So how did they do? Experts grade Arizona Cardinals 2015 draft
After months of build-up, it’s over.
The NFL Draft has come and gone. Over the course of three days, the Arizona Cardinals added seven players, including offensive tackle D.J. Humphries of Florida with their first-round pick.
Of course, the contributions of this draft class won’t be truly felt until at least January, when the newcomers have a season of on-field experience under their belts. But in the interest of the immediate culture we live in, several NFL experts handed out grades and comments about what the Cardinals did this draft season.
Here’s a snapshot (click on writer’s name to see full draft grades/comments):
Mel Kiper, ESPN.com (Insider Access Required)
The Cardinals were a team many of us saw taking Melvin Gordon if the Wisconsin RB were available at No. 24, in part because the roster really doesn’t have any gaping holes in spots you typically target with premium picks. Turns out, it was never even close with Gordon. D.J. Humphries was a bit of a reach on my board, but I can understand the pick as they look for competition at right tackle. General manager Steve Keim has made improving the O-line a priority from Day 1, and he wants to continue improving there. They needed to add a pass-rusher, and they got Markus Golden in Round 2, then Shaq Riddick in Round 5. I don’t see quite the same ability in Golden, but the need there was certainly addressed. David Johnson has a chance to help them right away at running back. He has good size and also offers good hands. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he breaks out in one of the next two seasons. J.J. Nelson is a miniature burner and could be someone to watch in the return game — he’ll run under 4.3, which he needs to since he’s under 160 pounds. It was going to be hard to add a player who was sure to be an immediate starter, which is a credit to the state of the roster, but I didn’t like the value too much with either of the top two picks.
It may not have been with the players who got all the attention, but the Cardinals addressed every need except cornerback that plagued them in 2014. Shaq Riddick and Rodney Gunter were projects, D.J. Humphries and Markus Golden were head-scratchers, and David Johnson and J.J. Nelson were the right picks, but each will have a role. If they’re upgrades from their predecessors, the Cardinals hit a home run.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah is one of many who believe Humphries is the best offensive tackle in the draft. At pick No. 24, he’s an absolute steal for the Cardinals, especially considering they didn’t have to trade up to get him. Humphries will fill an area of need and help the recovering Carson Palmer breathe a bit easier by keeping pass rushers at bay. Golden has great upside and might wind up having a better career than his former teammates at Missouri, such Broncos’ first-round pick Shane Ray. Johnson is a perfect fit for Bruce Arians and can fill the big-back role while also being a top-notch threat as a pass catcher.
Synopsis: Davis put the Cardinals in the “liked it” category — ranked 15th of 32 NFL franchises
First rounder D.J. Humphries could be the draft’s top left tackle, though he might force an O-line shuffle. Second-round OLB Markus Golden helps a pass rush that managed just 35 sacks in 2014. But keep an eye on third-round RB David Johnson of Northern Iowa, who’s big (6-1, 224) with great hands and could carry most of the mail while allowing Andre Ellington to do more with fewer touches in a specialty role.
Best Pick: I love the pick of running back David Johnson in the third round. He will compete right away to start and gives them a little more toughness in the backfield.
Questionable move: Taking Markus Golden in the second round. He plays hard and he’s tough, but will he be a big-time edge rusher? I like him, but he might be more solid than special.
Third-day gem: Fifth-round pick Shaquille Riddick, a defensive end from West Virginia, will move to a 3-4 rush player in their scheme. He has some explosiveness off the edge that could help.
Analysis: They wanted to get a top-level offensive lineman, and they did that by drafting D.J. Humphries in the first round. Golden was a little high, but he has talent. I love the pick of Johnson. Another good haul.
The Cardinals started their draft with a bit of a round 1 steal in Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, who may have gone a lot higher than the 24th pick had it not been for some injury concerns. Humphries has a great combination of strength and athleticism, and he should solidify a left tackle spot that has been problematic for this franchise for decades. Missouri end Markus Golden was lost in all the Shane Ray hype, but he’s a hard-working, productive player who can steal a lot of snaps as an all-around defender as opposed to a pure pass rusher. Arizona needed power in its backfield to complement Andre Ellington, and it may now have it in the person of Northern Iowa’s David Johnson, a 6’1″, 224-pound thumper who can also catch the ball out of the backfield. West Virginia’s Shaquille Riddick is a tweener pass rusher with some potential, though many would have liked this team to take an edge guy in the earlier rounds.
GM Steve Keim has done an outstanding job of turning the Cardinals into an annually competitive team, and coach Bruce Arians has shown a propensity for maximizing his roster. Cardinals brass deserves a lot of respect. I did not like their 2015 draft. Perhaps the biggest head scratcher was a day-three trade that cost Arizona pick Nos. 123, 198, and 241 in exchange for No. 116, where Keim selected small-school project Gunter. Humphries is an excellent prospect with a questionable fit at right tackle in Arizona. Golden produced in college, but lacks the athletic ability required to become an impact NFL pass rusher. Johnson is the opposite, offering elite measurables but sub-baseline running ability. He projects best to H-back in the pros. Nelson is a kick returner only. Riddick and Christian were the only Cardinals draft picks I liked. Arizona failed to fill its needs at running back, nose tackle, and cornerback.
The Arizona Cardinals have needed to rebuild the offensive line for years on end, and they’ve been trying to since the moment head coach Bruce Arians took over. Taking a tackle this low in the first round usually means rolling the dice, but the presence of left tackle Jared Veldheer and free-agent addition of guard Mike Iupati means Humphries should be able to step in on the right.
Golden isn’t a flashy player, but he fits in perfectly with the Cardinals’ lunch-bucket defense. Riddick fits the profile too. David Johnson stuck out in the evaluation cycle as a small-school back with old-school size and should add a missing between-the-tackles rushing element.