With DE Travis LaBoy being the only real free agent signing of the offseason for team so far, and with Larry Fitzgerald’s contract talks idling in neutral, it appears that the Arizona Cardinals have settled on one course of action: focusing on the draft!!!
Let’s face it, until Fitz’s new contract becomes a reality we have no way to entice any new veterans to the clubhouse. Signing LaBoy was a big pick up. Like Scott mentioned, this guy can flat out play. He is big, strong, fast, athletic and tough, exactly the type of player you want locking down one of those DE spots. He provides much needed depth to the position and fills the void vacated by Calvin Pace. LeBoy teamed with a healthy Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry, as well as the return of blitzing SS Adrian Wilson, potentially give us a very dangerous pass rush.
So with that area addressed, the next area for the team to address is the secondary, namely the cornerback position. The Cards Defense has not had that lockdown CB since the hallowed days of Aeneas Williams, and having that type of playmaker is something we sorely need when we are going to be facing Matt Hasselback, Marc Bulger, and the new 49ers offense under the “Pass-Only” Mike Martz system. And this draft class is stacked with talent at the CB position. Picking 16th gives us a good chance of nabbing one of the top three CBs in the draft, based on the moves some of the 15 teams in front of us have made already in free agency.
Here’s how I rank the top 5 CBs in the 2008 Draft Class:
1. Leodis McKelvin, Troy
Blazing speed, physical play, and a threat in the return game make this guy a huge playmaker for any team lucky enough to grab him. The only knock on him may be that he played at Troy, and therefore faced somewhat weak opposition, but all the tools are there.
2. Aqib Talib, Kansas
Not only is he quick enough to cover the deep threats, he is much larger than your average CB (6’1″, 202 lbs), allowing him to match up very well against the big time receivers like Plaxico Burress and Terrell Owens, who are used to bullying much smaller defenders. His footwork and recovery speed is still lacking, but good coaching can fix that pretty easily.
3. Mike Jenkins, South Florida
Has great athleticism and will go up and fight for every ball thrown his way. Just like Talib and McKelvin, Jenkins has incredible speed and can excell in one on one coverage. I rank him third simply because of his size, which isn’t comparable to Talib, but all 3 of these guys can be considered in the same breath.
4. Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech
I love this guy’s physical style of defense. I have not seen a corner come out of college in the last few years who plays as hard as Flowers does at the line of scrimmage. A huge asset in a team’s running defense, Flowers does not have the long speed of some of the other corners mentioned. But he makes up for it by his ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and beat guys up in the passing game. He will redirect you and make you fight for every blade of grass out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes near the end of the first round, but he will definitely not fall past the second round.
5. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tennesee State
Shooting up recent draft boards due to a great workout at the combine, Rodgers-Cromartie may be getting a little bit of an extra look due to his relation to All-Pro CB Antonio Cromartie of the San Diego Chargers. But he definitely deserves all of the praise. Rodgers-Cromartie has all of the tools and measurables, but he has not performed on the big stage, which has scouts wondering how much of a risk he is if they were to draft him based solely on his combine numbers. Lots of potential, but needs to prove himself still.
With all of this depth to choose from, I think it is about 100% that the Cards will end up with one of these five quality players. Who will it be? Aqib Talib, but that’s just my guess.
I see McKelvin going to New England as a replacement for Asante Samuel, and I see us choosing between Talib or Jenkins. In the end, Talib’s size and speed make him to good to pass up.
But that’s just what I think……GO CARDS!!