Upgrading Cards' linebackers an inside job

Scheming on potential outside linebackers for the Cardinals doesn't make that position the team's top draft priority -- even at linebacker.

Chip said via Facebook what reddog4464 said in the comments of the earlier item. Inside linebacker is where Arizona has the greater need after Karlos Dansby left in free agency. Paris Lenon is the starter in Dansby's spot, at least for now.

Yuma81 pointed to a recent quote from defensive coordinator Bill Davis: "The plan is to find an inside linebacker high in the draft and watch him grow and wait until he eventually beats out Paris."

Draft analysts Nolan Nawrocki and Rob Rang both had the Cardinals taking Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon in their latest mocks.Weatherspoon would project as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain will presumably be long gone when Arizona chooses at No. 26.

An NFL scout I spoke with this week said he thought Weatherspoon wasn't as impressive during the 2009 season as he was during postseason workouts, and that any team drafting him in the first round would have those workouts in mind (the reverse was true for Cody Brown, the outside linebacker Arizona selected in the second round a year ago).

The 49ers' Patrick Willis sets the standard among current 3-4 inside linebackers. Willis and Weatherspoon are very close in height and college weights. Willis was the faster college prospect in 40-yard time (4.51 to 4.62 seconds). Weatherspoon was stronger on the bench press (34 reps to 22). Both posted NBA-caliber vertical jumps (40 inches for Weatherspoon, 39 for Willis).

Of course, Weatherspoon would have to reach expectations, and then some, to make any comparisons to Willis relevant years from now.

I still think a strong nose tackle could be the best choice for Arizona in the first round. Nose tackles can help linebackers by occupying blockers. There simply aren't very many good ones.