On day one, the Arizona Cardinals passed up on multiple pass rushers and offensive linemen to take WR Michael Floyd. On day two, in spite of of Mike Adams still being on the board and having been within trading distance of both Jonathan Martin and Jeff Allen, the team instead decided to select CB Jamell Fleming.
Heading into day three, Cardinals fans were concerned that the teams needs would never bee filled. However, the team stuck to their Best Player Available strategy, and it paid off in a big way.
I'm sure we'll all read a lot of player reports in the coming days, so without further ado, here are my of the Arizona Cardinals 2012 draft grades.
Round 1 (Pick 13): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame.
With their first pick of the 2012 draft, the Arizona Cardinals took wideout Michael Floyd. The Notre Dame standout was the second highest rated receiver in the draft, but many, myself included, considered him to have a bigger upside than even Justin Blackmon. He has an uncanny resemblance to Anquan Boldin in terms of playing style, skill set and build.
According to some sources, Floyd was ranked 8th on the Cardinals draft board, which if true, represents great value. But even if not, as I have previously discussed, any of the other possibilities linked to the team would have been a significant reach.
Floyd will find playing time from day one. I suspect that Coach Whisenhunt will officially list him as fourth on the depth chart coming into their pre-season games, and will bump him up to third by the start of regular season. Whisenhunt doesn't like to name rookies as starters when he can avoid it, so, officially at least, Roberts or Doucet will remain the number two guy for the first few weeks. However, as WR3 Floyd will line up on most offensive plays, and, whatever his official designation, will quickly become a go-to guy for our QB.
He is an impact player, who will likely rack up somewhere north of 800 yards, and multiple TDs in his rookie season, and so represents great value for the team.
Grade: A- .The only downside with this pick for the Cardinals is that he wasn't a lineman. Without improved protection, the Cardinals QB may still struggle to get the ball to him.
Round 3 (Pick 80): Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma.
Leading up to the draft Jamell Fleming was a CB on the rise. He was projected to go off the board as early as the middle of the second round. Although he did not address an immediate need for the Cardinals, his availability midway through the third apparently made him too good a deal to pass up on.
Fleming is a very quick and physical cornerback with good closing speed and tackling ability. A former high school WR he has great awareness, and interception abilities—something the Cardinals lacked in 2011. He is also very good blitzing off the edge, and will fit in well with Ray Hortons high pressure scheme.
Fleming will compete with Greg Toler, William Gay and A.J. Jefferson for the starters job opposite Patrick Peterson. Like Floyd, he will not be named a starter, and like Floyd, he will see plenty of playing time nonetheless. The Cardinals will undoubtedly use his strength and speed in their nickel packages, which I expect them to utilise extensively in 2012. In addition. Fleming is a special teams ace, and so he will also be a major contributor to this part of the Cardinals game too.
At his best, Fleming was an early second round pick, with multiple analysts projecting his selection at around 45th overall, so in taking him with the 80th pick, the Cardinals once again get excellent value, and an immediate contributor.
Grade: A-. Once more, the only negative with this pick is that it didn't bolster our o-line. The Cardinals had the possibility to trade up and get one-time top ten projection Jonathan Martin, however sticking to the BPA strategy allowed the Cardinals to get great value from their pick.
Round 4 (Pick 112): Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss.
The Cardinals may have been without a second round pick, but in Bobby Massie the Cardinals found yet another early round talent. Massie is a huge right tackle, who many had suggested as a potential late first round pick—indeed, I had him as a potential pick should the team have managed to trade back and pick up a second rounder. When the Cardinals passed over him in favor of Fleming in the third, people began to question their strategy, so taking him in the fourth represents perhaps the best value pick of the draft, by any team.
Massie reminds me of fellow Ole Miss Rebel Michael Oher or Jammal Brown if he is able to live up to expectations. His size and strength are by far his biggest asset, but has surprising athleticism and quickness make him a formidable blocker. He has a great football I.Q,, above average durability, and recovers quickly.
He is better as a run blocker than in pass coverage, due to his sloppy technique at times, but technique can be taught, raw talent can not, and he has no shortage of that. Russ Grimm had to feel his prayers were answered when Massie fell to them, and will have a field day with Massie when he reports to the team for training camp. Massie will compete at RT, and due to the Cardinals well documented weakness at right tackle will likely win a starting spot.
