Mel Kiper's first mock draft for 2011 serves as a good conversation starter for NFC West fans looking forward to April.
I'll start with a look at his plans for the Arizona Cardinals, who hold the No. 5 overall choice.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Kiper's give: The Cardinals were a mess at quarterback in 2010, and while Max Hall and John Skelton showed glimpses, both are projects, and there's no real solution in place for next season outside of a trade. Gabbert will be under the microscope during the testing process perhaps more than any other player, but at this stage he's the most NFL-ready QB in the draft. Arizona is in a tough spot: If the Cardinals pass on Gabbert, there won't be a QB who can do more for them sooner than Skelton or Hall later in the draft. Gabbert offers a strong arm, prototype size, reads the game well and has a lot of upside.
Sando's take: Arizona's obvious need for a quarterback validates Kiper's thinking, but the Cardinals' approach to the position in the draft could hinge on what the team does in free agency. Might the Cardinals sign Marc Bulger or another experienced quarterback? The team could conceivably go that route while continuing to develop Skelton and/or Hall. The team could even sign more than one veteran. Arizona has enough needs throughout its roster to clear the way for the Cardinals to consider going multiple directions with the fifth overall choice.