Ranking all 36 of Steve Keim’s Arizona Cardinals draft picks
During his tenure with the Arizona Cardinals, Steve Keim has been involved in a lot of drafts.
However, since he was promoted to general manager in 2013, Keim has captained the Cardinals on five different draft days, selecting a total of 36 players during that time.
Here’s one man’s ranking of all 36 of those picks.
1. David Johnson (2015 – 3rd round, 86th overall) – Keim should send a fruit basket annually to the Detroit Lions, who took running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round, which threw a wrench in the Cardinals’ plans. Johnson was still available 32 picks later and Keim nabbed him. In his rookie season, Johnson made an immediate impact, becoming the first player in NFL history with a rushing, receiving and kick return touchdown all in his first two games. He then took over starting duties later that season when Chris Johnson went down to an injury. In 2016, Johnson led the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,118 but last season suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 1 of 2017, which limited Arizona’s offense the rest of the season.
2. Tyrann Mathieu (2013 – 3rd round, 69th overall) – The Cardinals drew criticism for taking the talented but troubled safety in the third round. After all, he had been kicked off the LSU team by coach Les Miles and had done jail time. Mathieu, like Johnson, made an immediate impact and proved while he was healthy, he was one of the most productive defensive players in the league. The problem was, he wasn’t fully healthy all that often. He rejected a revamped contract offer from the Cardinals in March, and signed a one-year deal with the Houston Texans. Still, the “Honey Badger” experiment was a big win for Keim.
3. Deone Bucannon (2014 – 1st round, 27th overall) – Keim traded down in the first round of 2014 to select the Washington State safety. Bucannon, known as a hard-hitter in college, transitioned to linebacker in the pros and the success he had proved to be a blueprint for other teams (the Bucs, the Giants and Rams to name a few) to follow. To date, Bucannon’s 281 career tackles are the fifth-most of any defensive player in his draft class, behind only Telvin Smith, C.J. Mosley, Preston Brown and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
4. Markus Golden (2015 – 2nd round, 58th overall) – The former Missouri Tiger came to the league with a reputation for having a non-stop motor, and he showed it in his first two years in the league. In his first two seasons, Golden racked up 16.5 sacks (12.5 in 2016) and 61 total tackles. His third season saw him play only four games due to injury, and the St. Louis native didn’t get to the quarterback. But he’s counted on as a key cog to Arizona’s transition to a 4-3 defense in 2018 under new head coach Steve Wilks.
5. Budda Baker (2017 – 2nd round, 36th overall) – The versatile defender out of Washington made his mark on special teams as a rookie in 2017, earning First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition. With Mathieu having moved on, Baker will be counted on big-time in the Cardinals’ secondary starting in 2018.
6. D.J. Humphries (2016 – 1st round, 24th overall) – Humphries’ first year was a wash — in fact, he was the only first-round pick in the ’16 class that was healthy and didn’t get on the field. He famously received the nickname “Knee Deep” from then-head coach Bruce Arians.
“A knee in his (expletive) every day. A foot wasn’t going to do it. That’s why he’s nicknamed ‘Knee Deep'” Arians explained.
Humphries rebounded in year two, earning the starting right tackle job and played in 13 games. Slated to move to left tackle last year, the former Florida star suffered a couple of different injuries and managed to play in only five games.
7. John Brown (2014 – 3rd round, 91st overall) – The guy with maybe the world’s most common name had uncommon speed, and Keim and his staff found it in the Pittsburg State standout. Brown showed a penchant for making huge plays as a rookie in 2014, and that continued in his sophomore season. Over that two-year period, he had 123 catches for 1,699 yards and 12 touchdowns. His last two years in Arizona, however, were greatly affected by the diagnosis of sickle cell trait and a spinal cyst. Brown caught 60 balls and scored only five touchdowns before moving on to Baltimore in free agency last month.
8. Haason Reddick (2017 – 1st round, 13th overall) – So, the Cardinals wanted a quarterback. But when the Kansas City Chiefs moved up to select Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Arizona went defense, picking the former walk-on from Temple. Reddick was decent in his rookie season, racking up 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 16 games (three starts).