He has the potential to move to left tackle in time, but he is more naturally suited to the right, and if the Cardinals avoid the temptation to try and slide him over, he could develop into one of the dominant right tackles in the NFL.
Massie is the third impact player that the Cardinals found in the draft, and represents some of the most unbelievable value imaginable.
Grade A+++. Look. Massie isn't one of the top ten blue chip players in the draft. He's not even a top five player at his position yet. Yes, he has tons of potential, but then again, so did LevI Brow, so let's not get ahead of ourselves. However importantly, he's not all that far behind his peers.
He is a legitimate second round pick whom the Cardinals selected with the 17th pick of the fourth round. He will start in 2012, barring a catastrophic failure during the preseason. He is, to my mind, the best value pick of the whole draft by any team, and a huge win for the Cardinals.
Round 5 (Pick 151): Senio Kelemete, OT/OG, Washington.
Kelemete is an supremely athletic, highly versatile lineman. A four year starter in Washington, Kelemete has played on both the offensive and defensive lines, most recently protecting the QB's blindside. He has the ability to play as an interior lineman, in addition to tackle, which is where he projects to compete.
His football I.Q., hand positioning, aggression and blocking are all good, especially if he does make the move to guard in Arizona. His technique leaves a little to be desired, especially as a tackle in pass protection. He will not beat out Levi Brown this season, but within a few seasons, has the potential to develop into a dependable starter at either left tackle or guard.
However, he will take time to develop as a tackle. He is not LT material in the NFL yet, and while he could slide over to the right in 2012, it is unlikely that he would even beat out Massie, let alone any of the Cardinals currently on the roster.
By moving inside to guard however, Kelemete gives himself additional opportunities to get playing time until he is ready to take over at LT. His versatility, speed and athleticism make him particularly a valuable backup right across the o-line, with enough upside to develop into a regular starter at left tackle eventually.
Grade: B-. Kelemete was projected as a fifth round pick with versatility and upside, and that's exactly what the Cardinals got. It's hard to get as excited about Kelemete as other players in this draft, if only because he projects as a versatile backup, out of the gate. However, for a fifth round pick this is all that most teams would expect, and is certainly not a bad pick. He's a potential future starter at LT, so is a good pick here, just not such a great value one as the Cardinals earlier selections.
At first glance, this pick confused many draft watchers and fans alike. Having bolstered their secondary through free agency and earlier in the draft, the corner position was not considered a position of need for the team, even one firmly locked into a BPA strategy. Indeed, though a small school standout, it is hard to view him even as the best possibility overall, even disregarding needs.
However, Bethel projects very well as a safety, probably better here than at CB, where he played much of his career. The Cardinals safeties, both Rhodes and Wilson, are ageing and increasingly injury prone. Adding depth at this position is a real benefit for the Cardinals.
He is a supreme athlete, testing well throughout the combine, and amongst the elite performers at his position at the both vertical and broad jumps. He is very raw, but has a great football I.Q. and natural ability. Throughout college, he had a propensity to make spectacular plays, and was a real game changer for his team. However, his lack of fundamentals, and sloppy technique—in no small part due to his coaching thus far—are a concern.
As a small school pick, his experience against top-tier opponents is very limited. This makes it difficult to accurately evaluate his ceiling, and as a result, limited his draft appeal. Had Bethel attended a larger school, and had the benefit of a little better coaching, it's easy to imagine someone of his prodigious athletic ability going off the board within the first round.
However, as it stands, the Cardinals appear to have once again found excellent value deep in the draft. Bethel projects as a backup at safety for the Cardinals, who may see playing time as a nickel corner, on special teams and as a change of pace safety during some of the Cardinals most esoteric packages. As a former defensive back himself, Ray Horton is likely to identify those areas needing improvement, and help develop Bethel into a dependable starter within the next season or so.
Grade: B+. Based purely on athletic ability and potential, Bethel has at the raw talent to be one of the top safeties or cornerbacks in the league, and represents spectacular value, if he lives up to this. However, while his ceiling is sky high, his small school education, and lack of quality coaching mean his floor is currently quite low. His transition to life in the NFL will be steeper than that of most, and his development may therefore take longer. As a risk-reward pickup, Bethel could become one of the steals of the draft, but his impact early on may be limited.
