After a 2016 season in which the Arizona Cardinals placed four different offensive linemen on injured reserve and had just one lineman start all 16 games, continuity will be key for the franchise in 2017.
Though most of the Cardinals’ key linemen are back in the fold this season, head coach Bruce Arians has taken an interesting approach to building the group this offseason, as Arians wants three players swapping positions.
While the Cardinals will keep left guard Mike Iupati and center A.Q. Shipley in their starting spots, Arizona intends to flip tackles D.J. Humphries and Jared Veldheer to put Humphries on the left side of the line and move Veldheer over to the right. Additionally, the Cardinals will give 2016 backup center Evan Boehm the first shot at winning the starting right guard job, even though Boehm has very limited experience playing the position.
Arizona has a firm idea of what it wants its starting line to look like, but in this weekend’s NFL Draft, the Cardinals will likely still consider adding an interior lineman in the middle-to-late rounds for depth purposes.
With that in mind, here are a few of the candidates we believe Arizona will look at.
Interior offensive linemen
Dorian Johnson: A tackle at the beginning of his college career, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Johnson flipped to guard at Pittsburgh which surely helped his draft stock. Considered a potential day two selection, Johnson may be off the board by the time Arizona is ready to select an offensive lineman. However, if the Cardinals see Johnson on the board in the third round, there’s a chance they go after him because he has positional flexibility, is highly regarded for how he moves in space, and is considered one of the smarter linemen in this year’s draft, which are all qualities general manager Steve Keim looks for.
Tyler Orlosky: There are some definite similarities between Orlosky and Boehm, and though the Cardinals already have a few centers on their roster, if the team is serious about moving Boehm to guard for the long haul, Arizona will need a backup center. At 6-foot-3 and 298 pounds, Orlosky may not have the same positional flexibility that Boehm does, but coming out of college, we doubted Boehm would be able to play any position other than center. Orlosky was regarded at the college level for the way he used his hands, his consistency in the middle of the offensive line and his ability to deliver a blow to blitzing linebackers, but like Boehm, he’s not considered overly athletic.
Damien Mama: Ever since his high school days, the 6-foot-3, 334-pound Mama has been on the NFL radar because of the impressive athleticism he showcases with such a wide frame. Mama had one of the best initial punches of any lineman in the Pac-12, and he’s improved in space over the course of his college career. One of the concerns about Mama is whether he’ll be able to keep weight off in the NFL, but if he does, he could end up providing a team with good value in the later rounds.
Isaac Asiata: One of the most versatile offensive linemen who should still be available at the start of day three, Asiata can help an NFL team as a sixth or seventh lineman immediately as he adjusts to the professional level. Asiata’s tape is interesting because he’s a hyper-aggressive player who can sometimes lean too far forward and get out of position, but when he squares up and gets on his man, he plays with a fairly nasty streak. A classic case of a lineman who just continued to develop with repetitions, Asiata may still have more room to grow at the next level.
Sean Harlow: Like Asiata, Harlow is going to capture an NFL team’s attention because of the versatility he brings to the table and his ability to float between positions relatively seamlessly. While Asiata is more of a center/guard prospect, Harlow is a guard/tackle player who we think could step in and immediately overtake Cole Toner on the Cardinals’ depth chart. Though Harlow isn’t particularly strong or agile, he’s got a determined player who drives his feet on contact when he is able to square up on players and could benefit from more technical coaching in the NFL.