Final Pre-Draft Cardinals 7 Round Mock Draft-Offensive Edition
After taking a look at defensive positions and players in my last Cardinals 7-Round mock draft (which can be found HERE) what are the offensive positions of need for the Cardinals? Who are some names that Cards fans could hear called on draft day?
Let’s take a look in the second part of our series. Again, this is not intended to be an actual mock draft for the Cardinals, but rather to highlight key positional needs on offense, and players who fill those needs. First, let’s take a look at the major offensive moves for the Cardinals that took place in the offseason:
TE Jake Ballard
RG Paul Fanaika (extended during regular season)
LT Jared Veldheer
WR/PR/KR Ted Ginn Jr.
TE John Carlson
G Ted Larson
RB Jonathan Dwyer
The biggest name on this list of course, is the addition of Jared Veldheer, who will hopefully bring the stability at the left tackle position the Cardinals have been looking for for basically over a decade now.
So what needs, and/or upgrades are left on offense for the Cards? Let’s take a look!
“And with the twentieth pick the Cardinals select…”
Round One-Joel Bitonio, OT/OG, Nevada
Surprisingly, this first selection was the toughest one for me to make for the Cardinals, and the reason for that is simple: I don’t believe they go with an offensive player in the first round. While Arizona’s defense was top seven in the NFL this past year and their offense ranked around 12th overall (per ESPN stats) there’s a few reasons I don’t see them taking an offensive player. Part of it is because Steve Keim has said that he would like to “fill out” some of the remaining holes in the Cardinals in their secondary, pass rush and defensive line. But moreover, it’s difficult to see what sort of offensive player fits into that “best player available” category that Keim clings to. Even so, I’ve made a pick for the sake of filling the team’s biggest remaining need on offense, and that piece is at Right Tackle.
Joel Bitonio, the tackle out of Nevada is a criminally underrated offensive line prospect who was able to shut down numerous pass-rushers during his time as a Wolfpack member. His stock has been rising since he had an impressive combine performance and he has been winning teams over in workouts. One such coach? That would be Arizona’s own Offensive Line coach Greg Zuerlein:
I know my dad really, really like Joel Bitonio and Ja’Wuan James when he had a chance to talk to them.
— The Sideline View (@SidelineFB) April 29, 2014
The above tweet is from Zuerlein’s son, Lance, who is doing a phenomenal job of his own scouting prospects at thesidelineview.com. But regardless, Bitonio has the ability to anchor either the right guard or right tackle position for the Cardinals, both of which have major question marks. As of right now, Arizona has last year’s fourth rounder Earl Watford having to hold off veteran guards Ted Larsen and Paul Fanaika for the role, while right tackle has two oft-maligned players at the position in Bradley Sowell and Bobbie Massie. While the left hand side of the offensive line is locked down with Veldheer and Cooper returning, there are a lot of questions about the opposite side.
The question with Bitonio is if he would be a “reach” with the 20th overall pick. I’m not sure, but tackles seem to always get over drafted and it’s highly doubtful that he would fall to the end of the second round. Also, Bitonio might turn into more of a guard than a tackle, as many are projecting, although I think if you can put him at tackle, you do. The below GIF demonstrates Bitonio’s strength, technique and ability to bend well as he holds off a premier pass-rusher in Anthony Barr who could be a top ten pick:
Unfortunately for Nevada, the rest of their O-Line wasn’t so consistent on this play.
Another player I looked at at this position was Zack Martin out of Notre Dame, but I don’t know if he will be available with the Dolphins selecting in front of the Cardinals, and Martin projects to be more of a right guard than Bitonio does. I love Martin’s tape overall and he had a great Senior Bowl performance, but with only 32 1/4″ arms (compared to Bitonio’s 33 7/8″, almost two inches longer) a little length can go a long ways. Again, I don’t see Arizona really going after an offensive player at the 20th overall position unless an Aaron Rodgers-type Quarterback falls. But more on that later.
Second Round- Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
A wide receiver? In the second round in this deep WR draft? With Fitzgerald, Floyd and Ginn? Surely you’re joking, right?
Nope. Not joking. The Cardinals have a big decision ahead of them in the 2016 offseason: the contract of Larry Fitzgerald. Set to make almost $24 million next year, far more money than Fitzgerald at this stage of his career (or any wide receiver for that matter) is worth. It’s going to be an incredibly difficult decision, but if Fitzgerald shows that he’s beginning to decline this season, it’s possible that like the Suns moved on from Steve Nash, so could the Cardinals. If Keim and Arians know what their intentions are regarding Fitzgerald at this point, it’s possible they could look to find his replacement in this draft.
When Bruce Arians was interviewed at the Combine, he made a point about how the wide receivers in this class were both “big and fast” and that description fits Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief to a tee, as you can see in the GIF below:
At 6’2, 222 lbs, Moncrief is already an intimidating force as a big-bodied WR on the outside. Add in the fact that he ran an official 4.4 at the Combine, and plays at that speed, and Moncrief has potential #1 wide receiver upside. He has strong, reliable hands, adjusts and tracks the ball well, is a student of the game and was a phenomenal player during his time at Ole Miss. However, Moncrief is likely to slip in this draft for several reasons: primarily due to the depth at the position. However, he had some struggles with inconsistencies (though part of that is likely due to an inconsistent quarterback in Bo Wallace) and had some drops at times. His route running could use some fine-tuning, and he can have some trouble when in traffic but overall he shows up as a great option for a team looking for an elite second wide receiver who could blossom into a #1.
