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2014 NFL Draft primer: Arizona Cardinals

Calvin Pryor of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates after

Calvin Pryor of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates after intercepting a pass during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Oct. 26, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky. Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons

This is the latest primer in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit. The draft begins Thursday, May 8.


2013 record: 10-6

Key offseason acquisitions: OT Jared Veldheer, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR/KR Ted Ginn, TE John Carlson.

Key offseason departures: MLB Karlos Dansby, MLB Jasper Brinkley, WR Andre Roberts, OT Eric Winston, G Daryn Colledge, SS Yeremiah Bell.

Biggest holes: Safety, linebacker, quarterback, right tackle.

Arizona was very close to making the playoffs in 2013. With just a few more pieces, they may find themselves there next season.

The Cardinals didn't just fill most of their needs in free agency, they managed to upgrade on most of them. Jared Veldheer pairs with Jonathan Cooper to make for a strong left side of the offensive line, while ex-Jet Antonio Cromartie joins Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu to make the Cardinals' secondary tougher to throw on.

However, they still have a few things to address in order to get over the hump -- another safety, a young pass-rusher, and to start thinking about the future at quarterback.

The Cardinals could fill their first need with an ex-Cardinal - Louisville's Calvin Pryor. Pryor played free safety in college, but his skill set translates better as a strong safety, which is what Arizona needs. He's an enforcer who will lay out anyone who tries to cross over the middle of the field. He'll need to make sure his aggressiveness doesn't get too out of hand in today's NFL, but he would be a great complement to the rangy Mathieu.

The Cardinals also could use a young edge rusher. Ex-Falcon John Abraham, who played for the Jets from 2000-2005, had a strong Cardinals debut in 2013 with 11 1/2 sacks, but he turns 36 two days before the draft. Auburn's Dee Ford could be a good pick if they want a first-round pass-rusher. Ford has an explosive first step and anticipates the snap well, as he showed when he had two sacks in the BCS title game and another two in the Senior Bowl. He's a bit of a "tweener" at 6-2 and 252 pounds, and he'll face a learning curve if asked to play outside linebacker in the NFL. But who better to learn from than Abraham, who successfully made the conversion from defensive end to linebacker?

Ohio State's Ryan Shazier also could be an attractive first-round option. Shazier has excellent speed - he ran an unofficial 4.36-second 40 at his Pro Day - but before you peg him solely as an edge rusher, he also is strong in coverage and is a good run-and-chase linebacker. He's also a good tackler, recording 317 total tackles in three seasons and leading the Big Ten in tackles as a junior (144). He's a disruptive linebacker who can slip through gaps and make stops in the backfield.

If any of the top quarterbacks fall here, the Cardinals may need to consider drafting one as 35-year-old Carson Palmer's eventual replacement. Palmer is signed through 2015, though the final year of his contract is voidable if he is not on the roster five days after Super Bowl XLIX.

While it would be nice for the Cards to have Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles fall into their laps at 20, the quarterback that's most likely to be available at this pick would be Fresno State's Derek Carr. He'd also be the best fit of the QBs that could potentially go in the first round - his powerful arm is a good fit for head coach Bruce Arians' vertical offense. He's very accurate on short and intermediate routes and is surprisingly fast (his 4.69 40 at the Combine was just .01 seconds slower than Manziel). Carr did have some issues against stronger pass rushes, however, and he primarily played out of the shotgun and pistol formations in a pass-happy spread offense, but sitting behind Palmer for a season would allow him the opportunity to learn the pro game before taking the reins.

Possible second-day and third-day picks include Washington State safety Deonne Bucannon, Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward, UConn middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood, Georgia Tech DE/OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Florida State OLB Telvin Smith, Pitt QB Tom Savage, LSU QB Zach Mettenberger and Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas.

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