For the second time in as many years, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves selecting in the bottom half of the first round in the NFL Draft. For some teams this would be considered a normal occurrence but for a historically losing franchise like the Cardinals this comes as a welcome addition. Although Arizona won’t be in the running for one of this year’s marquee players, there should be tremendous value to be had the latter stages of Round 1.
While names such as Bryan Bulaga of Iowa and Rutgers’ Anthony Davis will certainly be off the board at pick No. 26, there are a handful of other offensive linemen that Cardinal fans should keep an eye on. Arizona’s performance in the trenches has played a major role in the team’s emergence over the past two seasons. Even with the progress Russ Grimm’s offensive line unit has experienced, there is still plenty of room to grow. Levi Brown has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far and unrestricted free agent Mike Gandy’s prime years are likely coming to an end.
Bulaga, Davis and Oklahoma St's Russell Okung make up the draft’s top tier of offensive tackles but the second wave of tackles would fill the Cardinals’ need for more stability upfront. Trent Williams of Oklahoma is expected to be drafted in the middle of Round 1, leaving Maryland’s Bruce Campbell and Charles Brown of USC as Arizona’s next best options with its first selection of the draft.
Campbell (6-foot-6, 312 pounds) has already caught the eyes of several scouts due to his prototypical size and agility. Campbell did show signs of being injury prone during his final season with the Terrapins, missing three games in 2009. Meanwhile, Brown (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) is undersized but a year with Grimm and company could maximize his potential at the next level. Additionally, Brown proved his versatility during his collegiate career with the Trojans lining up at both right and left tackle.
Heading into 2009, the Cardinals were hoping one of their tight ends would emerge as a long-term option at the position. However, due to injuries and ineffective play that scenario didn’t happen leaving Arizona still in search of a dependable pass-catching tight end. Filling this need becomes even more vital with QB Matt Leinart now taking over as the starter following the retirement of Kurt Warner.
This year’s crop of tight ends isn’t overwhelming but there are a few difference makers available. Another Sooner makes the list as TE Jermaine Gresham is tops among tight end prospects. Plenty of scenarios would have Gresham off the board when the Cardinals go on the clock in the first round but Rob Gronkowski from nearby University of Arizona would more than likely be available. Gronkowski could provide extreme value after missing the entire 2009 season with a back injury.
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