One month from today, the hypothesizing will come to end. Until then, however, let the mock drafts, draft proposals and player dissections continue.
The first round of the NFL draft will take place May 8 in New York City and after 19 picks, the Arizona Cardinals will be put on the clock. With 30 days left, Arizona’s needs are clearer than they were immediately after the season.
Here’s a look at which direction the Cardinals’ first round could go:
Cornerback: There have been a solid handful of mock drafts that link the Cardinals with a cornerback and it’s possible they go this route if the best player available is a corner. But with the addition of Antonio Cromartie, a cornerback is not as high of a priority as it was before his signing. If a top-tier talent like Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard or Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert isn’t around, the Cardinals will likely pass on a cornerback and address another need.
Safety: By now, the Cardinals’ Achilles heel on defense is well known: They need a tall, quick strong safety to help defend tight ends. But with a good amount of safety depth in the draft, if the Cardinals don’t get the guy they want at 20th, they’ll be able to fill the position on the second or third day. But if a player like Deone Bucannon or Calvin Pryor is there, look for the Cardinals to draft him.
Right tackle: There are probably about nine or 10 really good tackles in this draft class but only a handful of them are first-round talent. It’s likely the Cardinals could see a tackle like Virginia’s Morgan Moses or Notre Dame’s Zack Martin fall to 20th, but then the discussion in their war room becomes whether or not the Cards want to play first-round money for either.
Tight end: The most unlikely of first-round picks, a tight end can be found anywhere in this draft. But, like with any position, if the right guy is waiting at No. 20, it would hard -- and foolish -- to pass up. If both North Carolina’s Eric Ebron and Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro are gone by time the Cardinals pick in the first round, expect them to pass over tight ends until later in the draft.
Linebacker: With a roster full of depth at outside linebacker, the Cardinals would only pick one if he is the best player available -- such as a Buffalo’s Khalil Mack or UCLA’s Anthony Barr. Arizona has its two starters back from last season and three outside linebackers returning from injury. This is a position the Cards have to address for the future, just not likely in the first round.
Defensive lineman: Much like linebacker, drafting a defensive lineman will be a best-player-available scenario. It’s time the Cardinals started looking for Darnell Dockett’s replacement. This year’s draft will have a slew of possibilities but a good fit -- for example Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III or Florida’s Dominique Easley -- may be available in the second round.