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2011 Mock Draft Primer: The Cards on the Clock

March 5th, 2011
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

OLB Von Miller

Since it’s Saturday, it’s time for a double dose of teams, so I’ve decided to proceed with my assessment of the fifth pick in this year’s draft with the Arizona Cardinals.

If you still haven’t caught up, I’ve explained exactly why the Panthers will take Blaine Gabbert No. 1 overall, the Broncos will think snatch up Patrick Peterson, Buffalo will fall in love with Cam Newton, and earlier today why Cincinnati will settle for Nick Fairley with the first four picks of the 2011 draft.

With the fifth pick, I think the Cardinals will target Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller. Again, if that’s all you care about you can stop reading now. But if you care to understand why the Cardinals will go for Miller or which other prospects the Cardinals will look hard at, keep on reading.

But I don’t think Miller will even top the Cardinals draft board. I think that player will be none other than Blaine Gabbert. If Gabbert is available, I have very little doubt that the Cardinals will try and snatch him up. The Cardinals want to get a quarterback, but they seeminlgy don’t want to start fresh with a young, rookie quarterback. It’s why they have been rumored to be of interest in Marc Bulger and trading for Kevin Kolb if those two players should become available this off-season. John Skelton struggled at the end of the season, but gives the Cardinals some reason to hope that with a few more years of development, he could turn things around and be a competent starter. But they would need someone to at least keep the seat warm for a number of years before that happened. But I do think the Cardinals would make an exception for Gabbert, who is the best passer in this year’s class.  There doesn’t seem to be a wide consensus on whether Gabbert is a true franchise quarterback, but he’s seemingly pretty darn close and is drawing comparisons to Sam Bradford. And the Cardinals saw how well Bradford handled things in St. Louis last year. So if available, I could definitely see the Cardinals snatching him up. Perhaps even to a point where they might trade up to get him if the Panthers were to pass on him in some scenario.

But if Gabbert isn’t available, like I think will be the case, then I think Miller is going to be the Cardinals second option. The Cardinals have struggled with their pass rush over the years, relying on older veterans like Chike Okeafor, Joey Porter, and Clark Haggans to provide the majority of their outside pressure and that needs to change. Miller is the best 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in this draft and many have compared him to DeMarcus Ware in terms of his potential. That’s exactly the player that the Cardinals want on the outside. Also under consideration would be North Carolina’s Robert Quinn. If Miller is off the board, then Quinn makes a ton of sense as well. The 265-pounder is a solid athlete and while not used to playing in space, has the potential to develop there. But he’s unlikely to be rated over Miller on any 3-4 teams boards because of the fact that he’s being converted.

If the Cardinals don’t get one of those three choices, they could put in a dilemma about whom to turn to next. They don’t really need to address their defensive line since Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, and Dan Williams look to be a strong core up front for years to come. Campbell is entering his contract year in 2011, but his production the past two years as a starter (13 sacks combined) should merit him getting an extension after this season rather than them looking to draft his replacement. But it does leave some slight room for the team to go after a player such as Marcell Dareus, who could slide into his vacated spot after the season.

Other mocks have linked LSU corner Patrick Peterson to Arizona, who I have going off the board with the No. 2 pick. They do have a need at nickel corner, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did not play particularly well this year. But the Cardinals still like him and Greg Toler as their starters. If they draft Peterson, it might be to convert him to safety as an eventual replacement for the aging Adrian Wilson. But the team did get contributions from Rashad Johnson this year in coverage, so there isn’t an overwhelming need. Them selecting Peterson if available would simply come down to them falling in love with him and believing he’s the best player in the draft. That’s not out of the realm of possibility, but not a probability.

Another intriguing option might be drafting Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green or Alabama’s Julius Jones. The team is in the midst of re-upping with Larry Fitzgerald, and most reports indicate that the team is optimistic they’ll get something done. But it’s possible the team may want to add a potential insurance policy via the draft or a possible complement, hearkening back to the days when they had Anquan Boldin on the outside as well. Andre Roberts showed some things, and the team could still bring back Steve Breaston, so wide receiver isn’t a strong need. But Green is compared to Fitzgerald by some, and Jones is the more physical of the pair that could remind them a lot of a young Boldin. If they hit any snags in negotiations between now and the draft, then it does increase the possibility they take a receiver with this pick.

But in the end I think Miller is going to be their pick because he is likely to be their highest rated player on the board. If Miller and Gabbert are off the board by this point, then I think it’s a good chance that the Cardinals will try to move down. It’ll be hard for them to find a trade partner, and if they are forced to make a selection here, then I think their third choice would be Quinn.

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