Wednesday, June 1, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals were sitting in the catbird seat in this draft knowing that they were going to land a top prospect just by standing pat with the 5th overall pick. While their dream prospect, Von Miller, went off the board at two, they were still able to land my #2 overall rated player in the entire Draft, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. While many people thought that the Cards might pull the trigger on Blaine Gabbert, they've not so subtly let it be known they have a wink-nod deal with current Ravens backup Marc Bulger. Yes, he's still alive after the beatings he took with the Rams a few seasons ago, and several Ravens players said that in practice, he's the best quarterback on the Ravens roster, including Joe Flacco. I must quote Allen Iverson here..."We talkin' 'bout practice?!" Kevin Kolb's been the nom du jour as of late, but that's a steep price to pay the Eagles for someone with so little starting experience.

1st round, 5th overall) Patrick Peterson - CB - LSU
Peterson, who stands at 6'0" 219lbs and clocked a 4.34 in the 40, is one, if not the best athletes in the entire 2011 Draft Class. A 3-year starter for the Tigers, Peterson was named SEC Defensive AND Special Teams player of the year in 2010, and added to his trophy case collecting the Thorpe Award (Best DB), and Bednarik Award (Best defender) in 2010. He profiles much like Charles Woodson did coming out of Michigan, as someone who can play either cornerback or safety and be successful at both.

How he fits in: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie isn't going anywhere, but the Cardinals could stand to upgrade at CB over Greg Toler on the other side. I think Peterson will start at corner off the bat as the Cards have a pair of veteran safeties in Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson, and they're still trying to bring former 2nd round pick Rashad Johnson along behind Rhodes. However, behind those three, there's little depth, so Peterson may see some time at safety in certain pacakges like the Dolphins do with Sean Smith, who is the only CB bigger than Peterson in the league. Peterson's got true shutdown potential, and I think he's cut in the mold of Nnamdi Asomugha. He can also be a kick returner if need be.

Outlook: Really, you can't go wrong with Patrick Peterson. Whether he's a corner or safety will be determined later on, but you've got to wonder if Arizona made the right decision passing on a quarterback. Peterson himself should start from day one and will probably get a lot of consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He'll be pressed into one-on-one duty quite a bit as the Cardinals pass-rushers are either too old, or too unproven. Peterson and DRC give them a pair of cornerstone corners for the next 8-10 years, and both may have teh ability to switch to safety later on. Great pick, but he's got to be put to the right use to get the most out of it.

2nd round, 38th overall) Ryan Williams - RB - Virginia Tech
The Cards run game has been abysmal, even when they had Kurt Warner leading the team. Beanie Wells has been hurt and doesn't run very well. Tim Hightower is pretty limited athletically and is more of a 3rd down back. Ryan Williams was brought in and he should be able to overtake the starting role from Beanie Wells. He's more lightning to Wells' thunder, but he's been a workhorse. Plagued by injuries and caught in a rotation with the Hokies last year, you actually should watchin his 2009 tape if you want to see what Williams brings to the table. He shredded some elite defenses that year, and ran for 1,655 yards and 21 TDs. If he can overcome the injuries and prove he can run between the tackles at the NFL level, he'll be a solid starter, but he's not overly special in any particular area.

3rd round, 69th overall) Rob Housler - TE - Florida Atlantic
Housler's stock caught fire at the NFL Combine when he scorched a 4.55 40 (faster than Ryan Williams) to lead all tight end prospects. Housler is relatively inexperienced but caught 32 passes as a junior before redshirting prior to his senior season. He even played some scout team quarterback for the Owls during the off year. Housler came back to catch 39 passes and 4 scores with a 16.1 ypc average. He also used the off year to bulk up from 215lbs to 248lbs, and at 6'5", he's an impressive athlete. Ben Patrick and Stephen Spach are steady blockers, but don't really give the Cards a passing threat, so Housler should have ample opportunity to win the 2nd tight end job early on.

