Arizona Cardinals see ‘tremendous amount of upside’ in seven-member 2015 Draft class

May 4, 2015, 5:42 PM | Updated: 5:43 pm
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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals care not for your opinions on their 2015 draft haul.

And if any one of their picks disappoints you or some draftnik out there, so be it. They believe in their seven-member haul.

“I think, number one, we added several players who are passionate and love the game and who will be great for our locker room,” GM Steve Keim said. “At the same time, we added some guys who a lot of fans probably don’t know a lot about, but we see a tremendous amount of upside.

“Coach (Bruce Arians) says all the time, ‘No risk it, no biscuit,’ and I don’t think it’s any secret in this room that I like biscuits.”

Seated next to Keim, Arians blurted out, “You’re stealing all my lines, damn! What the hell?”

“What the hell?” is something that was probably muttered more than a few times after the Cardinals made each of their seven picks. Grades for their effort are all over the spectrum, as there is very little agreement over what Arizona did Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Here’s what we do know:

D.J. Humphries should compete for the starting right tackle job.

Markus Golden was productive in college, all while being overshadowed by Shane Ray.

David Johnson is big, fast and has great hands.

Rodney Gunter has about as much hype going for him now as John Brown did this time a year ago.

Shaq Riddick dominated the FCS level before moving on to West Virginia, where he was also no slouch.

J.J. Nelson was the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine, and was a dynamic kick returner at UAB.

Gerald Christian may be “Mr. Irrelevant,” but he has good speed and hands and could find a role as the team’s H-back.

Two of those players, Gunter and Riddick, were not invited the combine. Three of them — Golden, Johnson and Christian — were team captains in college. In fact, 17 of the 23 players drafted since Keim took over as GM served as captains during their college careers.

It’s obviously something the team takes into account.

“What do they bring to the table, not only on the field, but off the field,” Keim said. “That’s such an important part of the process. Every player faces adversity, and they’re going to face adversity, whether it’s the first day, or the first week, or the first month. How do they respond?

“If they’re leaders and if they’re committed, they’re going to answer the bell. It’s the guys that really aren’t leaders and aren’t committed who concern you, and those are the ones I’ve missed on in the past. We’ve all missed on them.”

The Cardinals were clearly looking for a certain type of player in the draft, and it did not matter if they had yet to reach their full potential or came from a smaller, lesser-known school. Keim and Arians wanted players with a certain type of skill set, sure, but also the right attitude, clearly placing a premium on mentality.

“Some of these guys come out of high school now and they’re not a five-star recruit, and they really aren’t, but they grow into one,” Arians said of what makes players from smaller schools so attractive to the team. “Our job as coaches is to find the kids who are the five-star pro prospects and when you go to those small schools, Division II or I-AA, don’t worry about the competition.”

If it reminds you too much of the Dave McGinnis era, or even the Arizona Diamondbacks’ “grit”, this is where you look at the last two years and decide if you want to give Cardinals management the benefit of the doubt.

As the cliché goes, we’ll know in about three years if this was a good draft or not. That won’t stop people from judging it now, of course, but it will take time to know if the Cardinals’ 2015 Draft class is good, bad or something in between. When it comes to the draft, the best thing a team can do is identify the players it wants, and then take them.

Keim said the team is not scared to make a tough decision, and hey, when your jobs depend on putting together the best roster possible, you might as get the players you want. So if that means trading up to take a small-school player like Gunter or passing up on well-known names, that’s fine. A team like the Cardinals, which has won 21 games over the last two seasons, can afford to take some chances.

“When you see guys that have this type of potential and they have the passion, and then when you watch our coaches get their hands on them, it’s like a piece of clay. They mold it and they put it into the scheme and it’s a great fit,” he said. “On the other side, it’s tough because as our roster is starting to get better, it’s harder to project guys making your football team. That’s one of the fine balances that Coach and I are having to go through. That’s to make sure that these guys can even make the team and they are given a chance.

“It’s because we’re getting more depth and we’re getting a little bit better year in and year out.”

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Arizona Cardinals see ‘tremendous amount of upside’ in seven-member 2015 Draft class