Quarterback: Carson Palmer - Drew Stanton - Logan Thomas
Drafting Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas likely spells the end of Ryan Lindley's time on the Cardinals roster. The 185th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, Lindley appeared in six games his rookie season, starting four of them as a replacement for John Skelton throwing zero touchdowns and seven interceptions. It's fair too say he wasn't dealt the best hand, but he won't be missed.
Palmer is under contract for one more year, Stanton two more. I expect Palmer to be given a one-year extension at the end of the season providing he plays well enough to warrant it, because I feel the team thinks Logan Thomas can become the next Colin Kaepernick. He needs two years of development because he is so raw and his technique needs a lot of work. Arians will coach him up behind Palmer, tutor him, and then he'll be given a chance to start later down the line. All the athletic upside in the world, but needs a tremendous amount of work.
Running Back: Andre Ellington - Stepfan Taylor - Ryan Williams - Jonathan Dwyer
Whether Andre Ellington can develop into a featured back in an NFL offense remains to be seen, but he will get the bulk of the work with no Rashard Mendenhall in the mix. Taylor and Dwyer will serve as rotational third down and short yardage backs, leaving Ryan Williams the odd many out.
Entering the last year of his deal with the Cardinals, the former second round pick hasn't lived up to expectations thus far, and simply cannot stay healthy. He'll be given a shot in pre-season to earn a role in the offense, but it's not looking good for Williams' long-term future with the team.
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald - Michael Floyd - Tedd Ginn - John Brown - Jaron Brown - Walter Powell
This is a pretty impressive wide receiver group. You have one of the best tandems in the entire NFL in Larry Fitzgerald, two big-bodied receivers who can high point the ball well. Tremendous toughness and great hands, will give opposing defenders fitz (pardon the pun) all season long. Tedd Ginn is a nice third option on the team. Deep threat player, will also have value as a return man with his speed.
After those three, it's hard to say who will get the most touches. This year's third round pick, Pittsburg State WR John Brown has electrifying speed, very elusive in the open field and makes tackles miss. He has great hands and snags the ball on almost every target, and is another player with special teams value. Jaron Brown was last year's UDFA standout, and has a role in the offense, as does does sixth round pick Walter Powell from Murray State. Has played a lot of ST's as a return man and on coverage, that's where his value lies.
Tight End: Troy Niklas - John Carlson - Rob Housler - Jake Ballard
On the face of it, this looks a pretty good tight end group. In reality, no one here has yet to make any real strides in the NFL. Second round pick Troy Niklas is easily the most talented player in the group. He has elite size with average speed, his value comes as an intermediate route runner where he can find the soft spot in the zone and create space by boxing out defenders. His pure size makes him a great red zone threat.
Arians likes to use two tight end sets, and it's anyone's guess as to say who earns the TE2 gig. Carlson, Housler and Ballard all have their merits, but all have their questions, and it's mainly health across the board. Housler is a great athlete, but we're yet to see him develop into a reliable receiver.
Offensive Line: Jared Veldheer - Jonathan Cooper - Lyle Sendlein - Earl Watford - Bobbie Massie - Bradley Sowell - Paul Fanaika - Ted Larsen - Anthony Steen
The left side of the offensive line is locked in with Veldheer and Cooper starting at LT and LG respectfully. Sendlein will retain his starters role at center for another year, but it's the right side where it gets interesting. Paul Fanaika was below average at best last year, and he's no lock to make the roster. I think he gets beaten out by Earl Watford in training camp to be the RG. Massie and Sowell will battle for the starting RT job, but I think Massie wins out because of his upside. Could be worthwhile to bring back Eric Winston, who is still a free agent, to play right tackle.
That leaves us with your 'swing' players who can play multiple positions. Ted Larsen is your backup center who could fill in at guard if you need him too. Bradley Sowell can play both left and right tackle, I think he's more valuable than Nate Potter as the swing guy there. I've opted to include my first of two UDFA signings by the Cardinals, Alabama OG Anthony Steen. This is a guy who has played both left and right guard and has some value coming into trading camp. Could steal a roster spot from Fanaika when it's all said and done.
