ARIZONA CARDINALS’s Brooks: Cardinals’ rookie class barely gets a passing grade

Feb 14, 2017, 7:59 PM | Updated: Feb 15, 2017, 12:00 pm
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) breaks up a pass intense for Tampa Bay Buccaneer...
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) breaks up a pass intense for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s much too soon to judge the Arizona Cardinals’ 2016 rookie class.

So consider’s Bucky Brooks an English teacher handing back a graded rough draft of an essay written by Cardinals general manager Steve Keim — all with the opportunity to edit it up for a much-improved final grade.

Brooks gave the Cardinals’ 2016 draft class a D due to the group having so little impact on Arizona during the past season.

It’s hard for any team to earn a passing grade when it fails to get a significant contribution from any member of its rookie class. Robert Nkemdiche essentially used the year as a redshirt season, barely getting on the field despite his first-round draft status. He was a huge disappointment for a team that desperately needed an interior defender to alleviate some of the pressure on Calais Campbell. Brandon Williams was thrust into action before he was ready and struggled mightily on the corner opposite Patrick Peterson. He made strides near the end of the season, so it is possible he could become a factor in the secondary in 2017. Evan Boehm has shown developmental potential in limited action.

There’s recent evidence to suggest the barely passing grade will improve, even within the next year.

Much like offensive lineman D.J. Humphries breaking out in 2016 after an essential redshirt year as a rookie, Nkemdiche could be thrown into the defensive line mix if Campbell skips town in free agency. Williams, who opened the year as the starting cornerback, could have another shot at re-winning the second cornerback gig.

Keim has also spoken highly of improvements by Boehm, the fourth-round pick who could add depth to the offensive line. At the backend of the draft class, sixth-round selection Harlan Miller came on strong in the defensive backfield during the end of the year, starting two games and playing out of position as a safety. There’s even undrafted free agent signee Hakeem Valles, the tight end who was installed in special packages.

In other words, there aren’t any draftees to be permanently stamped as misses other than fifth-round pick Marqui Christian, the safety who was poached off waivers by the Los Angeles Rams.

Arizona can change the perception of its 2016 draft class with a little player development — and time.

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