The Arizona Cardinals surprised a lot of people by finishing the 2011 season with seven wins in their final nine games. It just so happened that they were so far behind the San Francisco 49ers in the standings that it wasn't enough to get into contention late.
With that said, the momentum is there for this team. They have a tremendous amount of young talent on the defensive side of the ball and couple great skill position players on offense.
Arizona did, however, allow a lot of sacks and struggled a great deal in the passing game. They also lacked a pass rusher opposite rookie phenom Sam Acho and didn't have a nice complementary guy to Larry Fitzgerald. These issues and more need to be addressed if the Cardinals hope to contend with San Francisco in the vastly improved NFC West.
This article is going to give you a full seven round prediction of what I believe the Arizona Cardinals will do in next month's NFL Draft.
Note: Arizona traded their 2nd round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Kevin Kolb deal.
1st round, 13th pick: OT- Riley Reiff, Iowa
To say that the Arizona Cardinals need immediate upgrades along the offensive line would be a gross understatement. They allowed a league-high 54 sacks last season. Levi Brown has been an absolute bust and will probably be released soon. While, Brandon Keith struggled in pass protection a great deal.
Riley Reiff will come in and immediately become the Cardinals best pass protecting offensive tackle. He played in a pro-style offense at Iowa, has the technique to succeed right away and doesn't have one glaring pitfall to his game. You are looking at a player that Arizona can insert in at tackle for the next decade.
3rd round, 81st pick: LB- Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma
The lack of a second round pick really did hurt the Arizona Cardinals here. They would have had a multitude of different pass rushers to choose from there. Instead, they have to go for one of the better second-tier performers.
While Sam Acho proved himself to be quite the find last season, Arizona is lacking a great deal opposite him. Ronnell Lewis isn't scheme specific, meaning that he can play in both the 3-4 and 4-3 defensive sets. While his lack of size might hurt a great deal at the next level, Lewis has explosiveness at the snap and can reek havoc in the offensive backfield on a consistent basis. A great value at a need position.
4th round, 112th pick: WR- Juron Criner, Arizona
Larry Fitzgerald might be a top five receiver in the NFL, but he has absolutely no help on the other side. Andre Roberts and Early Doucet both proved to be utter failures, which leads me to believe that neither of them is suited for starting.
Juron Criner might be a little raw at this point, but he has a tremendous amount of upside. The former Arizona star can stretch the field on the outside and has pretty damn good hands.
5th round, 143rd pick: G- Brandon Brooks, Miami (O)
It is a travesty that Brandon Brooks wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, especially when a number of guards rated below him were. This is one part of the draft process that I hate. They invite marginal players from big schools, rather than great players from small schools.
Brooks has the size and strength to be a starting tackle at the next level, something that the Cardinals desperately need. Rex Hadnot and Daryn Colledge are just not the long term answers.
6th round, 174th pick: DE- Jack Crawford, Penn State
Despite the fact that Arizona placed the franchise tag on Calais Campbell, they are still in need of depth and talent at defensive end. Jack Crawford doesn't standout on tape, but he does play with a non-stop motor. The Penn State alum will be a good rotational player for Arizona moving forward.
7th round, 204th pick: CB- Keith Tandy, West Virginia
A few months ago Keith Tandy was considered a mid-round pick, but his post-season performance hasn't helped that stock. He tends to struggled a great deal with technique on the outside and isn't your prototypical corner by any stretch of the imagination.
This is what you get in the 7th round, someone that has flaws in his game. With that said, the talent is there for him to turn into a decent player moving forward.