Saturday, April 7, 2012
What, the Cardinals reach for a tackle?
By Mike Sando
Phil from Phoenix fears the Arizona Cardinals will put need before value in drafting an offensive lineman with their first-round choice, as he feels they did in making Levi Brown the fifth pick back in 2007. Phil thinks Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw would give the Cardinals an impact player on defense -- and better value.
Mike Sando: The decision to draft Brown fifth overall was understandable. Brown started for five seasons, then received a $7 million signing bonus as part of a second contract. The Cardinals do not consider him to be a bust, in other words.
In retrospect, it's easy to say Arizona should have drafted Adrian Peterson over Brown, but the Cardinals had already invested heavily in free-agent running back Edgerrin James. They were looking to give their new line coach, Russ Grimm, a player to build around. Brown has not met expectations associated with his draft status, but he's going to start for at least a sixth consecutive season.
The Cardinals' need for another offensive tackle is acute. That is one reason the team felt compelled to bring back Brown. Arizona does not hold a second-round pick, so there will be added pressure to help the offensive line early. Free-agent options appear severely limited. This will be a recipe for reaching if the situation remains unchanged heading into the draft.
As much as I think the Cardinals need line help, I did send Upshaw their way in the NFL Blog Network mock draft we put together last week, for several reasons. The chart shows quite a few prominent draft analysts projecting defensive players to the Cardinals with the 13th overall pick. Perhaps you'll get your way, Phil.
Most analysts seem to think Upshaw will go later than 13th overall. The fit in Arizona could be right, however, as the Cardinals head into their second season running the scheme coordinator Ray Horton brought from Pittsburgh. As Pro Football Weekly analyst Nolan Nawrocki put it, Upshaw is "not as athletic as [Steelers outside linebacker] LaMarr Woodley, but could best fit a similar type of role as an intimidating 3-4 rush linebacker."