Why C.J. Mosley makes sense at 20th

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
12:25
PM ET
In his most recent mock draft, ESPN NFL draft Insider Todd McShay had the Arizona Cardinals picking Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Mosley
Before rushing to be the first to disagree with McShay, think about why the pick makes sense for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals lost Karlos Dansby and his 114 solo tackles to free agency in March, and even though they have plans to replace him with second-year linebacker Kevin Minter, the sense is Arizona isn’t totally sold on the idea of Minter filling that hole -- even after drafting him in the second round last year. In March, after Arizona solidified its secondary by signing Antonio Cromartie, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said the team needs more depth at inside linebacker.

He also said Minter was going to enter offseason workouts “in the audition stage.”

“We’ll find out what Kevin Minter is made of,” Keim said in March.

While the Cards do that, by choosing Mosley, they would also be building a deep well of depth at inside linebacker. It's likely that Lorenzo Alexander will be asked to play inside and outside linebacker when he returns from a Lisfranc injury. Mosley is the best inside linebacker in the draft, and would bring more athleticism and speed to the middle of Arizona’s defense than Minter, although Minter may be better against the run.

But Arizona is forced to replace Dansby’s quickness from sideline to sideline.

According to ESPN.com’s draft analysis of Mosley, he can change direction quickly and has a good “initial burst.” But he also “makes plays outside the tackle box,” which is where Dansby flourished.

Another perk to drafting Mosley? He has “outstanding closing speed to the ball carrier.”

However, bringing Mosley on board would then squeeze Minter out, and Arizona may not want to waste a second-round pick on someone who will be a special teams expert. If the Cardinals can justify drafting two inside linebackers in consecutive seasons, then it makes sense. But Arizona may have to try to move Mosley to outside linebacker for him to see the field if Keim and head coach Bruce Arians are set on playing Minter this year. And if Mosley agrees, it's not a bad deal for him. The Cardinals have two older edge pass-rushers in John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy, and while Arizona gets Sam Acho, Alexander and Alex Okafor back from injury, Mosley edges them in age and speed.

Another thing to consider is the early-season future of Daryl Washington. After his assault case was adjudicated last week, it’s likely he’ll face a suspension from the NFL but for how long is still undecided. As of now, Alexander is the only likely replacement on the roster, with Minter taking over Dansby’s inside position, but the question is how ready will Alexander be in Week 1. Mosley wouldn't just be an immediate replacement for Washington for the duration of his suspension, he'd be an insurance policy in case Washington ends up with a long-term suspension in the future. With Washington back, the Cardinals could rotate Minter and Mosley at the inside linebacker position next to him.

Picking Mosley at 20th gives the Cardinals options, and while it may not be easy to organize the puzzle at inside linebacker, he’ll give the Cardinals the depth they need to go younger and faster at linebacker.

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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