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Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Kiper mock update: Cardinals at No. 26

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Mel Kiper has replaced nose tackle Dan Williams with linebacker Jerry Hughes in projecting which player Arizona might select 26th overall in the draft.

I'm updating the pre-combine and post-combine items making sense of first-round choices for NFC West teams, concluding with the Cardinals:

26. Arizona Cardinals

Mel's latest pick: Hughes

My latest thoughts: The Cardinals seem confident that outside linebackers Will Davis and Cody Brown can develop well enough to pick up where Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry left off. Kiper projects Hughes as helping replace productivity lost when Karlos Dansby departed in free agency. Hughes was much more of a pass-rusher in college than Dansby, and that's OK. The Cardinals can use all the pass-rush help they can get. Hughes does seem to project as a potential force at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Dansby played inside, though, so Hughes would not replace him directly. Williams, the nose tackle from Tennessee, seemed like a good fit for Arizona, but Kiper had him off the board at this point in his revised mock.

Mel's previous pick: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

My pre-combine thoughts: This pick would make a great deal of sense. Veteran Bryan Robinson has exceeded expectations as the Cardinals' nose tackle, but he'll be 36 in June. The Cardinals have committed more fully to a Steelers-style defense, and that makes nose tackles more valuable. No complaints with this pick.

My post-combine followup: Williams made a positive impression at the combine and it's fair to wonder if another team running a 3-4 defense might select him somewhere among the top 25 choices. Arizona used the 33rd choice of the 2007 draft for nose tackle Alan Branch, with disappointing results (Branch has appeared more comfortable at end). That's one reason why the Williams choice would make sense. Another: The Cardinals might lose linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency. They expect young linebackers Will Davis and Cody Brown to play more and possibly start in 2010. Those guys will need protection in front of them and a nose tackle with Williams' credentials could certainly help. The Cardinals would look good on paper with Darnell Dockett, Williams and Calais Campbell across the defensive line. I could also see the Cardinals strengthening their offensive line in the first round. Idaho guard Mike Iupati looked the part at the combine. He carries 331 pounds very well and his size might help Arizona continue building its ground game.