The threat of Carson Palmer's retirement made the Cincinnati Bengals select Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the fourth pick in our Fan Mock Draft.
Now, the Arizona Cardinals are on the clock and they would surely be very disappointed to see the top two quarterbacks of the draft gone before their selection. The Cardinals learned what life was like without a franchise quarterback in 2010. After Kurt Warner carried the franchise to its first Super Bowl appearance in the 2008 season, the team had arguably the worst quarterback situation in the league last season. Of the four quarterbacks who saw time last season - Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall and Richard Bartel - none of them finished with a quarterback rating of better than 65.9. Every quarterback, minus Skelton, threw more interceptions than touchdown passes. Bartel's completion percent of 57.1 percent was easily the best on the team, but note that he only had 28 attempts.
In terms of yardage, only the Carolina Panthers had a worst offense. The Cardinals' average of 18.1 points per game was tied for 26th in the league.
It's not like the defense acquitted itself from any responsibility for the team's 5-11 record. The 27.1 yards per game was good for 30th in the league. The 373.6 total yards per game was 29th in the league. The run defense was 30th-best in the NFL with an average of 145.2 yards allowed per game.
With the top two quarterbacks gone, where do the Cardinals go from here? The consensus highest-rated offensive player among draft experts at this point is Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. Yes, Larry Fitzgerald is still in his prime - although the lack of a quarterback or the time to develop a rookie could impact that. Nonetheless, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet could become free agents depending on the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the loss of Anquan Boldin was also felt on offense past season. The offensive line needs an infusion of youth with guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui set to become free agents. However, it could be too early to pick either USC's Tyron Smith or Boston College's Anthony Castonzo.
On defense, the safety position is set with 2010 newcomer Kerry Rhodes proving to be a very good complement to Adrian Wilson. At cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie experienced a bit of a dropoff this past season. The completion percentage of passes his way was up to 62 percent and the passer rating was up to 92.5 as compared to a 50 completion percentage and 67.4 passer rating one year earlier. A player that could be an impact player for years to come and an excellent pairing to DRC would be LSU's Patrick Peterson.
Another position in need of youth is outside linebacker where Joey Porter and Clark Haggans are long in the tooth. North Carolina's Robert Quinn, who could be a 4-3 end of 3-4 rush linebacker, would fit the bill from that perspective. Overall, the defensive line is in good shape with quality starters at end in Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell and last year's first-round pick Dan Williams at nose tackle.
With the top two quarterbacks off the board, who should the Arizona Cardinals select with the No. 5 overall pick in the Fan Mock Draft? Remember, for all of their problems, they were just two games behind the division champion Seattle Seahawks.
Needs: QB, G, OLB, WR, CB
All Good: S, DE