Defensive Line: Calais Campbell - Dan Williams - Darnell Dockett - Alameda Ta'amu - Kareem Martin - Frostee Rucker - Ed Stinson
Arizona are blessed to have one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in all of football in Calais Campbell. Pair him up with Darnell Dockett and you have a great tandem who can rush the passer and play the run well. Dan Williams and Alameda Ta'amu, both in the last year of their respective contracts, will rotate at NT, I only expect one to be on the roster next season, whoever impresses the most stays.
Frostee Rucker proved to be a valuable depth player on the defensive line with some versatility to play inside and out. The team invested two draft picks in defensive linemen. Kareem Martin out of North Carolina was a value pick, similar to Alex Okafor last season. He has no true fit in a 3-4 defense being a prototypical 4-3 defensive end, but Steve Keim feels that Martin can transition to outside linebacker. Ed Stinson was a fifth round pick out of Alabama. Ideal 5-tech in a 3-4, he plays the run very well, a solid rotation option.
Linebacker: John Abraham - Daryl Washington - Kevin Minter - Sam Acho - Matt Shaughnessy - Lorenzo Alexander - Alex Okafor - Larry Foote
There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Cardinals linebacking core this season. With Karlos Dansby leaving for Cleveland, can last year's second round pick Kevin Minter step up and fill the void? Will Daryl Washington receive a suspension from the NFL? Can John Abraham produce similar form to last season? What impact, if any, can Sam Acho and Alex Okafor have returning from injury?
To answer this, the team is transitioning Lorenzo Alexander from OLB to ILB because the lack of depth at the position. The team also signed Larry Foote who has a chance to make the roster as the final linebacker. Sam Acho and John Abraham, the two projected starters at OLB are both free agents after this season. Abraham will almost certainly not be back, but Acho needs a big year to prove he can be an effective NFL pass rusher. Alex Okafor didn't see the field much last year because of injury. A true DE/OLB 'tweener', can he find a role in our defense?
Cornerback: Patrick Peterson - Antonio Cromartie - Jerraud Powers - Justin Bethel - Bryan McCann
To get it our of the way early, I have omitted Tyrann Mathieu from this projection because all indicators suggest he will start the season on the PUP list, meaning he will not be on the active roster Week 1. Patrick Peterson will look to put in another stellar season and earn some serious money. Antonio Cromartie was a very smart addition to partner Peterson out wide. Being on a one-year deal, we don't know if he'll be back next year, it was interesting to see that the team didn't invest a mid-round pick on a developmental corner.
Jerraud Powers isn't great, but he's as solid a CB3 as you'll find in the entire NFL, and he'll play the slot CB position in sub packages while Mathieu recuperates from his knee injury. Justin Bethel earns a spot on the roster being a special teams ace, Went to the Pro Bowl last season as a special teamer, he is quickly becoming one of the best in the game. McCann makes the team as a depth player while Mathieu comes back, and when he returns, McCann is the guy who'll make way.
Safety: Deone Bucannon - Rashad Johnson - Tony Jefferson - Craig Loston
I think Deone Bucannon was an excellent pick in the bottom of the first round, An old-school strong safety who can make big hits, he is an efficient tackles and has the size to combat tight ends in coverage. I think he'll be an excellent complement to Mathieu when he returns, but while out, Rashad Johnson is pencilled in as the starting free safety on the team.
Tony Jefferson stood out in pre season last year and earned a spot on the roster, and made it his own through the season, not looking out of place. The second 2014 UDFA to make the team is another LSU defender in Craig Loston. This is a guy, like Jefferson, was expected to be an early Day 3 pick in their respective drafts but unexpectedly fell. He can play both SS and FS, and makes a nice backup at both positions and can play special teams.
Special Teams - Jay Feely - Dave Zastudil - Mike Leach
No surprises here the team stick with what they know and what they trust. Three reliable players at the positions for a long time now. Interesting to see that the team brought in Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro to compete with Feely in training camp. Feely was hit and miss last season, no harm in bringing in an extra leg to see what he's got.