Through free agency and the draft, the Arizona Cardinals devoted multiple resources towards the cornerback position a year ago but the team is still in need of help. CB Bryant McFadden, 2009’s prized free-agent pickup, struggled last season and the Cardinals are unsure if fourth-round draft pick Greg Toler will be ready for expanded playing time. Factor in the suspect sophomore season of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and trouble could be brewing with the Arizona pass defense.
Following the 2008 season, the Cardinals overhauled their secondary, particularly at cornerback. Starters Rod Hood and Eric Green both exited the desert after Arizona struggled to consistently defend the pass, allowing 221 yards per game through the air. Thanks to a promising rookie campaign, Rodgers-Cromartie then landed on top of the depth chart and McFadden joined him. However, the Cardinals’ pass defense proceeded to take a step back giving up over 230 yards passing per contest.
This year’s class of cornerbacks looks to be extremely talented with at least five prospects having a legitimate chance of being selected in the first round of the draft. Furthermore, double digit cornerbacks should hear their name called within the first three rounds. At pick No. 26, names such as Joe Haden and Kyle Wilson are all but out of the question but several other players could provide exceptional value. Alabama’s Kareem Jackson, Devin McCourty of Rutgers and Florida St's Patrick Robinson all show the capacity to make an immediate impact at the next level.
Jackson, McCourty and Robinson all share similar skill sets and their abilities aren’t far off of the top two cornerbacks available. Jackson features fluid hips and excellent footwork, two of the most important traits of a corner in the NFL. He displays a physical presence in one-on-one situations and has the ability to jam receivers off the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Jackson was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide and his lack of injuries in college makes him a relatively safe investment.
McCourty is another durable player who missed very little time during his four-year career with the Scarlett Knights. While he lacks the natural abilities players such as Haden, Wilson and Robinson possess, McCourty boasts a great deal of experience and is outstanding in run defense. Meanwhile in comparison, Robinson’s potential is slightly limited and he may fit better in a cover two scheme. Robinson has tremendous ball skills but may struggle to match-up consistently with NFL receivers.
Last year’s draft transpired in ideal fashion for Arizona as RB Beanie Wells dropped all the way to pick No. 31. If the Cardinals manage to be as fortunate as they were a year ago, GM Rod Graves may have a tough time passing on a cornerback in Round 1 thanks to a stellar group of prospects expected to be available.
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