4th round, 103rd overall) Sam Acho - OLB - Texas
The Cardinals have really struggled with finding 3-4 OLB for their defense. Acho is a conversion prospect, having played 4-3 DE at Texas. Joey Porter and Clark Haggans are old and falling apart. O'Brien Schofield sat out all last year due to injury, and Cody Brown was let go. Acho could start on the strongside quickly, though he'll certainly struggle with technique issues from the start. Acho's a smart player with a good motor, but he's not athletic and plays with a narrow base. His play really came on as a senior in Austin as he notched 17 tackles for loss and 9 sacks, but you've got to wonder whether or not he's really on the ascent, or he was a one-hit wonder for the Longhorns. I think Arziona could've done better at this position.

5th round, 136th overall) Anthony Sherman - FB - Connecticut
True fullbacks are a dying breed in the NFL. Most teams don't even carry a traditional one any more. If they do, it's typically a guy who can also play tight end or that's used as a short yardage back and not necessarily a primary blocker. Well, Anthony Sherman is a fullback in the traditional sense. He's a 5'10" 242lbs battering ram that will be a lead blocker for Williams, or Wells, or Hightower, in hopes revamping the Cards running game. Remember the Steelers fullback Dan Kreider? Well, that's what former Steelers coordinator, and current Cards coach, Ken Whisenhunt has in mind. Sherman's a decent receiver out of the backfield, but his primary duties will be blocking.

6th round, 171st overall) Quan Sturdivant - ILB - North Carolina
A hamstring injury that cost him 5 games as a senior, coupled with a marijuana arrest prior the season really deflated Sturdivant's draft stock. He still managed to play in 8 games tallying 61 tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception for the Heels, but he wasn't fully healthy coming off the hamstring injury. Losing so many key defenders to suspsension also hampered his ability to roam the field as well. Sturdivant will be asked to play the weak inside linebacker spot in the Cardinals defense. Gerald Hayes won't be long in Arizona and Darryl Washington is the only other inside backer who should challenge Sturdivant for playing time. If his hamstring is finally right, the Cardinals may have a steal on their hands here.

6th round, 184th overall) David Carter - DT - UCLA
Carter might've seen his draft stock rise slightly with the play of Brian Price the year before. Carter's decent in his own right, but he might have to switch to DE for the Cardinals to make an impact in the NFL. At 6'4" 297lbs, he's a decent enough athlete to pull of the switch, but he really lacks core strength and the ability to hold at the point of attack. He posted some decent numbers for the Bruins, but he wasn't as active as you'd like to see, especially with the benefit of having played with and learning from someone like Brian Price.

7th round, 249th overall) Demarco Sampson - WR - San Diego State
The Aztec program has seen a lot of its receiving corps stick at the NFL level as of late. Roberto Wallace made Miami's roster as an UDFA in 2010 and Vincent Brown was drafted by the Chargers in the 3rd round. Sampson, certainly the least heralded of the three, surprisingly got drafted. Sampson posted 125 catches over the last two seasons, including a 1,220 yard effort in 2010. The Cardinals have a lot of quality talent at the receiving position, but Sampson provides them with an athletic, big target they could use as a 4th or 5th option. He'll have to show something on special teams to stick on the roster though. He has returned kicks in the past, so that might help in to some degree.

Overall Grade: C
Aside from Patrick Peterson, there's not too much to get excited about. Ryan Williams is solid, but unspectacular. They probably overdrafted Housler, Acho, Sherman, Carter, and Sampson, but got a potential steal in Quan Sturdivant. The Cards passed on a quarterback and if Sam Acho is their grand plan at OLB, they're in trouble as they've been unable to find pass-rushers since Ken Whisenhunt first took over the job, other than Betrand Berry and Chike Okeafor. The Cardinals got better, but I think they plugged a lot of their smaller holes, and ignored several large gaps in their roster. A part-time running back, second tight end, a fullback, and a backup DE probably won't add too many wins to the Cardinals 2011 record, but they're several baby steps closer to competeing at a high level again.

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