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Cardinals 2010 Draft Update

The 2010 NFL Draft is less than a week away.  As the first round continues to draw near, it may be a good time to update the status of the Cardinals’ draft prospects and the front offices’ focus in general.

Continuity seems to be the theme as far as Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt are concerned.  Defense has been and still is the major focus of the draft.  According to Darren Urban’s conversations with the two top Cardinals, the team is still looking for defensive depth, but a quarterback is definitely on the to-do list. 

Obviously Bradford won’t make it out of the top three picks.  Clausen, the only other QB likely to be selected in the first round, will almost certainly be gone before the Cards’ pick.  If Clausen, by some miraculous set of circumstances, is still available, it seems the Cardinals would have to take him, but it’s not certain they would.  After Clausen, there’s Colt McCoy, who will probably go early in the second round before the Cardinals’ 58th overall pick.  Behind McCoy, there’s a slew of underwhelming QBs that present somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of what kind of pros they will be including Tony Pike, Dan LeFevour, Jonathan Crompton, and John Skelton.  I’m not going to even venture a guess as to which of these QBs would match up with one of the Cardinals’ later round picks.  It seems, however, that the Cardinals are intent on coming out of the draft with one of them.

The draft picture regains a moderate degree of clarity when we turn from late round obscurity to first round projections.  I’m still clinging to hope that DT Dan Williams (Tennessee) will still be available for the Cards, but it’s looking less and less like a possibility, which is unfortunate.  His stock has risen considerably and both McShay and Kiper project he’ll be selected by the Miami Dolphins at the 12th overall selection; for good reason.  Williams, in my opinion, is easily the best case scenario for the Cardinals.  He is a beast of a DT and would immediately hold down the interior of the Cardinals’ defensive line.  The aging Bryan Robinson and the mediocre Gabe Watson are not going to get the job done.  Williams would be an immeasurable improvement over those two.  More than any other position the Cardinals could draft, Williams at defensive tackle would have the most immediate and profound affect on the the team’s defensive performance in 2010.  No matter how important it may be to have solid play at the skill positions,  it pales in comparison to controlling the interior line.  A defense cannot be successful if it’s being pushed around up front at will.  If Williams is available for the Cards I would be shocked and dismayed if they don’t select him.

Despite my desire to get Williams, I still believe that OLB Sergio Kindle (Texas) is more likely to be selected somewhere around the Cardinals’ 26th overall pick.  As such, I contend that he remains the most likely selection for the Cardinals.  Though he wouldn’t have quite the impact that Williams would, he would present an immediate pass rush threat from the outside that would compliment Joey Porter.  Kindle would also benefit from spending his rookie season under Porter’s tutelage.  As of April 6th, Mel Kiper has Kindle going to the Titans as the 16th overall pick, while Todd McShay has him going to the Eagles at the 24th overall pick.  I tend to think (hope) that McShay is closer to the mark.   If the Cardinals whiff on both Williams and Kindle, there are a number of DE/OLB types that are likely to be around late in the first round.  Everson Griffen, Sean Witherspoon, and Jerry Hughes will likely hover the late first round-early second round territory the Cardinals occupy.

The Cardinals, however, may also consider CB Devin McCourty (Rutgers).  McCourty’s (5-11, 193 lbs.) stock is rising and he is expected to be selected between the 20th and 30th pick, which would place him right in the Cardinals’ range.  McCourty is widely regarded as the fourth ranked cornerback in this years’ draft class.  He ran a blazing 4.38 forty-yard dash at the Combine, which was faster than his fellow cornerbacks that precede him on the rankings chart, specifically Joe Haden (4.52), Earl Thomas (4.43), and Kyle Wilson (4.43).  McCourty also had an impressive pro day according to many NFL teams.  The former Scarlet Knight impressed the Browns so much that they have expressed significant interest in him, despite the fact that the Browns recently traded for the former Eagles CB Sheldon Brown. 

In addition to his CB skills, McCourty was a great special teams contributor, averaging 25.1 yards per kickoff return, including a touchdown in 2009.  McCourty also blocked seven kicks during his career at Rutgers.  The following is’s full analysis:

Read & React:  Reads receiver’s body language to see if his man is the primary target. Quick to jump routes because he reads the quarterback well. Doesn’t bite on stop-and-go routes. Supports the run quickly, even when the play is between the tackles or on the other side of the field.

Man Coverage:  Can press or play off effectively. Has fluid hips, transitions smoothly and stays low and is quick in his backpedal. Sticks to receivers on their routes, showing excellent change of direction. Plays more physically than you would expect for his size, using his hands to jam on the line and maintain contact downfield. Larger receivers will use their size to shield him from slants and crossing patterns.

Zone Coverage: Should make a very good zone corner in the NFL. Good awareness, keeping one eye on the short receiver and another on any players trying to hit the hole behind him. Comes off his man to react to a ball in the air. Makes the easy interception, goes up to get the ball and has strong hands. Will freelance when no receiver lines up on his side, leaving his zone open.

Closing/Recovery: Baits quarterbacks into throwing in his direction, closing very well when the ball is in front of him. Good plant and drive with body control. Takes the proper angle to the receiver. Lacks elite speed, but can recover quickly enough when picked on crossing or drag routes to make the tackle.

Run Support: Very willing (and able) to support the run. Attacks running backs coming into his area, bringing them down withveracity. Holds up his man to force plays inside. Hustles across the field to plays on the opposite sideline. Tough player, but still lacks the size to consistently get off downfield blocks from larger receivers.

Tackling: Wiry strong and solid in his tackling technique. Brings his hips and wraps ballcarriers when straight-on in his sights. Doesn’t give up many yards after catch. Attacks screens, even after push off from larger receivers. Avoids blocks in the open field, usually wrapping a leg instead of cutting. Rarely misses completely, even against elusive runners. Should be one of the better special teams players in his class.

Intangibles: Reliable veteran who loves to play the game. Took a leadership role in 2009 with Jason McCourty and safety Courtney Greene in the NFL. Very good student who made multiple Big East All-Academic teams.

To summarize, it seems safe to say that the only way the Cardinals go with an offensive pick in the first round is if Clausen miraculously falls all the way to the Cardinals.  Kindle is still the most likely selection, though Dan Williams is the best case scenario.  In addition, if Kindle and Williams are gone, CB Devin McCourty presents an appetizing first round option, especially with Darren McFadden’s lack luster 2009 performance.  Finally, if they Cards are intent on an OLB/DE type, Sean Weatherspoon, Jerry Hughes, and Everson Griffen are on the radar as well.

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