The Arizona Cardinals were a playoff team in 2013 and no one even knew it. That’s because they were 10-6, but finished third in the brutal NFC West. Thanks to the NFL’s ridiculous division-winners first rules, the Green Bay Packers got in ahead of them, and they didn’t even win nine games.
Needless to say, the Cards will be a tad bitter as they prepare for 2014. In that same breath, that just goes to show you just how tough it is going to be to get out of the NFC West alive. Arizona will need to be even nastier on defense to contend with the Seahawks and 49ers, while their offense will need to be much more consistent, as well.
Let’s take a closer look at their top needs on both sides of the ball and see if they can’t improve via the 2014 NFL Draft:
Offensive needs: OL, RB, QB
The Cards seem to be pretty set on offense. They could use some depth on the o-line, though, which could prompt them to take a free falling offensive tackle. Otherwise they’ll just grab 1-2 pieces late in the draft.
Running back could be a position to look at in the first few rounds, though, as all they really have is Andre Ellington and he’s not built to be a feature back. Guys like Tre Mason or Ka’Deem Carey could pique their interest, should they slide to the third round or later.
Quarterback is absolutely a long-term need. Carson Palmer is going to be 35 and he is a capable starter only half the time, it seems. Bruce Arians desires a big-armed passer for his vertical system, so guys like Derek Carr, Blake Bortles and Zach Mettenberger are all legit options as early as round one. AZ stumbling on someone like Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage in round two or three makes more sense, though.
Defensive needs: DL, OLB, S
Defense is ironically where the Cardinals need to keep their focus in the draft, as their line up front is starting to age a bit, and they’ll soon have some free agents creating holes. That could have the tackle and end positions on the d-line being looked over, with numerous prospects potentially being worth a look. Ra’Shede Hageman and Timmy Jernigan are just two athletic pass rushers who could be useful up front.
A potentially more pressing need is outside rush linebacker, though, as Jonathan Abraham is aging and they don’t have much else on the edge. Someone like Kony Ealy might slide to them in round one, or they can take their pick of the litter in the second or third round. There is a very long list of quality second tier outside pass rushers, with Trent Murphy and Scott Chrichton arguably heading the list. They could wait until as late as round four, too, where Utah’s Trevor Reilly could provide some help.
Tyrann Mathieu tore up his knee last year, while they have a hole across from him. That makes safety a bit of a priority. There’s a chance Calvin Pryor could slide to them, but that might be wishful thinking at this point. That could mean their best bet at an impact safety comes in round two. Jimmie Ward could be there for the taking.