A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
On the back of an excellent regular season record of 13-3, the Arizona Cardinals were absolutely crushed in the NFC Championship Game, 49-15, by the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers. Like most teams the Cardinals had their fair share of injuries last season, and none were more significant than losing the linchpin of their defense, 1st team All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu in late December and subsequently for the playoffs.
Aside from losing Mathieu, what the Cardinals were missing for most of last season was a strong pass rush in a traditional sense, having to rely more on blitzing to get pressure on the QB. They addressed this big need in free agency by trading the New England Patriots their 2nd round draft pick and guard Jonathan Cooper in exchange for the Pats Pro Bowl DE Chandler Jones (who will likely play more 3-4 OLB for Arizona). This was a great move for Arizona and with the return of Mathieu they should no doubt field one of the better defenses in the league next season.
When watching the Championship Game blowout loss to the Panthers I couldn't help but think that the Cards wouldn't be able to win the Superbowl while ever they relied on Carson Palmer at quarterback. He seemed to choke in that game when the lights were brightest. It should be noted however that he was playing with a significant thumb injury late on in the season and no doubt that had some effect on how he played.
Now, a few months after the Superbowl and after free agency I am beginning to think the Cardinals will once again have a great shot at winning the big one this coming season. The main reasons for this are the aforementioned addition of Chandler Jones but also the nice pick up of guard Evan Mathis from the Superbowl champion Denver Broncos. Mathis may be 34 now but only a season ago was at the Pro Bowl. The season before that he was an All-Pro. I think an offensive line including LT Jared Veldeer, OG Mike Iupati, OG Evan Mathis, 2015 1st round pick DJ Humphries at RT and maybe a rookie center should give Palmer the time he needs to make the big plays to his excellent set of wide receivers and set up the running lanes for David and Chris Johnson at RB. I see them as a very well rounded team.
Though Arizona are a pretty deep and complete roster, like all teams they could improve in some areas and they have guys who are getting old in others. I see their main areas of need as center/guard, 5-technique DE/DT, inside linebacker, cornerback and safety.
It was really tempting to go with Alabama center Ryan Kelly here. He is the player who seems to be being mocked mostly to Arizona and he should be a pretty big upgrade over the likes of A.Q Shipley at the position. Many of the fans seem to be calling for this pick too. The defensive line too is recognized as a need as most of the starters there are getting on in age now. The no.1 guy on the d-line, Pro Bowler Calais Campbell is still in his prime at 29 but opposite him you have the likes of Frostee Rucker (32 YOA), Cory Redding (35) and Red Bryant (35). Rucker is a solid enough DE and the other two add depth, but the position could definitely be upgraded significantly. At nose tackle is the young Rodney Gunter, a 4th round pick from last year.
Cornerback is occupied by no.1 Patrick Peterson, no.2 Justin Bethel and slot corner/free safety/outside corner Tyrann Mathieu. Safety has some quality there with the likes of Deone Buchanan, Tony Jefferson and new signing Tyvon Branch, so defensive back in general is in pretty good shape, though depth can be added later in the draft, or, if the value is there, the Cards may opt to upgrade the no.2 CB position in the first round.
Inside linebacker could definitely do with an upgrade, but unless maybe Reggie Ragland is available at no.30 (he wasn't in this mock), I think this should be addressed with a later pick. Remember though that Arizona has no round 2 pick due to the New England trade.
With the players left on the board here is who I had as my top 5 players I think the Cardinals might be looking at:
1/ Ryan Kelly - Center
1a/ A'Shawn Robinson - DT/5 tech DE
3/ Jonathan Bullard - DT/DE
4/ Robert Nkemdiche - DT
5/ Victor Butler - DT
I think you could also add DT Andrew Billings, DT Jarran Reed and DE Kevin Dodd, but when looking at scheme fit and need I have the other DT's/DE's as better fits for this team. Billings, for example, will likely need time to learn and adapt to the NFL, and this team is in win now mode.
As I said I almost went for Kelly, and I also think the Cards could trade down a few spots to try and regain some of the leverage they lost in the Patriots trade.