Round 6 (Pick 185): Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State.
Reading Ryan Lindley's scouting report feels a little like deja vu.
Lindley has a huge arm, can make all the throws, and has a very tight, explosive throwing action. He has good pocket presence, and in spite of not being known as a running QB, is athletic and agile enough to escape pressure well. Lindley is tall, at nearly 6'4" and has nearly prototypical weight
This sounds strangely similar to John Skelton.
He is also known for being inaccurate—averaging just 55.5% completions across his four year career—regularly overthrowing balls, forcing passes through impossible windows and forces his receivers to adjust their timing and routes to match him, not the other way around. He makes some very poor and inexplicable reads, which have lead some to question his football I.Q.
This too sounds strangely similar to John Skelton.
The Cardinals, it would seem, already have Ryan Lindley, two seasons further on, under contract in Skelton then, which makes the selection at first glance, a curious one. However, on further inspection, it actually makes a lot of sense. A sixth round pick, expectations for any player have to be tempered by realty, you're not finding an Andrew Luck or RGIII here.
The Cardinals have struggled at QB recently, and while they hope that either Kevin Kolb or Skelton will develop into a legitimate long term solution, they have no guarantees of this fact. In taking Lindley, the Cardinals QB coaches have increased their chances of having a dependable starter on their roster, should Kolb fail, without significantly increasing their workload.
The areas Lindley needs to improve on are areas they are actively working on with Skelton. Because they are so similar, the play books, timing and cadence of both players will be very similar, making them effectively plug-and-play replacements for one another in the event of an unforeseen injury.
Grade: A-. In spite of his struggles, his prototypical size, weight and arm strength mean there were more than a few teams expected to be willing to roll the dice on Lindley. He was expected to be off the board prior to the Cardinals pick, so represents some good value, especially as the Cardinals second pick this round. Similarities to Skelton and QB concerns make it easy to understand why the Cardinals would take a chance here. Likely to be relegated to the practice squad for his first season, until it becomes clear what will happen with Kolb, Lindley may do well enough during training camp to warrant a position as either QB3 or, like Max Hall before him, convince the Cardinals to keep additional QBs around.
Round 7 (Pick 221): Nate Potter, OT, Boise State.
With their final pick of the draft, the Cardinals picked Nate Potter, their third offensive lineman of the draft. Seemingly determined not to allow any fans to question their commitment to improving their o-line, the Cardinals added yet more depth to this position.
Potter is a great addition, and the the perfect advertisement for the BPA strategy. Potter has regularly been mocked going in the third round, and was projected to fall no further than the fifth. However, Potter slid as many teams abandoned any semblance of a BPA strategy in favor of addressing needs. In the seventh then, Potter represents another great value addition.
With Kelemete projected to—at least initially—move inside to guard, where he is likely to receive a certain amount of playing time, Potter will likely be listed as backup to Levi Brown this coming season. While it is unlikely that he will challenge Brown for regular paying time at this point, due in the main to being a little undersized and lacking slightly in strength, he will threaten to pounce on Brown's starting spot at the slightest sign of any weakness.
Nonetheless, his textbook technique durability means that he has every possibility of developing into a starter, and as a true left tackle—as opposed to the highbred tackle/guards which the Cardinals are currently stacked with—could see significant playing time following an injury to either tackle on either side of the field.
He is a better pass protector than he is a run blocker, which could see him move up the depth chart significantly, as this has traditionally been an area of weakness for the pass-happy Cardinals.
If John Lott and his team can improve his strength and add a little bulk, without affecting his quickness and movement, Potter could become a dependable starting left tackle before the end of his rookie contract in Arizona.
Grade: A. Look, this is the seventh round, so don't be fooled into thinking we'll finally be rid of Levi Brown, but I really like this pick. True Left Tackles are always a hot commodity, and finding one in the wasteland which is seventh round is no mean feat. Finding one with the potential to develop into a starter with just the addition of a little size and strength then, makes this a potential steal. He'll take a season couple of seasons to develop into a regular starter, but could, in a perfect set of circumstances, begin to see some playing time as early as midseason, and following an injury to Brown could conceivably become starter sooner than anyone expects—he is still the only true LT the Cardinals have on their roster.