9. Andre Ellington (2013 – 6th round, 187th overall) – Ellington had a strange career in Arizona. As a rookie, he showed burst and big-play ability, averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a backup to veteran Rashard Mendenhall. Head coach Bruce Arians wanted to build the offense around Ellington in 2014, stating he could see up to 30 touches per game. That experiment didn’t work. As Arizona’s feature back that season, Ellington averaged just 3.3 yards per carry — which ranked 67th out of 73 players who had 50 or more carries that season. He also fought through a painful foot injury for much of the season. In the three years that followed, the former Clemson star was a part-time player and never recaptured the promise of his first year, but the Cardinals did get five years of service from a sixth-round pick, and that’s pretty rare in the NFL.
10. Kevin Minter (2013 – 2nd round, 45th overall) – The LSU linebacker came into the league with the reputation of being a “thumper” — a hard-nosed player who could really hit in the middle of the defense. But he played sparingly in his first season, registering only four tackles. In the three years that followed, Minter became a more regular part of the defense and averaged 73 tackles per season. Minter signed a free-agent deal with Cincinnati following the 2016 season and is now with the New York Jets.
11. J.J. Nelson (2015 – 5th round, 159th overall) – Arians first saw Nelson at a high school track meet in Alabama and remembered him because, let’s face it, his kind of speed is memorable. The slightly-built receiver has shown glimpses of greatness in his three years but hasn’t been able to capture any kind of consistency. Nelson was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week following a 120-yard performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2 last season, but then caught only 19 passes the rest of the year.
12. Kareem Martin (2014 – 3rd round, 84th overall) – Martin never put up big numbers defensively as a rotation pass rusher (51 tackles and 4.5 sacks in four years) but developed a reputation as a solid special teams performer. He did show enough to earn a three-year, $21 million deal from the New York Giants, where he’ll reunite with former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher this season.
13. Earl Watford (2013 – 4th round, 116th overall) – Watford showed the ability to play any position on the offensive line in his time in Arizona but didn’t excel at any of them. He started 13 games from 2015 to 2016 and got a free agent contract from Jacksonville in 2017. But Watford got cut and ended up back in Arizona where he was immediately pressed into duty because of injuries along the Cardinals’ O-line. He inked a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears in early April.
14. Alex Okafor (2013 – 4th round, 103rd overall) – After a somewhat wasted rookie season, Okafor really shined as a second-year player, racking up eight sacks. In 2015, Okafor suffered a mysterious non-football injury during the Cardinals’ run to the NFC Championship Game that was never fully explained. He returned the next season, though, and had 3.5 sacks in 13 games. He left Arizona in free agency, signing on with the New Orleans Saints in 2017.
15. Rodney Gunter (2015 – 4th round, 116th overall) – The Cardinals looked long and hard to find Gunter, who played collegiately at Delaware State — where he was the first player drafted by an NFL team in 14 years. Gunter has raw potential but still hasn’t contributed consistently at the pro level. He has 51 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in 48 career games as a rotation player on the line.
16. Robert Nkemdiche (2016 – 1st round, 29th overall) – The Cardinals were ecstatic about Nkemdiche’s athletic ability when he fell to the bottom of the first round in 2016. The one-time five-star recruit came into the league with character concerns following a strange incident in which he fell out of a fourth-floor window of an Atlanta hotel and was suspended for Ole Miss’ appearance in the Sugar Bowl. Nkemdiche has shown a few moments of that potential in his two years, but they haven’t come steadily enough. He’s being counted on to deliver in 2018.
17. Stepfan Taylor (2013 – 5th round, 140th overall) – Taylor was a steady spot performer at running back and special teams during his four years with the Cardinals. He didn’t play in the NFL in 2017.
18. Evan Boehm (2016 – 4th round, 128th overall) – Boehm has shown positional flexibility in his two NFL seasons, playing both center and guard, but has yet to claim either position on a starting basis. He has started a total of nine games and could challenge incumbent A.Q. Shipley at center this summer.
19. Ed Stinson (2014 – 5th round, 160th overall) – The former Alabama player had 26 tackles and a sack in three years in Arizona. He was cut in September of 2017 and hooked on with the Jets, for whom he played four games in 2017. He’s currently unsigned.
