Rd. 1, Pk. 29
Robert Nkemdiche, DT/DE/3-4DE, Ole Miss
Some teams won't take Robert Nkemdiche, no matter what round it is, as they've completely taken him off their board. That's not the case for the Cardinals. I'm told he's an option here at No. 29. Arizona has taken chances on players with character concerns before, and it has paid off. Nkemdiche could be next, and he would further bolster the pass rush.
The Cardinals wanted to address the center position entering free agency, but that never happened. As it turns out, one of the top players available at this juncture would help fill that need, further bolstering Carson Palmer's protection.
*** OTHER 2016 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Ryan Kelly, C - If Kelly somehow falls, he's the likely pick at No. 29.
2. Cody Whitehair, G/C - A backup option in case Kelly isn't available.
Pick change; previously Ryan Kelly, C
Rd. 3, Pk. 29
Graham Glasgow, G/C, Michigan
If the Cardinals don't draft Ryan Kelly or Cody Whitehair in the first round, look for them to target Graham Glasgow at the end of Day 2. They love Glasgow's versatility.
Pick change; previously Joshua Perry, LB
Rd. 4, Pk. 30
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn
The Cardinals tried to sign a cornerback in free agency, which makes sense because they never properly replaced Antonio Cromartie. They failed to do so, which means a pick like this one makes sense.
Rd. 5, Pk. 28
Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech
Jeff Driskel seems like he'd fit well into Bruce Arians' offense. Arians will have to look for a young quarterback to eventually supplant Carson Palmer, who had an epic meltdown in the playoffs.
Rd. 5, Pk. 31
Nicholas Kwiatkoski, LB, West Virginia
The Cardinals need help at inside linebacker, so expect them to address the position in the middle rounds.
This pick falls into the category of what I think a team will do and not what they should do. I know a bunch of teams that have second- to third-round grades on Whitehair and one franchise that has him even lower. However, some teams really like him. Arizona also has drafted players in the first round in the past two years - Deone Bucannon and D.J. Humphries - who other teams graded on Day 2. The Cardinals have a big hole at center, and Whitehair could move there for them. I would have Arizona take Robert Nkemdiche or Ryan Kelly, but they're both off the board so I think the Cardinals would take Whitehair in that instance.
Whitehair (6-3, 300) played left tackle for the Wildcats, but he should move to guard or center in the NFL. Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah illustrated that. Whitehair also could use more power for the next level, but he is a good technician who is a reliable blocker in the ground game and in pass protection.
Rd. 3, Pk. 29
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
The Cardinals grab their quarterback understudy for Carson Palmer.
There is no doubt that Jones (6-5, 253) can make some devastating throws with elite arm strength for the NFL. Aside from his right-arm cannon, Jones has running ability and is difficult to sack with his huge size. He was up and down in 2015, but considering he only had 11 starts in his college career, it is understandable that he is raw and needs development. In 2015, Jones completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,460 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
Jones put on a display in 2014 after entering the starting lineup behind Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. In his three starts, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 860 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Jones has a ton of upside and could be a tremendous play-maker if he improves his football I.Q., field vision and overall passing technique. Teams do have concerns about his maturity and leadership skills.
Rd. 4, Pk. 30
Adam Gotsis, DT, Georgia Tech
The Cardinals grab some defensive line and five-technique depth.
The 6-foot-4, 287-pounder has a nice skill set. As a senior, he had 31 tackles with five tackles for a loss and three sacks. His production was consistent with 30+ tackles as a junior and sophomore. He also had three sacks as a junior and 5.5 as a sophomore. Gotsis could fit as a 3-4 defensive end or a tackle in a 4-3 defense. For the latter, he should add some weight.
Rd. 5, Pk. 28
Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
It never hurts to have cornerback and special teams depth. While Jones has gotten some hype, teams have told me they have third-day grades on him.
View Team's Next Selection
Rd. 5, Pk. 31
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
With Larry Fitzgerald aging and Michael Floyd nearing the end of his contract, it would make sense to draft some depth.
View Team's Next Selection
The missing piece to Arizon'as offense. Everything else is settled along the line. 4 deep at WR, a young bellcow in the backfield, at least another couple years before they have to worry about QB. Kelly is an instant starter. Very balanced attack, proficient in both pass protection and run blocking. Incredibly bright player. Started for years Under Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, making all the line calls and adjustments.
Scouting report: Plays with a big motor and tremendous endurance. Had eight-sack season as a sophomore at Ohio State. Plays at same speed throughout the game. Good upfield burst. Has played with hand in the ground and standing. Won't give away leverage by engaging too early in pass rush. Has solid speed to the edge with a strong rip move at the top of his rush to turn the corner. Takes good angles around the rush arc. Quick lateral slide down the line to restrict running lanes. Plays with a sense of desperation when the ball is in his area. Eludes lead blockers and cut blocks. Pursues around the field looking to scoop up tackles. Dominated his level of competition with 11.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss and 63 tackles over 11 games. Scouts call him an intelligent person and player. Has had success fighting through adversity and has renewed sense of urgency on and off the field as well as a sense of accountability. Former head coach Urban Meyer helped get Spence a second chance because he believes Spence is high character but made mistakes.
Other possibilities: Miles Kelebrew S, Keanu Neal S, Shaq Lawson DE
Robert Nkemdiche is one of the top prospects in the draft. His on going saga of character concerns is worrying to many NFL teams. The Arizona Cardinals are the type of team that can mold Nkemdiche into a good person. He is the most physically imposing player available. A very fast defensive tackle is useful in this NFL. The Cardinals are one of the best teams in the NFL, and have a top 5 talent fall to them here. Bruce Arians has a special player with some concerns, but like Noah Spence, can be cleaned up with the right coaches. David Johnson, John Brown, Tyrann Mathieu, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, and Calais Campbell should be a favorite to win the Super Bowl this years. Having Nkemdiche will just boost their odds. David Johnson is a super physical running back. Robert Nkemdiche will start at the tackle position pending his act clean up. Watch out for this special player.
NFL Ceiling - Sheldon Richardson, DL, New York Jets
It might seem crazy but the Cardinals could use some help off the edge. Pending free agents include Dwight Freeney, Jason Babin, Lamarr Woodley and Red Bryant. That is a lot of names, most that will not be resigned. Kevin Dodd, the Clemson standout, showed why he is worthy of a first round selection. When his school needed him the most, during the College Football Playoffs, Dodd who had to pick up slack for injured teammate Shaq Lawson, was exceptional. Dodd is one of the prospects with the greatest potential in this year’s draft.
Most years, I don't project any trades in my mock draft because they're just too unpredictable. However, I believe Arizona will end up trading this pick to a team looking at one of the remaining pass rushers or defensive tackles. However, if they do end up having to make a pick here, I think they'll reach for a player they like. Keanu Neal has been linked to the Cardinals for a few weeks now and while his value is much higher in the second round, his pick would allow Tyrann Mathieu to move full-time to the slot, his best position and allow DeOne Bucannon to continue his role as a rover on defense.
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Rd. 1, Pk. 29
Robert Nkemdiche, DT/DE/3-4DE,
If Robert Nkemdiche were totally clean off the field, he would've been a top-10 selection. There's no doubt about that. There were a lot of things wrong with him, however, and several teams told us that he was completely off their board.
That said, this is a great pick. The Cardinals were completely fine with his attitude, and that carries some weight because they've taken chances on players with character issues before like Dan Williams and Tyrann Mathieu. They panned out, and there's a good chance Nkemdiche will as well. If so, he's someone who could help put Arizona over the top.
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