TEMPE, Ariz. -- One of the Arizona Cardinals’ chief needs in this year’s draft is a young, speedy, athletic inside linebacker.
And that’s exactly what ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has Arizona selecting with the 24th overall pick.
McShay predicted the Cardinals will take Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman in the first round. He’s a 5-foot-11 and 248-pound senior who is the top-ranked inside backer, according to ESPN. Last season, Perryman had 110 tackles, two sacks and an interception.
However, he may not the best fit for the Cardinals.
Perryman falls on the shorter side of the scale of inside linebackers but he runs a 4.73-second 40-yard dash. He received high marks from ESPN as a natural leader as well as for his ability to be the quarterback of the defense, much like the inside linebacker he’d be replacing, should Larry Foote decide to retire. Perryman is durable, not having missed a game the past two seasons after an injury-riddled 2012.
One knock is that Perryman doesn’t have a closing burst to get to running backs on a straight line but he has above average range. He’s a hard hitter, but the Cardinals already have someone who’s a thumper in Kevin Minter.
While Perryman may have the instincts and the intangibles, he doesn’t have the size and athleticism comparable to Daryl Washington. The Cardinals saw last season how size could be an issue -- both Minter and Foote were 6-1 and played similar styles. Arizona needs an inside linebacker who’s longer than both and can cover sideline to sideline with the speed of Washington to complement Foote, should he return, or Minter, should he take over for Foote.