But I think reinforcing the D-line is a slightly bigger need for Arizona, and Robinson is the highest ranked guy left and great value here. I think he would be a nice fit for this defense and with a front line of OLB Chandler Jones, DE/DT A'Shawn Robinson, NT Rodney Gunter, DE/DT Calais Campbell and OLB Markus Golden coming at you on 3rd down, I'm sure they would be transformed into one of the premier pass rushing forces in the league.
Robinson is also versatile enough to play anywhere along the 3 man front, so you could have him at NT in between Campbell and Rucker, for example. I think the Cards can then look at center in the 3rd round and bring along the rookie behind Shipley next to what is a nice line up of veterans at tackle and guard.
Here is what has been said about A'Shawn Robinson:
IN OUR VIEW: A stout run defender, Robinson is raw as a pass rusher, but his production doesn't always show on the stat sheet - was mostly asked to two-gap, clog things up and occupy blockers to free up the linebackers at Alabama. He is the poster prospect for the golden rule of scouting (traits over production).
COMPARES TO: Michael Brockers, DT, Los Angeles Rams - Although he doesn't have a sky-high ceiling, Robinson should start in the NFL for a long time as a three-down defender, fitting even and odd fronts, similar to Michael Brockers when he was a mid-first round pick out of LSU.
Hard to find an interior lineman with a more well-proportioned frame than Robinson. His size and overall talent level will have NFL teams drooling and projecting him along any and all defensive fronts, but his film might leave them hungry for more. As opposed to teammate Jarran Reed who already plays with polish, Robinson is a projection-oriented two-gapper who can step in right away and help plug holes in a leaky run defense. If Robinson can improve his leverage issues and pass rushing, he has all-pro potential; however, he's not a sure thing to become a star.
Thanks to all the CSC members who participated in this year's community mock draft. Without your help, none of this would be possible.
Below are the complete results from our community mock draft.
Catch up with all of the mock draft selections in our 2016 CSC Community Mock Draft Hub.
||Selection||Team Representative||Approval Rating|
|1||Tennessee||Leremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss||Chris Dunnells||74%|
|2||Cleveland||Jared Goff, QB, California||quickdrawdoc||44%|
|3||San Diego||Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
|4||Dallas||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon||Tee Word||52%|
|5||Jacksonville||Myles Jack, LB, UCLA||SxSnts9||73%|
|6||Baltimore||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida||Lostastic||64%|
|7||San Francisco||Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota St.||BlackandGold4ever||58%|
|8||Philadelphia||Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State||ukesilence||64%|
|9||Tampa Bay||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State||RyanAb9||85%|
|10||New York Giants||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan St.||Johnny BeGood||38%|
|11||Chicago||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson||NOLASaintsBeast||63%|
|12||New Orleans||Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville||Dave Cariello||69%|
|13||Miami||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame||saintmanumit||45%|
|14||Oakland||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama||Chris Dunnells||60%|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis||quickdrawdoc||32%|
|16||Detroit||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State||Khannar||67%|
|17||Atlanta||Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State||Dave Choate||66%|
|18||Indianapolis||Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia||NOLASaintsBeast||69%|
|19||Buffalo||Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky||Jaimichaelugp||33%|
|20||New York Jets||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE/OLB, Oklahoma St||RyanAb9||54%|
|21||Washington||Eli Apple, CB, Ohio St.||saintmanumit||69%|
|22||Houston||Will Fuller, WR, NotreDame||Tee Word||35%|
|23||Minnesota||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU||SxSnts9||69%|
|24||Cincinnati||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor||coldpizza|
|25||Pittsburgh||William Jackson III, CB, Houston||WhoDat365|
|26||Seattle||Cody Whitehair, OG, Kansas St.||Matt Mosley|
|27||Green Bay||Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi St.||Johnny BeGood|
|28||Kansas City||Keanu Neal,SS, Florida||coldpizza|
|New England (Forfeited)||Forfeited pick||---------||--------|
|29||Arizona||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama||Matt Mosley|