but is coming back from a torn ACL suffered Nov. 29. Keim and the Cardinals found value in O'Brien Schofield -- a fourth-rounder in 2010 after tearing knee ligaments in the Senior Bowl -- in a comparable spot three years ago.
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