Author’s note: this post can also be found over at NFL Spin Zone.
In baseball, batting .500 is virtually impossible.
When it comes to NFL personnel moves, batting .500 on your two most important transactions of a given offseason isn’t so hot.
Based off of what we saw in 2011, that’s precisely what Arizona Cardinals GM Rod Graves did, as Kevin Kolb – who the team traded for and then paid like a franchise quarterback – was far from it in his first season with the team, while top draft choice Patrick Peterson has already established himself amongst the elite young players in all of football.
Thus the dichotomy: one suspect move met by a great one.
But with the draft approaching, Cardinals fans should take solace in the fact that Graves swiftly acted in grabbing Peterson last year, and may manage to acquire another franchise cornerstone in the coming draft.
It’s obvious that no matter what Arizona does leading up the start of the 2012 season, Kolb has to be vastly improved for this team to compete in the NFC West.
Getting running back Ryan Williams – who missed his inaugural NFL campaign due to an injury – back will help, but the Cardinals could surely stand to give Kolb some sort of protection on the offensive line as well.
Although there are a couple of pieces in place that don’t look to be going anywhere any time soon (Lyle Sendlein and Levi Jones in particular), the Cardinals need a major upgrade within their “five layers of protection,” and the draft may be the perfect place to start.
With pick number 13 in hand, how might Arizona act?
Let’s take a look:
Who they will draft: David DeCastro, guard, Stanford. Guards aren’t usually first round commodities, but DeCastro isn’t your typically guard prospect. He’s tough, nasty, physical, strong, smart and an absolute technician in the run game. DeCastro would immediately start in Arizona and fortify the interior of the line next to Sendlein. He might not be the most athletic guard around, but he has all of the skills Arizona could ask for to anchor his position for years to come. This pick would be a great one.
Who they should draft: DeCastro. I know tackle is more of a premium position than guard, so if Riley Reiff slips, I wouldn’t fault the Cardinals for pouncing on him in lieu of DeCastro. But I don’t think that will happen, and rather than reaching for Johnathan Martin (DeCastro’s teammate at Stanford) or Mike Adams from Ohio State, they ought to take a player at a position of need and with tremendous value for his slot. One way to ease the pressure off of Kolb would be to re-establish a power running game with Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams – DeCastro would help that effort.
Who they could draft: Michael Floyd, wide receiver, Notre Dame. Like Reiff, I’m not sure Floyd will be available by the time Arizona submits its draft card, but he’d be a major coup if he his. Yes, Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald and a sufficient supporting receiving cast around him, but there’s no such thing as too much explosiveness in the NFL, and Floyd would seamlessly transition into a starring-second-receiver role. Finally, and pardon the broken record syndrome here, the Cardinals need to surround Kolb with talent – that’s how you optimize the play of a quarterback searching for traction. Floyd has loads of it.
Who they shouldn’t draft: Johnathan Martin, offensive tackle, Stanford. It’s not so much that I don’t think Martin is a capable NFL left tackle, it’s more that picking him at 13 is a slight reach. The draft is about moving and shaking and leverage, and Arizona should be able to find a trade partner to shift backwards just a few spots in lieu of taking Martin with their current pick. That would equate to more picks and finding guys that meet their need and value requirements. Arizona isn’t just one player away from being really good, so acquiring picks and filling roster gaps in a trade-down scenario makes sense for the team.