The Arizona Cardinals are fully in win-now mode. Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer is in the twilight of his career, and and star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald may not be far behind him. With that in mind, the Cardinals made a big move this offseason, sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick to the Patriots for pass rusher Chandler Jones, who has just a year left on his contract.
With those things in mind, Arizona's big needs in the draft are at center and cornerback. If they address those successfully, the Cardinals could be a Super Bowl favorite heading into the season. But in the SB Nation NFL writers mock draft, Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds has a few options at those positions.
29. Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Root: The Cardinals are in a pretty good position overall. They see themselves as a team with a roster that can win a championship the way it is currently constructed, and with the acquisition of Chandler Jones, their biggest hole is already taken care of, especially with Markus Golden already developing on the other side and Shaq Riddick full of potential.
So, what do the Cardinals do? The top center in Ryan Kelly is off the board, the best edge rushers are off the board. The best cornerbacks are off the board, too. While some might want Arizona to grab Paxton Lynch to develop the QB of the future, I have my doubts and don’t like the idea of taking a player in Round 1 that isn’t likely to play in his first two seasons in the league.
Enter Nkemdiche. There is no doubt the talent is there. Assuming his off-the-field thing is behind him, he would be the elite defensive line talent to infuse youth and explosiveness to a group led by an aging line in Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker and Red Bryant. Not only would he set up Arizona very nicely for years to come, pairing him with the promise of Rodney Gunter, he would also probably be the most talented player on that line right now.
The veteran group would keep him in line in practice and on the field. His talent would take a great defense and make it even more physical and athletic. Arizona would be a great landing place for him and he would be a great fit in Arizona.
Analysis: From a culture fit, I love the choice of Nkemdiche. The Cardinals aren't afraid to take a high-reward gamble, and that's what this signifies. If Nkemdiche pans out, his pure athletic talent has few peers. He can work into Arizona's rotation up front, and eventually be Campbell's successor. If you assume that Nkemdiche will pan out, this is a great choice. Of course, that is no guarantee. He's had off-field issues and admitted to not always playing his hardest. Which direction he takes next will ultimately determine his professional fate.
Dan's Top 5 players remaining
- 15. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
- 20. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
- 24. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
- 25. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
- 26. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
- 1-29: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
Complete draft results:
1. Tennessee Titans - Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss (Link)
2. Cleveland Browns - Jared Goff, QB, Cal (Link)
3. San Diego Chargers - Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State (Link)
4. Dallas Cowboys - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State (Link)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (Link)
6. Baltimore Ravens - Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Link)
7. San Francisco 49ers - DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (Link)
8. Philadelphia Eagles - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (Link)
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky (Link)
10. New York Giants - Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (Link)
11. Chicago Bears - Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida (Link)
12. New Orleans Saints - A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (Link)
13. Miami Dolphins - Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State (Link)
14. Oakland Raiders - Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (Link)
15. Los Angeles Rams - Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson (Link)
16. Detroit Lions - Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State (Link)
17. Atlanta Falcons - Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson (Link)
18. Indianapolis Colts - Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama (Link)
19. Buffalo Bills - Reggie Ragland, MLB, Alabama (Link)
20. New York Jets - Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (Link)
21. Washington - Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor (Link)
22. Houston Texans - Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor (Link)
23. Minnesota Vikings - Josh Doctson, WR, TCU (Link)
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Laquon Treadell, WR, Ole Miss (Link)
25. Pittsburgh Steelers - William Jackson, CB, Houston (Link)
26. Seattle Seahawks - Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida (Link)
27. Green Bay Packers - Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama (Link)
28. Kansas City Chiefs - Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech (Link)