Among the players "mocked" to the Cardinals with the 20th overall pick (clockwise from top left): QB Blake Bortles, LB Ryan Shazier, S Calvin Pryor, LB Anthony Barr.
The first round of the NFL draft will begin on Thursday at 5 p.m. Arizona time, and there is no shortage of mock drafts predicting how it will turn out. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians admits he reads them for entertainment value, but said they often lack accuracy.
"It's one person trying to outdo the other one and so many times they are all based on need," Arians said. "'They need this, so they are going to take this guy.' Well, he's a fourth round pick. You are going to take him in the first or second round because you need one? No, it's not realistic. It makes for great banter and chatter and good bar talk. But, it's not much reality to it."
Undeterred, here is what the analysts believe the Cardinals will do at pick No. 20 (as of Thursday at 9 a.m. Arizona time):
Peter King, The MMQB; Rob Rang, CBS Sports; Don Banks, Sports Illustrated; Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated; Nate Davis, USA Today; Matt Miller, Bleacher Report; Chase Goodbread, NFL Network: Quarterback Derek Carr, Fresno State
This has become one of the most-predicted selections for the Cardinals, who are in need of a quarterback for the future. Carr threw for 4,866 yards with 48 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 70.0 completion percentage in 2013. General Manager Steve Keim said he must be convinced of a quarterback's potential to take him early, so if it happens, Carr will have passed the test.
Todd McShay, ESPN; Peter Schrager, Fox Sports; Brent Sobleski, USA Today; Charlie Campbell, Walter Football: Linebacker Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Shazier's stock has increased over the past few months, from a borderline first-rounder to a possible mid-first selection. He ran an unofficial 4.36-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and is versatile enough to play either inside or outside linebacker. Shazier had 143 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and six sacks for the Buckeyes in 2013 and could be both a short-term and long-term answer for the Cardinals.
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN; Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network; Pete Prisco, CBS Sports, Charles Davis, NFL Network; Charley Casserly, NFL Network; Matt Smith, NFL Network; Mike Huguenin, NFL.com: Quarterback Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Bortles has been in the discussion as the No. 1 overall pick to the Texans, so the Cardinals would likely give him a hard look at No. 20 should he drop. He has a good arm and some athleticism, and working behind Carson Palmer for a year would be beneficial, as Bortles is still raw in certain areas of his game.
Mike Mayock, NFL Network; Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Outside linebacker Anthony Barr, UCLA
Barr is an athletic marvel who at one point was projected to go in the top-10. He finished last season with 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He needs some work in coverage and defending the run after transitioning from running back to defense just two years ago, but as a pass-rushing 3-4 linebacker, would be an enticing option for the Cardinals if he's still available.
Aaron Wilson, Baltimore Sun; Chris Burke: Safety Calvin Pryor, Louisville
The Cardinals' most glaring current hole is at strong safety, and Pryor would fill that need. He is a hard hitter who can also do well in coverage, and a selection like this would beef up an already-impressive defense. If Pryor is drafted by the Cardinals, he could make an immediate impact as a rookie.
Bucky Brooks, NFL Network: Outside linebacker Dee Ford, Auburn
This idea seems to be losing some luster with Shazier the more popular mock pick, but Ford is another guy with a late-first-round projection. He made the all-SEC first team in 2013 with 8 ½ sacks at defensive end, but is considered undersized for the position in the NFL and will likely transition to outside linebacker.
Other mock draft selections
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: CB Jason Verrett, TCU; Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune: DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota; Joel Klatt, Fox Sports: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; Geoff Mosher, CSN-Philadelphia: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State.
Here are the players most commonly pegged for the Cardinals in first-round mock drafts.