It’s hard not to be optimistic about the Arizona Cardinals’ roster, no matter how you slice it.
There is plenty of older veteran talent — players like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (30 years of age), pass rusher John Abraham (36), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (33) and quarterback Carson Palmer (34).
Several other key players are in their prime. Twenty-seven-year old tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Calais Campbell, who is also 27, fit the bill.
But most importantly, the Cardinals are loaded with young talent. Don’t believe us? Just ask Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, who published an ESPN Insider piece ranking all 32 NFL teams in terms of under-25 talent.
Arizona comes in sixth on the list.
Patrick Peterson is the most-decorated player in this study. He has made the Pro Bowl in all three of his seasons and has been a first-team All-Pro twice: once for special teams (2011) and last year as a cornerback. Still just 24, Peterson is one of the few cornerbacks in the league routinely handling the assignment of shadowing a team’s best receiver. Arizona could boast the best young secondary in the NFL, with Tyrann Mathieu showing good play-making skills before he tore his ACL last season. First-round rookie Deone Bucannon could start in Week 1, bringing his hard-hitting style to the safety position.
There’s more to Arizona than just a budding secondary. Michael Floyd surpassed Larry Fitzgerald to lead the team in receiving yards (1,041) last year. Rookie Troy Niklas could be the all-around threat the Cardinals have severely lacked at that position.
Kacsmar also points out receiver Michael Floyd, who is primed to become the Cardinals’ number-one receiver at the age of 24, guard Jonathan Cooper (24), who is returning after a broken leg robbed him of his rookie season and middle linebacker Kevin Minter (23), who will be counted on heavily in the absence of 2013 studs Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington.
The bad news for the Cardinals is that one of their NFC West foes, the St. Louis Rams, rank first on the list. The San Francisco 49ers are 14th and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are 32nd in the pecking order.