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Cardinals Draft Primer 2017: Safety

After loss of Jefferson and Swearinger, it's a position of need

The Cardinals didn't make a big splash in free agency, preferring to add lower-priced veterans to the roster before turning their attention to the draft. The prospect pool is considered deep this year, and General Manager Steve Keim will aim to add pieces that can make an impact in 2017 and beyond. The three-day draft will kick off with the first round on Thursday, where the Cardinals have the No. 13 overall pick. Position primers will be rolled out daily as it approaches.

More draft primer analysis:CB I WR I LB I RB I DL I OL I ST I TE

Draft primer:Safety

Players under contract:Tyrann Mathieu; Antoine Bethea; Tyvon Branch; Harlan Miller; Christian Bryant; Trevon Hartfield

Need: High

Images of the safety prospects projected to get drafted this week

The Cardinals' situation: The position took a hit during free agency, when starters Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger departed. Safety has long been a bright spot for the team, but there are question marks now. Mathieu is an All-Pro talent when healthy, but injuries have dogged his career. Branch has also been injury-plagued the past several years, while Bethea is a former top safety but will be 33 this season. Miller played well after moving over from cornerback in the final two games of 2016, and hopes to solidify himself as a reserve option.

The draft class: It's a deep group, led by the duo of LSU's Jamal Adams and Ohio State's Malik Hooker. They are both expected to go within the top 10 picks, but if one falls the Cardinals would likely take a close look. Players like Michigan's Jabril Peppers and Washington's Budda Baker are projected to go in the second round and have similar skill-sets to Mathieu, which is the type of versatility General Manager Steve Keim covets. Peppers reportedly tested positive for a dilute sample at the combine, which could affect his stock. Florida's Marcus Maye and Iowa's Desmond King are others projected to go on the second day.

The conclusion: The Cardinals like to use their safeties in a variety of roles and put three together on the field the majority of the time, so it's an important position. The departure of Jefferson and Swearinger has robbed the group of some young talent, and makes it likely that Keim takes a close look at the position in the draft. Mathieu, Bethea and Branch are currently slotted in as the top three safeties, but if a rookie was grabbed in one of the early rounds, he would likely compete for a role immediately. The Cardinals have boasted an embarrassment of riches at safety in the past few years, and may look to bolster the group again through the draft.

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