Mel Kiper Jr. has released his initial 2013 NFL mock draft for the first round. We discussed his St. Louis Rams projections earlier and will continue with a look at Kiper's thinking for the Arizona Cardinals, who hold the seventh overall choice.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Kiper's give: "We haven't seen a true guard land in the top 10 since 1997, but roll the tape on Warmack and it's hard to see how he doesn't end the streak. ... Arizona's pass protection was a disaster early in the season, but very quietly they may have found answers at tackle in Bobby Massie and Nate Potter, who both played much better late in the year. Add Warmack, and you have a young offensive line that could make huge strides in 2013. Obviously, Arizona could be in the market for a QB here, but free agency (or a trade) could fill that void before April."
Sando's take: Quarterback clearly must be Arizona's priority this offseason. Teams have traditionally found the best ones in the first round. Division rivals San Francisco and Seattle bucked convention by finding franchise QBs later in the draft. Perhaps Arizona can do the same. The offensive line is another need area, of course. The Cardinals have neglected their line in the draft for too long. They drafted seven offensive linemen during Ken Whisenhunt's six-year tenure as head coach. That was right near the NFL average, but the figure was zero for 2010 and 2011. Arizona drafted zero offensive linemen in the first three rounds of its final five drafts under Whisenhunt. Tennessee was the only other team with none during that time. Massie and Potter did improve as the season progressed. Two of the team's more dependable veterans, Lyle Sendlein and Levi Brown, are coming off season-ending surgeries. While the team overpaid for guard Adam Snyder in free agency one year ago, the veteran does have value for his versatility. Arizona's new general manger, Steve Keim, played on the offensive line at North Carolina State years ago. I would think he'll place more value on the position than the Cardinals have recently. Note that the Seahawks and 49ers placed four highly drafted offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl this season.