Arizona Cardinals NFL Draft Preview: Malik McDowell

Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports /

Malik McDowell is talented enough to be a star, but he has to put it all together

This off-season has been a tough one for fans of the Arizona Cardinals. Several starters, especially on defense, have changed addresses, with cost being the main culprit. Perhaps the biggest loss was veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who was not only a great player, but a leader and fan favorite. Malik McDowell could be targeted in the draft to try and replace him.

This year’s NFL Draft is long on talent at several spots. Quarterback and cornerback are both big needs for the Cardinals, but there are no sure answers at defensive end either. Last year’s top pick was Robert Nkemdiche, but was always a risk. They also re-signed Frostee Rucker, but he’s depth at best at this point. Unproven guys like Josh Mauro and Rodney Gunter are also on the roster.

McDowell is a divisive study for draft analysts. He’s clearly talented, and dominated at times while at Michigan State. At 6’6″ and 295 pounds, he has the size that the team lost when Campbell left. The Spartans used him inside, but he projects as a defensive end in the NFL, where he can take advantage of his athleticism and explosion.

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In Arizona’s 3-4 defense, McDowell could thrive. His length and natural ability make him a great fit on the end of the line. Like Campbell, he can be an effective pass rusher, but can play the run and take on blockers.

The biggest questions surrounding McDowell are about effort. Many analysts, and, most likely, teams wonder if he put in the work at the next level. His potential is high, but he has to be willing to take the coaching he’s given to keep improving.

It’s anybody’s guess as to where McDowell winds up being drafted. Some people think he could go in the top 15, while others have him as a day two selection. It seems unlikely that the Cardinals would use their first round pick on him. However, if he falls into round two, it becomes about value. The team could use a replacement for Campbell. McDowell is talented enough to be that guy, if he wants it bad enough.