The NFL draft will be held from May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Cardinals addressed several needs in free agency and are now zeroing in on their draft targets. We’ll take a look at each position over the next few weeks.
Draft primer: Defensive line
Prospects by projected draft round:
First: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh; DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State; DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame; DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota; DE Kony Ealy, Missouri.
Second: DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame; DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State; DT Kareem Martin, North Carolina; DT Dominique Easley, Florida; DT Will Sutton, Arizona State.
Third/fourth: DE Trent Murphy, Stanford; DT DaQuan Jones, Penn State; DT Ego Ferguson, LSU; DT Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina; DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas; DT Caraun Reid, Princeton; DT Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech; DE Will Clarke, West Virginia; DT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee; DE James Gayle, Virginia Tech; DE Josh Mauro, Stanford; DT Anthony Johnson, LSU.
Fifth or later: DT George Uko, USC; DE Brent Urban, Virginia; DE Cassius Marsh, UCLA; DE Taylor Hart, Oregon; DT Khyri Thornton,
Analysis: The Cardinals have an elite group on the defensive line, as Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams, Alameda Ta’amu and Frostee Rucker return after anchoring the league’s top-ranked rushing defense in 2013. Even with that foundation, it’s a still a position the team may target on draft day. In looking at the near future, Ta’amu tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the season finale against the 49ers although he and the team are optimistic about his return. Williams and Ta’amu are free agents after this season – though Ta’amu will be restricted -- while Dockett has a $9.8 million cap hit for 2015 when he will be 34. While the need isn’t immediate, the Cardinals will be searching for a rotational defensive lineman in 2014 who could become a starter after that, a path Campbell took coming out of college.
Aaron Donald is expected to be gone early, but defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan, Louis Nix and Ra’Shede Hageman could be available at No. 20. Kony Ealy is a 3-4 defensive end who could also be a first-round option. Stephon Tuitt might be available in the second round, while Will Sutton and Trent Murphy could also be options on the second day.
The Cardinals don’t have a pressing need on the defensive line in 2014, but a broader view shows the team can use more depth at the position, and the draft has plenty of options.