20. Chad Williams (2017 – 3rd round, 98th overall) – Some believed Williams was a reach in the third round by the Cardinals, and he didn’t do much to prove those people wrong as a rookie. The Grambling State product saw action in only six games last season, catching three passes for 31 yards and totaling 33 yards on two carries. With Jaron Brown and John Brown moving on in free agency, there should be more opportunity for Williams in 2018. It’s up to him to take advantage of it.
21. Harlan Miller (2016 – 6th round, 205th overall) – Part-time player over the last two years, who has supplied one highlight — a 52-yard interception return in a win over the Rams in the 2016 season finale.
22. Brandon Williams (2016 – 3rd round, 92nd overall) – The Cardinals plucked the converted Texas A&M running back pretty early in the ’16 draft. He played well in his first preseason — well enough to earn a starting spot for the Cardinals’ much-anticipated season opener on Sunday Night Football against the Patriots. Williams struggled in that game and for the rest of the season. In his second year, he played 254 snaps — 253 of which were on special teams.
23. Jonathan Cooper (2013 – 1st round, 7th overall) – After the Cardinals drafted Cooper, Keim proclaimed him as the team’s best offensive lineman “as soon as he walked through baggage claim.” Cooper showed ability in the 2013 preseason, until a broken leg suffered against the Chargers ended his rookie season. He started only 11 games in an Arizona uniform, but was a big part of the trade package that brought Chandler Jones to the Cardinals, so this pick wasn’t a total waste.
24. Will Holden (2017 – 5th round, 157th overall) – He struggled at times but saw action late in 2017 as a rash of injuries hit the Cardinals’ offensive line. Holden played every offensive snap over the last three games of the year.
25. Troy Niklas (2014 – 2nd round, 52nd overall) – Once described as looking like “a 12-year-old boy who swallowed a grizzly bear,” Niklas never could stay healthy enough to make any kind of impact for the Cardinals. Niklas played in only 41 of a possible 64 regular-season games and caught only 19 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns in four years. He signed this offseason with New England.
26. Rudy Ford (2017 – 6th round, 208th overall) – A late-round pick who played exclusively on special teams as a rookie.
27. T.J. Logan (2017 – 5th round, 179th overall) – Logan suffered a wrist injury in training camp but showed promise in his first preseason game, averaging 6.0 yards per carry and 35.5 yards per kick return before exiting. The North Carolina product could be counted on heavily in the kick return game in 2018.
28. Cole Toner (2016 – 5th round, 170th overall) – A depth offensive lineman who played 19 total snaps as a rookie and was cut in training camp in 2017.
29. Logan Thomas (2014 – 4th round, 120th overall) – The only quarterback ever drafted by Keim. Thomas got pushed into duty in a Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos and completed exactly one pass — but it was an 81-yard touchdown to Andre Ellington. Thomas converted to tight end after his stay in Arizona was over and caught seven passes for Buffalo last year.
30. Gerald Christian (2015 – 7th round, 256th overall) – Mr. Irrelevant of the 2015 draft. Never played a down in a regular-season game for the Cardinals.
31. Walt Powell (2014 – 6th round, 196th overall) – Cut in training camp in 2014, but Powell played with the Jets and Bills from 2014 to 2016.
32. Shaquille Riddick (2015 – 5th round, 158th overall) – No impact.
33. Marqui Christian (2016 – 5th round, 167th overall) – Cut by Cardinals in his rookie year, he was picked up by Rams and has played 49 defensive snaps over two years.
34. D.C. Jefferson (2013 – 7th round, 219th overall) – Played 49 snaps in 2013. Jefferson was cut his rookie season after being arrested on a DUI charge.
35. Dorian Johnson (2017 – 4th round, 115th overall) – Once thought to be a contender to start at guard as a rookie, Johnson didn’t make it to Week 1. The Pittsburgh product spent time on practice squads for Arizona and Houston and signed a futures contract with Carolina in January.
36. Ryan Swope (2013 – 6th round, 174th overall) – Retired from football early in his first training camp due to concussion issues.