The receiver he most compares to? Michael Floyd, current Cardinal, who like Moncrief, had questions about his straight-line speed that he answered with a 4.47 official combine time. Moncrief is even faster, running a 4.4 flat that was quicker than noted “speed wide receivers” Sammy Watkins and O’Dell Beckham Jr. He plays that fast as well on tape, and the reason for his slip is mainly due to the fact that he’s still not a finished product and is best built for a vertical passing scheme.
If Moncrief is there at the 52nd pick and the Cardinals’ brass know that they will be moving on from Larry Fitzgerald, taking Moncrief to learn under Fitzgerald and Floyd for a season to then take over for Floyd as the second option for the foreseeable future would be a great foresighted move by Keim. Also, while Ted Ginn Jr. might be a speedier threat than Moncrief, his three-year deal is not guaranteed past the first year and he’s been inconsistent as a wideout during his career. Moncrief, as he develops, would allow Ginn to focus on special teams and gives Arians three fantastic wide receivers to work with for the 2014 season.
Don’t be surprised if Arizona goes with a WR early in the draft.
Third Round- CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
Tight End is another area that, while addressed in the offseason, it wasn’t truly upgraded with a long-term answer. Fiedorowicz is exactly that. While he might get lost amongst the “big names” at Tight End this year amongst Ebron, Sefarian-Jenkins, Amaro and Niklas, Fiedorowicz is a prospect not getting the love he deserves for how good he actually is. Take a look at the GIF below and guess which one is Fiedorowicz?
Yep, you’re right. The big guy.
Fiedorowicz is an excellent blocking tight end who was also used as a receiver at Iowa and, quite frankly, was their number one option most of the time. His stats don’t stand out at all, but the film shows an excellent in-line blocker, right in the mold of what Bruce Arians prefers in a tight end. The film also shows a polished and wily route runner who uses his athleticism (impressive for a big man) and makes routine catches in traffic. He has reliable hands that aren’t seen as often because his quarterback is overthrowing him constantly, yet he still was a security blanket for check downs. Quite frankly, Fiedorowicz could be Bruce Arians’ version of Heath Miller.
Considering he’s already an excellent blocker, good route runner and while he won’t blaze by safeties or inside linebackers, he’ll make the tough catches and is a reliable redzone threat. Fiedorowicz is the Anti-Rob Housler, and Arians will be thrilled to have a talented, capable tight end for his 12-personnel sets at last.
Fourth Round- Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State
Arians loves speed. Bruce Arians, meet Dri Archer:
Archer missed setting the record for fastest player at the Combine by a mere .02 of a second, finishing with a 4.26 official 40 yard dash time compared to Chris Johnson’s 4.24 time. While his small body and limited route running would prevent Archer from being a major role player for the Cardinals, Arians knows how to use speed and would probably get Archer around 5 or so snaps a game. Is it worth it for a 4th round pick? Possibly not, but what Archer brings to the table is similar to what Tavon Austin has been for the Rams–a home run threat in the passing game, out of the backfield and on special teams. Archer, fortunately, isn’t expected to go eighth overall.
The ability to break free for a touchdown on any given handoff or to run by defenders is something that Bruce Arians has shown to use, no matter how inexperienced the player might be. A guy with the insane vision and playmaking ability Archer has can definitely find a spot on the team.
Also, it’s fun to watch how much faster Archer is than the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen in the following GIF:
Fifth Round- Bryan Stork, C, FSU
The ardinals could look to address the Center position in the NFL Draft. Lyle Sendlein is getting up there in age and his cap number for next year is a little larger than would be preferable considering how up against the wall Arizona will most likely be. While he’s been consistent throughout some truly terrible offensive lines in Arizona, he could still be upgraded.
The top names such as Weston Richburg and Marcus Martin will go early in the draft, but a late round name that could find himself in Arizona is Florida State’s own Bryan Stork.
Bryan Stork is an aggressive run-blocking center who needs refinement and development. He could potentially be the replacement for Sendlein if he works out. Stork has a few negative qualities in pass-protection and might have been a product of FSU’s scheme, which gives him limited upside long-term, but I think Arizona should continue to draft O-Line, and the Center position shouldn’t be neglected.
Another potential option for the offensive line late in the draft is Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a Canadian player who has impressive measurables and physical upside to be a dominate ankle if he can adjust to the level of competition. That said, while Laurent’s upside is higher, Stork has played versus some excellent teams and pass rushers keeping Jameis Winston clean and is much more of a sure thing at the position, so I’ll stay with him.
Sixth Round-Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Arizona lucked out with a sixth-round flier on Andre Ellington last year. While Ellington is set to be the main focus of Bruce Arians’ running game, his use as a receiver and body type means he will still likely be limited in number of snaps and carries. Last year’s fifth-round selection Stepfan Taylor is ready for more carries and former Pittsbugh RB Jonathan Dwyer was signed by the team to help give the team another bruising back. However, Taylor’s quickness and overall burst comes nowhere near to what a healthy Mendenhall could bring the team last year, and Dwyer is simply not a guarantee to make the roster.
Looking at offensive needs, the Cardinals are thin at running back should and could afford to gamble on an upside guy on Day Three like Crowell. The above GIF shows the sort of talent Crowell was in his first year as the starting running back at Georgia, before he was kicked off the team for violating team rules.
Crowell rehabbed his career slowly at Alabama State, and with his vision, cuts and sheer brute force, he’s an excellent open space player and maybe the most best back in this class on sheer talent alone. It’s a tough call to take a chance on a player like Crowell but if Arizona thinks they can luck on another sixth round running back, they could take a chance.
Content for Phoenix Sports-Kings provided by Blake Murphy, @blakemurphy7