If you asked people which young player was going to breakout and become a star for the Arizona Cardinals, the names that would come up would be Patrick Peterson, Michael Floyd and Daryl Washington, among others.
One name you likely wouldn't hear -- at least early in the conversation -- is David Carter.
The defensive lineman was taken in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of UCLA, and had a solid season, tallying 16 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble in a reserve role.
However, the guys at ProFootballFocus.com think Carter is much better than the stats would indicate, tabbing him as a "Secret Superstar" heading into 2012.
Considering his seamless transition, looking completely at home in the heart of the Cardinals' defense, you would have been excused for thinking that when the Cardinals lost Dan Williams to injury Carter would have vaulted into a starting slot. As it happened, Arizona made the somewhat puzzling decision of replacing Williams-lost to a broken left arm-with Nick Eason. The former Steeler had been playing as a reserve defensive end for the Cardinals but was vaulted ahead of Carter into the starting lineup at nose tackle. This left Carter in the same role he had occupied behind Williams, but rather than getting downhearted at being passed up by a journeyman, he kept his head down and maintained his early-season form.
His late-season form, however, is what should have Cardinal fans excited as he put in his best games in run defense against the 49ers, Browns, and Bengals during the final month of the season. In that trio of games, Carter took advantage of some favorable matchups to record half of his defensive stops from the season (five of his 10) in those three games. Carter made three tackles for losses against the AFC North pairings, but perhaps more impressive was the way in which he got the better of Jonathan Goodwin of the 49ers, one of the better run blocking centers in the league.
Well that all sounds great, doesn't it?
In truth, Carter may still find it tough to get consistent playing time. The Cardinals still have veterans Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, and are pleased with the development and recovery of Williams, a first-round pick in 2010.
And, it's worth noting, Williams was a 'secret superstar' last season, so being listed among these ranks does not guarantee success.
But at the very least one should feel optimistic, as the Cardinals' defensive line -- with the names you know and some you may not -- could end up being one of the NFL's best.