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2013 NFL Draft Fallout: Arizona Cardinals

The 2013 NFL Draft transformed 32 NFL rosters. Around The League will examine the aftershocks in our Draft Fallout series. Next up: The Arizona Cardinals.

The Big Question: Is the offensive line suddenly adequate?

The Cardinals allowed 113 sacks the past two seasons, more than any NFL team over that span. Those numbers will go down this season just by the sheer absence of Kevin Kolb, third among active quarterbacks in career sack percentage.

New quarterback Carson Palmer also can count on marked improvement in pass protection. Levi Brown returns to guard Palmer's blindside after missing the entire 2012 season with a torn triceps. Although 2012 fourth-rounder Bobby Massie struggled out of the gates as a rookie starter, he was one of the better pass-blocking right tackles in the league over the final two months last season.

Veteran left guard Daryn Colledge was the lone bright spot on the Cardinals' offensive line last year. Now he's joined by No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper, deemed the most athletic guard NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell has seen since he began studying college tape more than a decade ago. Intriguing fourth-rounder Earl Watford could be a candidate to kick inside to center and put the heat on veteran Lyle Sendlein.

The Cardinals might only graduate to mediocrity up front, but it's still enough to make them one of the most improved units in the league this season.

Three takeaways

  1. With injury-prone veterans Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams atop the tailback depth chart, fifth- and sixth-rounders Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington could force their way into significant roles as rookies. The Cardinals will have to run the ball effectively to take advantage of Bruce Arians' play-action heavy vertical passing attack.
  1. The Cardinals might have gotten a steal in sixth-rounder Ryan Swope, who has drawn comparisons to Eric Decker and Brandon Stokley as a versatile, highly productive wide receiver with the speed to blaze a 4.34 second 40-yard dash and 1.47 10-yard split at the NFL Scouting Combine. NFL Network's Mike Mayock had a third-round grade on Swope, but the Texas A&M star dropped due to multiple college concussions.
  1. Inside linebacker Kevin Minter, safety/cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and outside linebacker Alex Okafor will push for snaps right off the bat. Minter is the favorite to start next to Karlos Dansby with Daryl Washington facing at least a four-game suspension. Mathieu's play-making ability should transfer well to free safety. Okafor provides a much-needed edge rush behind the questionable duo of Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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