Welcome to the worst part of the NFL Draft process, more commonly known as grading each team’s haul.
While fans and pundits use grades to establish whether or not a team did well in a draft, the truth is we can’t know for sure for at least three seasons. With the Arizona Cardinals’ 2014 NFL Draft, it could be even longer.
The Cardinals did some different things this year. Some people liked what they did, some people disliked what they did, but there is no denying it was interesting.
How would I grade the Cardinals’ 2014 draft?
My Ranking: 33
Actual Draft Slot: 27
Good value, but better fit. Even though he was my fourth-ranked safety, he was the best fit for what the Cardinals were looking for in this draft.
Bucannon is a big, physical, run-stuffing safety with excellent downhill speed and the ability to play well in zone coverage.
His lack of effectiveness in man coverage is the singular downgrade of this pick, because he may not be the answer to the Cardinals’ problem of covering tight ends, at least early in his career.
My Ranking: 81
Actual Draft Slot: 52
Again, from my personal grade this would look like a stupendous reach, but that’s where you factor in need and the fit.
That means the Troy Niklas selection is a good one, especially at the rate tight ends were flying off the board.
Niklas offers the Cardinals the inline blocking tight end they lack, but he also has the upside to become one of the top inline tight ends in the game.
My Ranking: 31
Actual Draft Slot: 84
This is where things always get subjective, but the fact is the Cardinals were able to get a first-round talent at a third-round value.
Martin has unbelievable upside, with raw athleticism that is matched only by Jadeveon Clowney. If he ever puts everything together, he could be special.
My Ranking: 149
Actual Draft Slot: 91
I love John Brown because he is a small-school prospect who is an undersized burner with massive upside, but is also the type that you would like to see picked on day three, or with an extra third-round pick acquired in an earlier trade.
Brown could be Cardinals’ Mike Wallace, and Bruce Arians has a peculiar knack for finding undersized weapons.
My Ranking: 100
Actual Draft Slot: 120
This is the exact reason I despise draft grades. Thomas cannot be graded properly until he is fighting for or has earned the starting quarterback job for the Cardinals.
If he does, and is successful, this pick is an A+ — especially if he reaches his potential.
If he is nothing more than a career backup, then this pick is a C, because we know how valuable a backup can be.
If he flames out, it is a D because it was a risk, but it is still only a fourth-round pick at a need position with the best fit in the draft.
My Ranking: 141
Actual Draft Slot: 160
There are plenty of players in the NFL who have a firm understanding of their role. There are also a lot of players who have an ego and believe they are capable of more and greater achievements, and thus can become distractions.
While I don’t know Stinson personally, based on the work I have seen him put in at Alabama, he looks like he is the type that understands his duties as a five-technique defensive end.
Stinson was a rotation player at Alabama, and I can’t find a single instance where he complained about it. He was a dominant force against the run, and looks to have the ability to come in and win a position right away.
My Ranking: Unranked
Actual Draft Slot: 196
As a one-man operation, there are only so many prospects I can watch before the draft.
Powell was someone that I had to learn about after he was drafted, and did so with a fairly well-done All-22 video of all of his touches his senior season.
Let me just say, it was eye-opening.
Powell is an explosive athlete with the ball in his hands and can be an absolute difference maker on special teams early in his career.
While Powell is a tricky athlete, he needs work as a wide receiver. He ran a limited route tree at Murray State and may be limited to a slot role in the NFL.
Add up the grades and you end up with a very solid B, but that again is where things get tricky.
You look at the players and positions drafted and you have two players in Bucannon and Niklas who should be fighting for and winning starting positions.
Then you have three players in Martin, Stinson and Brown who should be at least rotation players in their first season of play, meaning that’s five players drafted should have some impact.
With Powell, you have a player that should be able to make some impact on special teams if he makes the roster, with fifth wide receiver potential in his rookie season.
That leaves Thomas and his growth.
How do you grade two starters, three rotation players and a possible special teams impact along with one question mark?