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Cardinals' 2018 Draft Primer: Defense

Cornerback viewed as the biggest need on defensive side of the ball

The much-anticipated 2018 NFL draft will be held from Thursday through Saturday. The Cardinals have the No. 15 overall pick in the first round and could go a number of different ways with the selection. General Manager Steve Keim would like to select a franchise signal-caller, but said last week a variety of factors will determine whether that comes to fruition. We'll break down each side of the ball over the next two days, beginning with the defense.

Draft primer:Defense

Cardinals' draft picks:First round (No. 15 overall); Second round (No. 47); Third round (No. 79); Third round (No. 97); Fourth round (No. 134); Fifth round (No. 152); Sixth round (No. 182); Seventh round (No. 254).

Biggest needs: Cornerback; safety; defensive tackle.

Top-ranked players (via DE Bradley Chubb; ILB Tremaine Edmunds; CB Denzel Ward; S Minkah Fitzpatrick; DT Vita Vea; DE Marcus Davenport; OLB Roquan Smith; S Derwin James; CB Jaire Alexander; ILB Leighton Vander Esch; DT Da'Ron Payne; CB Josh Jackson.

Images of some of the top cornerback prospects heading into the NFL draft

The Cardinals' situation: This side of the ball is certainly more formed, as the nucleus of cornerback Patrick Peterson, defensive end Chandler Jones, safety Budda Baker, linebacker Deone Bucannon, defensive end Markus Golden and linebacker Haason Reddick is a talented start. Even so, General Manager Steve Keim has always been willing to fortify a strength, as last year's choice of Baker proved. The balance of playmakers throughout each level of the defense should give Keim some flexibility.

The draft class: Four quarterbacks are expected to go within the top-10 picks of the draft, which would conceivably push some talented defensive players down to the Cardinals' range if they if they choose to stick at No. 15. Chubb, Edmunds, Ward, Smith, James and Fitzpatrick are generally bunched together as the top-tier of defensive prospects. Most of them could be gobbled up before the Cardinals are on the clock, but there is also a strong possibility one or two is available.

The conclusion: If the Cardinals take a defensive player at No. 15, the most likely "need" scenario would be a cornerback to man the side opposite Peterson. Tramon Williams did a nice job there down the stretch in 2017 but departed for the Packers in free agency, again leaving a hole. In most mock drafts Ward has been off the board, while Alexander and Jackson have been commonly linked to the Cardinals. Recent first-round cornerback selections like Jacksonville's Jalen Ramsey, New Orleans' Marshon Lattimore and Buffalo's Tre'Davious White have made early impacts in the NFL, but others have struggled. If Keim picks a defensive player other than a cornerback, it would be in the best-player-available mold as there isn't a glaring hole elsewhere on the defensive depth chart. Prospects like Vea, Davenport, Fitzpatrick and James would fit into that category.

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