The Arizona Cardinals have been searching for a new franchise quarterback since the departure of Kurt Warner. In that time period (three seasons) the Cardinals have floundered under Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and, most recently, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer.
Visit Mocking the Draft for all the latest NFL Draft news and analysis
Needless to say, it's time for a permanent solution in Arizona. Also needless to say, and unluckily for the Cardinals, this draft touts one of the weakest quarterback classes in years. At one point, mock drafts showed one or zero quarterbacks taken in the first round. Much has changed since then -- the combine, free agency -- but the crop of passers remains thin.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports, however, still believes the Cardinals will attempt to find their franchise quarterback this year. In his latest mock draft, at pick No. 7, Rang projects USC quarterback Matt Barkley to Arizona.
Barkley's stock fell a bit in 2012 but he remains the safest of this year's quarterback class in the eyes of many scouts. The knock on Barkley is, of course, that he relied upon terrific receivers while at USC. He'd be able to do the same with Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. Furthermore, his mobility, intelligence and underrated arm make him a nice fit in new head coach Bruce Arian's offense.
Barkley, who passed for 3,273 yards and 36 touchdowns last season for the Trojans, has been mocked anywhere from the top ten to out of the first round, but rarely is he projected in front of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. That was the case following the 2011 season, but not the 2012 season.
Dan Kadar of SB Nation's Mocking the Draft also believes that the Cardinals will draft their quarterback of the future, but his selection is not Barkley. With the No. 7 pick, Kadar projects Smith to Arizona.
Which is more important to an offense, a left tackle or a quarterback? That's the issue the Cardinals will face in the first round. For now, we say Smith if he's available. Unless the Cardinals decide they want to roll with Kevin Kolb, or they like Matt Barkley of Southern California, this is probably the first round ceiling for Smith.
Kadar lists Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson as another possibility for Arizona, if they do indeed decide to shore up their offensive line.
More in the NFL:
• Free agent rankings: Best of the rest
• NFL free agency winners and losers
• Solved! The mysteries of Bill Belichick
• Internet commenter previews free agency
• Whoops! Warren Sapp drops f-bomb on hot mic
• NFL mock draft: Changes on the eve