- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer
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A month from today, the excitement of the first round will have died down. The parties will have ended and coaches, general managers and owners will have stopped patting each other on the back.
It’ll be time for the real work to start.
With the second and third round of the NFL draft a month from today, the Cardinals’ needs are very similar to theirs in the first round. But there’s one twist: If the Cardinals draft a quarterback, it’ll be on the second day.
Since the Cardinals can only draft one player on Day 1, five of the six positions I wrote about Tuesday will still be in play.
Here’s a look at which direction the Cardinals’ second and third rounds could go:
Quarterback: Arizona is in luck that Carson Palmer is healthy – and productive – heading into the 2014 season. That means a quarterback isn’t a first-round priority, but it’s a priority, nonetheless. Palmer is entering the last season of his contract (the final year expires five days after the Super Bowl) and Arizona needs to start looking to the future. And the second or third round is a perfect place to start, especially with a quarterback such as LSU’s Zach Mettenberger or Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas. Both fit the Bruce Arians’ mold but both need work – Mettenberger because of his ACL injury and Thomas because he’s more raw than anything. With how complex the Cardinals’ offense is to learn, spending a year learning it will benefit any quarterback Arizona chooses. And if the conditions are right, don’t be surprised to see the Cardinals trade up in the second or trade to get another second-round pick to nab a quarterback.
The six positions I wrote about on Tuesday in order of their priority in the second or third round:
Safety: Arizona needs to fill this need and the second day of the draft is the best place to find a sleeper safety. It’s likely Deone Bucannon or Calvin Pryor are long gone by this point, leaving Arizona with a no shortage of options.
Right tackle: Remember how I said there were only a handful of first-round tackles? They’re already getting fitted for their jersey and picking out their NFL numbers. The Cardinals could go tackle in the second or wait to see who drops to the third. General manager Steve Keim isn’t someone to rush a pick, especially when it’s a position the Cardinals need. And you can be sure he’s done his homework and will have someone up his sleeve that is way off the radar.
Linebacker: Like I said Tuesday, with the depth Arizona has at outside linebacker, the Cardinals would only go this route if the player was the best available on the board, but don’t be surprise if the Cardinals trade up for a good linebacker in the second round if they don’t think he’ll be there long.
Cornerback: There is speed everywhere these days but Arizona needs a smart corner who can flourish in Todd Bowle’s man press coverage. But if the Cardinals don’t find one in the second or third round, it’s not time to panic. The newest cornerback will have two very good mentors to learn from and grow under.
Defensive lineman: While not an immediate priority, don’t be surprised if the Cardinals turn some heads by drafting a defensive tackle in the second or third round.
Tight end: If Arizona doesn’t get the tight end it wants in the first round, then this is a position that can be pushed back until the third day.