The Arizona Cardinals had a very promising start to the 2012 season.
They started the year 4-0, with wins over two playoff teams, including Seattle and New England.
This team was on cloud nine during the opening month, shocking the league each and every week.
Unfortunately for Cardinals’ fans the streak did not last forever.
After winning their first four games, this team was humbled by a division opponent. In Week 5, the St. Louis Rams embarrassed Arizona on Thursday Night Football.
From there the season only went down. They would go on to lose 10 of their next 11 games, with their only win coming over Detroit in Week 15.
Over the final three months, the team was exposed and it has left the Cardinals with a lot of work to do this offseason.
Heading into the Draft, they have an entirely different coaching staff and a new general manager.
While coaching was arguably their biggest issue, this team will have a tough road back to the playoffs.
A 5-11 finish in 2012 has landed them the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. While the quarterback position lacks some serious talent, they will still have the opportunity to land a very solid prospect.
What should their draft strategy be? Read on to find out.
Arizona has a few more needs than the three that will be discussed. These three, however, are the pressing issues that need to be looked at.
Quarterback: Starting with the quarterback position, the Cardinals have had a need here since Kurt Warner retired following the 2009 season. They have been through the likes of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley.
None of these men have had success in the desert. While many are ready to write off Kevin Kolb, he is a guy that you should not count out heading into 2013. He had some success early on in 2012 and is now in a position to succeed with Bruce Arians calling the shots.
The two biggest knocks on Kolb are his ridiculous contract and that he is injury prone. Expect him to take a pay cut to stay with the team. If not, then I can easily see Arians and general manager Steve Keim pull the trigger on Matt Barkley.
Offensive Line: Ever when Kurt Warner was in the desert, the offensive line play was simply awful. In fact, it was the poor play of the line (and the beloved New Orleans Saints defense) that forced him into retirement.
Despite putting up very poor numbers as a group, the Cardinals' offensive line was not as bad as it seemed in 2012. They were terrible early on in the year, but they had a couple of players play well down the stretch.
Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie did not allow a single sack over the final eight games. Lyle Sendlein and Daryn Colledge are serviceable linemen as well. This team has needs at left tackle and right guard.
Middle Linebacker: The Cardinals are very thin at middle linebacker.
Paris Lenon’s contract has expired and will likely not return to the team and Stewart Bradley was just released to free up salary cap space.
This leaves Pro Bowler Daryl Washington and career backup/special-teamer Reggie Walker at the position.
Inside linebacker is not the most pressing need for Arizona, but it will become one in the Draft if someone is not brought in via free agency.
If Manti Te’o falls to the second round, he could be their guy.
Referred to by Cardinals’ fans as the ‘big three”, Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Chance Warmack should be the top three players on their draft board.
In the past, Arizona has reached on an offensive lineman to fill a need. The perfect example was selecting Levi Brown over Adrian Peterson in 2007. In this case, however, none of these players should be considered a reach at No. 7 overall.
Not only do these men satisfy a need, they are also the three best prospects in the Draft. Matt Miller, NFL Draft lead writer at Bleacher Report, even went as far as to say that Joeckel is the best pass blocking tackle he has ever scouted.
If all three of these men are off the board six picks into the draft, then look for the Cardinals to go defense.
With the Kansas City Chiefs releasing Eric Winston, it is likely that they will select Luke Joeckel at No. 1 overall. It will cost Arizona far too much to trade up into that position and there is no other player in this draft worth moving up from No. 7 for.
Trading down is something that the Cardinals should definitely consider this year. Depending on what they do in free agency, this team may have several needs to address heading into the draft.
Although the top of the draft is not as stacked as it has been in recent years, there is a lot of talent slated to be available between rounds two and four. Acquiring an extra pick or two would be ideal as they would potentially be able to add two or three starting-calibre prospects.
2012: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame (No. 13 overall).
2011: Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU (No. 5 overall).
2010: Dan Williams, Defensive Tackle, Tennessee (No. 27 overall).
2009: Beanie Wells, Running Back, Ohio State (No. 31 overall).
2008: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cornerback, Tennessee State (No. 16 overall).
2007: Levi Brown, Offensive Tackle, Penn State (No. 5 overall).