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Draft Primer 2016: Defensive Line

Cardinals could target deep position in the first round or later

The NFL draft will be held from April 28-30 in Chicago. The Cardinals have addressed many of their biggest needs through the Chandler Jones trade and free agency but will aim to add more impact pieces. We'll take a look at each position group over the next few weeks as the draft beckons.

More draft analysis: QB I LB I WR I S I ST I RB

Draft primer: Defensive line

Cardinals under contract:DT Calais Campbell; DT Frostee Rucker; NT Corey Peters; DT Rodney Gunter; DT Josh Mauro; DT Ed Stinson; DT Red Bryant; NT Xavier Williams; DT Olsen Pierre

Need: Medium

Images of the defensive line prospects projected to be chosen in the draft

Analysis: The Cardinals return their defensive line core from a year ago and get Corey Peters back after he missed 2015 with an Achilles injury. There are some age concerns with the group, as Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker and Red Bryant will all be 30 or older this season (fellow veteran Cory Redding was released on Monday). There are some promising young players on the roster – highlighted by Rodney Gunter, who started at nose tackle as a rookie last season – but only Campbell has proven to be a dynamic pass-rushing threat among the defensive linemen.

With the age issue and the lack of a big-time disruptor beyond Campbell (who heads into the last year of his contract in 2016) the Cardinals figure to eye the defensive ends closely. The draft is also strong on interior linemen, so all of the defensive line positions could be in play when the team is on the clock in the first round.

Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Oregon's DeForest Buckner and Clemson's Shaq Lawson are the highest-rated defensive ends but all figure to be gone by the time the Cardinals choose at No. 29. Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Clemson's Kevin Dodd and Florida's Jonathan Bullard are among the players who could be considered at No. 29.

Louisville's Sheldon Rankins, the Alabama duo of A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed and Baylor's Andrew Billings are among the projected first-round picks at defensive tackle. The most intriguing name may be Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche, a talented player who could drop into the Cardinals' range due to off-field concerns. There are also plenty of options across the defensive line when the Cardinals choose in the middle and late rounds.

The Cardinals' defensive line has consistently done an impressive job against the run since coach Bruce Arians arrived. The pass rush could stand to improve, and while the addition of outside linebacker Chandler Jones was a big one, selecting a promising defensive lineman in a draft deep at the position could also help the cause.

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