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Draft Primer 2016: Offensive Line

Cardinals expected to be in the market for a center

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 as the draft beckons.

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

Draft primer: Offensive line

Cardinals under contract:T Jared Veldheer; G Mike Iupati; G Evan Mathis; T D.J. Humphries; C A.Q. Shipley; G Earl Watford; G Antoine McClain; T Rob Crisp; T John Wetzel; C Taylor Boggs; T Edawn Coughman; G John Fullington; C Valerian Ume-Ezeoke

Need: Medium

Images of the offensive linemen projected to get selected in the NFL draft

Analysis: The free agent addition of right guard Evan Mathis gives quarterback Carson Palmer three veteran offensive linemen protecting him, along with left tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Mike Iupati. They form an impressive core, and offensive line figures to be an area of strength as long as the other two spots are solidified. Former first-round draft pick D.J. Humphries is expected to start at right tackle, so center is the most likely option if the Cardinals look for an offensive lineman early in the draft. A.Q. Shipley is currently penciled in at the position, but it wouldn't be a surprise for General Manager Steve Keim to select a rookie to compete for the job.

Alabama's Ryan Kelly is the highest-rated center and has been connected to the Cardinals at No. 29 in several mock drafts. It's not a given that he's still on the board at that point, and no other centers are projected to go that high. Notre Dame's Nick Martin and USC's Max Tuerk are expected to be second-day selections, but could be gone before the Cardinals draft in the third round. While only six centers are projected to be drafted, coach Bruce Arians mentioned that many NFL centers transition from guard or tackle, which greatly opens up the pool of possibilities.

The Cardinals lost tackles Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell as well as guards Ted Larsen and Jonathan Cooper this offseason, so they could be on the lookout for line depth later in the draft. Any additions would have to battle players like Earl Watford, Antoine McClain and Rob Crisp for a roster spot.

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