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Needful Things: Cardinals Head Into Draft With Holes To Fill

Edge rusher, cornerback, receiver top spots to be considered

GM Steve Keim is likely to add another wide receiver to team with DeAndre Hopkins at some point in the draft.
GM Steve Keim is likely to add another wide receiver to team with DeAndre Hopkins at some point in the draft.

The definition of need is simple: circumstances in which something is necessary.

As the draft approaches this week, the Cardinals certainly have positions in which circumstances dictate it's necessary to add and/or improve.

  • Edge rusher. That became crucial the day Chandler Jones agreed to leave for Las Vegas.
  • Cornerback. It's a premium position and the Cardinals need another premium player there.
  • Wide receiver. The NFL is built on dynamic offensive play, and the Cardinals could use another playmaker.
  • Defensive line. The release of Jordan Phillips means the Cardinals could use another big inside body.

And that doesn't include offensive line, which may not fall under a "need" definition for 2022, but maybe – with four starters all entering the last year of their contract – for 2023. If anything, it underscores one of GM Steve Keim's favorite sayings, which he reiterated again during the Cardinals' pre-draft press conference.

"I've always said this, 'Your needs in April and May are certainly different than they are in October,' " Keim said. "There are guys that, in terms of age or contract status or whatever that may be, you've got to have good players at all positions."

It's naïve to think, when the Cardinals – or any team – build out their draft board, need is not factored in. It does make a difference, just as fit would when it comes to what the Cardinals do, either on offense or defense.

Keim estimated the Cardinals had first-round grades on "26, 27 guys," a helpful number when the team is selecting 23rd overall.

Even picking that late, even knowing the variables involved for a particular player to remain on the board 22 picks into the draft, it's difficult not to hone in on a certain possibility or two.

"I think through the combine, (when) you have those 30 visits, you do dinner with them, get to know their story, see how they kind of act in a social setting, you definitely build a relationship and hope that you can get them," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Especially if that guy can potentially get you 12 sacks or 80 catches a season.

The Cardinals aren't done in free agency – Keim has a history of signing players in May and again at the outset or the early stages of training camp. Need will be the top priority in those cases.

In the draft, specifically in the first round? Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux won't be there, but maybe George Karlaftis could work as an edge rusher. At receiver, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams will likely be gone, but maybe Treylon Burks or Jahan Dotson works. Or maybe the Cardinals get Marco Wilson's Florida teammate Kaiir Elam to team up at cornerback, or Zion Johnson as an offensive line piece for the future.

There are options, and again, need can be a very fluid thing when an NFL team is on the clock.

"To leave a guy on the board just because of his position or (your) positional need versus taking the best player, I think that's going to put you in a tough spot," Keim said.