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The Arizona Cardinals narrowly missed out on the postseason in 2013-14 after a resurgent year behind first-year head coach Bruce Arians, who resurrected the team in the desert. Playing in the all-too competitive NFC West, the team must build up a couple of key areas — pass rush and offensive line — following the trend set by the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
The most glaring need for the Cardinals is at offensive line, and it seems very likely the team is going to be ultra aggressive in free agency to try and lure left tackle Branden Albert to Arizona to sure up an offensive line that allowed 41 sacks a year ago. But should the team miss out on Albert or another top-tier free agent or simply want to upgrade both tackle spots, the team could address the position with the No. 20 pick.
Highly regarded Cyrus Kouandjio is the oft-mentioned pick. The former Alabama standout was an All-SEC selection this season and is considered ready to rock and roll come Week 1. Kouandjio has drawn comparisons to his former teammate D.J. Fluker who went to the San Diego Chargers in the first round last year, though some scouts believe Kouandjio is an even better player.
John Abraham was a free-agent bargain for Arizona last season, but the linebacker is turning 36 this season and is still the best outside linebacker on the roster. The team could look for Abraham’s successor in Round 2, perhaps in the form of a Ryan Shazier or Kyle Van Noy. Shazier racked up 143 tackles last season with Ohio State and can not only rush the passer but drop back into coverage, while Van Noy was a jack-of-all trades for BYU.
With Palmer turning 34 and entering the final year of his contract, perhaps Arians could nab his quarterback of the future somewhere in the middle-to-late rounds. One of the most coveted quarterbacks not projected to be a first-round pick is LSU’s Zach Mettenberger.
Mettenberger fits the mold of a big-bodies, NFL-caliber armed quarterback who was touted as a potential first-round pick during the college football season. He’s ranked between the No. 5 and 6-best quarterback prospects in this year’s class and not expected to come off the board until the third or fourth round. Arians has been linked to Mettenberg in the past and may want to add someone of his talent to the team, especially with none of the Cards’ backups having too much starting potential.
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