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Arizona Cardinals' draft needs: Tom Savage an intriguing option

Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.

The Arizona Cardinals won 10 games last year, and they were the third best team in their division. If they want to get over the hump in 2014 -- and unseat the reigning Super Bowl champs -- they'll need to add a few key pieces on both sides of the ball.

Their defense is loaded with difference-makers, with Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington still leading the unit. But with all of the young, talented quarterbacks in the NFC West, Arizona needs to be able to rush the passer and fortify the backend of its secondary.

Speaking of young, talented quarterbacks, I believe the Cardinals have to find one of their own. With so much depth at the position in this year's group, I think general manager Steve Keim will be able to draft a suitable signal-caller for Bruce Arians' system.

Here are four positions of need for Arizona -- and four prospects who could fill them.

1) Safety


Pairing Antonio Cromartie with All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson will keep offensive coordinators up at night -- that is, if Cromartie returns to his 2012 form. Even if the duo is operating at a high level, the safety spots have some real question marks. Tyrann Mathieu had a solid rookie season, but he's coming off ACL and LCL tears in his left knee. Even when he does return, the defensive playmaker lines up underneath in their sub packages, so there's a need for a ball hawk to play over the top. Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville's Calvin Pryor would be great pickups if either falls to No. 20 overall, but the Cards could wait to address the position in Round 2 with a player like Deone Bucannon. The Washington State defender has size (6-foot-1), toughness and a history of production in the Pac 12 -- just watch his tape. I think Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois is a great player, too, but he doesn't have the size (5-foot-11) they're looking for; teaming him with Mathieu would leave Arizona with two undersized safeties.

Path to the Draft
Airing weekdays at 7 p.m. ET on NFL Network, "Path to the Draft" previews the 2014 NFL Draft by providing in-depth expert analysis of the top prospects and each team's needs.

» 'Path to the Draft' videos
» NFL Network broadcast schedule

2) Offensive tackle


The Cardinals invested in Jared Veldheer in free agency and Jonathan Cooper in last year's draft, showing their commitment to establishing a dominant offensive line. And don't expect them to stop now. I believe Arizona's confident in right tackle Bobby Massie, but there's so much depth in the 2014 class that Arizona will have an opportunity to upgrade. Zack Martin from Notre Dame makes sense for the Cards because of his ability to play multiple positions. If Massie turns out to be the answer at right tackle, Martin could move inside, teaming with Cooper to form one of the NFL's better guard tandems.

3) Outside linebacker


John Abraham had 11.5 sacks last season -- his highest total since 2010 -- but he's turning 36 in May. This draft class is thin in edge rushers, so if the Cardinals want to address the position they'll have have to do it in the first round. Dee Ford's Auburn game tape is impressive, and he really elevated his game to another level during the Senior Bowl. If Ford isn't available at No. 20, the Cards could focus their attention on Kony Ealy, who's much better against the run. The Missouri defender posted a poor 40-yard dash time (4.92 seconds) at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he rebounded at his pro day, running an unofficial 4.57.

4) Quarterback


Breer: The great QB conundrum
What's a QB-needy team to do in a draft with a lot of questions at the position? Albert Breer examines a complicated issue. READ

Carson Palmer had an up-and-down season in 2013, and, at 34, is clearly not the long-term solution in Arizona. There's been a lot of debate over the quality of the top QBs in this year's class, but one thing most draft analysts agree on is that the group is deep; there are quality signal-callers who will be available after Day 1.

If the Cards want to lock up their quarterback of the future in the first round, I think Derek Carr makes the most sense. The former Fresno State star would be a solid fit in Bruce Arians' vertical passing game. If they wait until the second or third rounds, Pittsburgh's Tom Savage -- who's gaining more steam by the day -- would be an intriguing option. He has similar arm strength and stature as Palmer -- but shares his lack of mobility.

Projections

So what will the Cardinals do with their first-round pick (No. 20 overall)? Here's what NFL Media's analysts see happening, according to their mock draft projections (click here for full mock drafts):


Daniel Jeremiah: Bradley Roby
 
Bucky Brooks: Dee Ford

Charles Davis: Bradley Roby

Matt Smith: Eric Ebron

Chase Goodbread: Darqueze Denard

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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