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2013 NFL Draft primer: Arizona Cardinals

Lane Johnson of Oklahoma participates during the 2013

Lane Johnson of Oklahoma participates during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Feb. 23, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

The future stars of the NFL are almost here. The first round of the 2013 Draft kicks off on April 25, and every team will look to build for both present and future. This is the seventh in a two-a-day, 30-part series that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.


2012 record: 5-11

Key offseason acquisitions:

Carson Palmer, quarterback

Rashard Mendenhall, running back

Yeremiah Bell, safety

Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker

Jerraud Powers, cornerback

Antoine Cason, cornerback

Matt Shaughnessy, defensive end

Frostee Rucker, defensive end

Key offseason departures:

Kevin Kolb, quarterback

Quentin Groves, outside linebacker

Kerry Rhodes, safety

Beanie Wells, running back

Adrian Wilson, safety

Stewart Bradley, linebacker

Early Doucet, wide receiver

Biggest holes on roster: Offensive line, safety, wide receiver.

The Cardinals made some big strides in free agency. They (finally) picked up a starting-caliber quarterback and a primary running back, tightened up their cornerback position and added two defensive ends that can get to the quarterback. But if they really want to make the leap to the next level, they'll need to do a lot of work in the trenches.

Cardinals quarterbacks were sacked an NFL-worst 58 times for an NFL-worst 378 yards in 2012. An impressive 8.7 percent of their dropbacks resulted in sacks, tied with the Jets for the highest in the NFL. It doesn't matter if the Cardinals have Joe Montana taking snaps - no QB can complete passes without enough time in the pocket.

So it's a pretty safe bet that the Cardinals will be targeting an offensive lineman with the seventh overall selection this April. The top two offensive tackles - Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher - will probably be long gone by this point, but Oklahoma's Lane Johnson should still be on the board.

Johnson is one of the most athletic left tackles in this draft. He still needs some technique work, but was still was one of the better linemen in the Big 12 in 2012. (And if offensive tackle doesn't work out, Johnson can always help out in other ways - he played quarterback and tight end at Kilgore College in 2008, then played tight end and defensive end at Oklahoma from 2009-11 before finally settling in at tackle.)

The Cardinals also have options along the interior line if that's where they choose to go with their top choice. Alabama's Chance Warmack is the safest bet at guard -- and possibly in the entire draft, some scouts have said.

Warmack, who started 39 games in his college career, was a unanimous first-team All-American last year after recording 37 pancake blocks and committing only two penalties in 732 snaps. It also doesn't hurt that he helped block for some of the Crimson Tide's best running backs, including current NFL stars Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson as well as fellow 2013 draft prospect Eddie Lacy.

The Cardinals could also use another safety to pair with newly signed ex-Jet Yeremiah Bell, but any potential options - most notably Texas strong safety Kenny Vaccaro - would be a bit of a reach at seventh overall.

New York Sports