By time the 20th pick rolled around in Tuesday’s NFL Nation mock draft, I had turned down three trade requests.
Two teams – the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars – offered me an opportunity to move out of the first round, while the New Orleans Saints tried to get me to move back. But Arizona has areas it needs to improve, some greater than others, and I knew the options wouldn’t be as talented after No. 20.
After fending off the trade offers, I took a look at my big board and the lure of drafting an offensive tackle – at the time Virginia’s Morgan Moses and Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio were still available – was tempting but Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier was the best player available. And with inside linebacker an area of concern, he was the right fit.
As Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said last week, Shazier can play both inside and outside linebacker, which gives the Cardinals options in utilizing his speed. He would instantly compete with Kevin Minter for the inside job next to Daryl Washington and Shazier would likely fill Washington’s role when he’s suspended by the league for violating its personal conduct policy. Of anyone in the draft, his play most resembles Karlos Dansby's ability to cover sideline to sideline.
Shazier can also be a weapon on the outside, with enough speed to blow by tackles off the edge, giving the Cardinals a presence there they didn’t have last year. And he’ll be able to learn under veteran sack master John Abraham, who’ll be 36 next season.
He wasn’t just the best player available, he was the best fit for the Cardinals.