2018 NFL Draft

Projecting the draft: Arizona Cardinals

Projecting the draft: Arizona Cardinals

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
Having gone 7-2 in their final nine games of the 2011 season, optimism is high in Arizona that the 2012 season could be their year to return to the top of the NFC West division.

Arizona flirted with free agent Peyton Manning but once it was cleared he wasn't going to sign, general manager Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt elected to stick with Kevin Kolb. Re-signing their own players wound up being the strategy Arizona employed throughout much of the off-season.

Despite re-signing left tackle Levi Brown to a big contract (after releasing him initially), the Cardinals have holes up front. Considering the very good pass rush the reigning NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers boast and the developing front sevens forming in Seattle and St. Louis, protecting Kolb and opening up holes for Arizona's talented contingent of running backs would appear to be an obvious priority on draft day.

Five picks Rod Graves should contemplate:

OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (NFLDraftScout.com ranking 9)
The Cardinals have two young pass rushers to be excited about in Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield but should Ingram still be on the board at No. 13 overall, his natural ability to pressure the quarterback would be intriguing. Ingram tied the South Carolina record with 10 sacks as a senior and led the club with nine a year before despite only starting one game. A rotation of Acho, Schofield and Ingram could make the Cardinals' relatively average pass rush one to fear.

OT Riley Reiff, Iowa (NFLDraftScout.com ranking 13)
The re-signing of Levi Brown fills one area of concern up front for the Cardinals but some believe he's always been a better fit at right tackle, rather than operating on the blindside. Reiff has the athleticism to remain at left tackle, as he's starred for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Like with Ingram, the board would have to fall right for Reiff to be available to the Cardinals here. Other potential targets would include Georgia's Cordy Glenn, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and even Ohio State's Mike Adams.

DE Billy Winn, Boise State (NFLDraftScout.com ranking 68)
The Cardinals used their franchise tag on standout defensive end Calais Campbell but may want to protect themselves against losing him in the future as he has yet to sign his tender. Veteran Darnell Dockett is among the league's most talented, but depth behind these two is limited. Journeyman Vonnie Holliday is 36 and a free agent. Winn played defensive tackle while at Boise State but has the length and athleticism necessarily to transition outside in the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme. Should Winn be available to the Cardinals in the third round (No. 80 overall), he'd provide great value.

OT Tony Bergstrom, Utah (NFLDraftScout.com ranking 137)
Should the Cardinals be unable to address their offensive line deficiencies early, they may be forced to use several picks on blockers with some of their middle round picks. The 6-5, 313 pound Bergstrom has the size and tenacity offensive line coach Russ Grimm has shown a preference for in the past and offers versatility, having started his entire career outside at tackle (three years at right tackle, one at left) and some believe his ultimate future may lie inside at guard. Should Bergstrom be still on the board with the Cardinals' fifth round pick (No. 151 overall), they'd likely be elated.

QB Nick Foles, Arizona (NFLDraftScout.com ranking 187)
The fact that the Cardinals tried to woo Manning proves that the club isn't yet convinced that Kevin Kolb is the quarterback to build their team around. Arizona isn't necessarily expected to use a high round pick on a passer, but if local standout Foles is still available, his size and talent as a traditional dropback passer could be intriguing -- especially considering the fact that the Cardinals have two sixth round picks (Nos. 177, 185 overall) in which they might be willing to gamble on his upside.

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