Gauging the reaction of fans, writers and other media members, it seems like a valleywide consensus that the selection of Patrick Peterson with the fifth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals was very good. It has been just one night, but Cardinals fans are excited again. It's hard to complain about that. For the first time in a long time, there is some good buzz about the Cardinals.
Now that the pick has been made, where does he fit in this year? How much of an impact will he be able to make?
Peterson himself seems pretty confident. "I believe I am all the way NFL-ready," he said. "I am definitely going to come in and start right away,"
It was unclear from reading that quote whether start meant "get started" or "be a starter."
We should note that Ken Whisenhunt likes to make rookies and other young players earn their spot. I think it will be highly unlikely that he cracks the starting lineup in the first half of the season, unless there are injuries.
What will probably be the model is to make him work for a spot and play him primarily in nickel situations. After all, Greg Toler is still held in high regard by the Arizona coaching staff. He is a strong, physical corner and he is a good guy to have opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who we know is good in coverage but is not physical at all. If he progresses as he should, he could possibly take over the starting spot in place of Toler.
As for his returning skills, that is where he will likely have the most impact early on. The job won't be handed to him for kickoff returns, as LaRod Stephens-Howling already mans that position. He could do punts, but Ken Whisenhunt explained that there is a transition of sorts that players need to learn to return punts in the NFL.
Some experts have projected him as developing into a great safety because of his size. While this could happen, Peterson was very clear to say, "I definitely want to be a corner for my NFL career." In my opinion, either way is fine. If he ends up becoming a ball-hawking safety, he could be the eventual replacement for Adrian Wilson when he has aged past production.
Whatever the contribution is, at least for now it looks like he should be able to make an impact on football games in 2011, and that was exactly what we had hoped for.