The Arizona Cardinals tried to make as many upgrades as possible on the offensive line in the offseason, but a few of those upgrades haven’t worked out for various reasons. First off, Jonathan Cooper’s injury really messed things up for the Cards. Veteran right tackle Eric Winston has been a surprising disappointment, and the Cardinals decision to trade Levi Brown (since he got injured before playing a snap for the Pittsburgh Steelers, you can’t argue about it too much) left the chronically overmatched Bradley Sowell as the starting left tackle.
Each week, friend of the site Josh Sanchez on the FanSided.com main page does a 2014 NFL Mock Draft, and it’s always worth a read. This week, he had the Arizona Cardinals snagging a steal with the 23rd pick in the first round of the draft, as Steve Keim and the Cards selected Tennessee Volunteers star left tackle Antonio Richardson.
If Richardson somehow falls to the 23rd pick, then the Cardinals would be crazy to allow him to slip any further. This is a team that cannot afford to pass up on the third-ranked tackle in the draft at that slot, and I would honestly be surprised if Richardson falls past the top half. But if he does get down to 23, then the Cardinals absolutely have to take him there and make him their starting left tackle of the future over Sowell.
Although I am now one of those people who is willing to rank Richardson above Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, there is no doubt in my mind that the Tennessee OT is the third-best tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft class at worst. He has good size at 6’6″ 235 pounds, and he is an incredibly strong player who dominates as a run blocker.
Some say that Richardson is only a right tackle at the NFL level, but I definitely don’t buy that logic. First of all, the whole LT vs. RT thing is exaggerated, because you can’t just “hide” players on the right side. Defensive coordinators will always find you and your weaknesses and make you pay. Winston could be out the door and replaced by Richardson at right tackle anyway, so the last thing the Cardinals need to be worried about is where to play Richardson.
To me, this is the Cardinals dream pick at 23, but I highly doubt Richardson ever falls there. But since he does in this mock draft, it’s safe to say that the Cards made the perfect pick for their franchise by pulling a potentially elite offensive tackle who has all the tools to be great in the NFL. Richardson isn’t far off from Lewan’s level, and he probably offers more upside than the “safe” Michigan OT.