With the 2011 NFL Draft complete and with all the draft picks accounted for, it is our duty as a Cardinals community to try and project how each player will contribute during the 2011 season. During the 2010 season, every single rookie except for O'Brien Schofield started at least one game. With their 2011 draft class, they have some talent that could perhaps start in 2011, even if the team is more successful than last year's 5-11 abomination.
The question is, which one will be the first to make a start for the Cardinals (meaning on offense or on defense)? Let's look at each of the draftees and what stands in their way of starting this season.
You might say that he should be the mortal lock on who will start first. However, we must remember that the cornerback position is not necessarily one in which the Cardinals are in need of a starter. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (if not traded away in a deal for a QB) is already there, as is Greg Toler, who had a pretty decent year overall. There is also Michael Adams, A.J. Jefferson and Marshay Green on the roster or likely to be in the mix for next year. Cracking a starting spot will take some time, especially because Ken Whisenhunt and his staff believe in making young players work for their playing time. I would expect him to start at some point in the year if he is the player we hope and believe he is.
Williams is another guy that was drafted even though there was not a clear need at the position. Yes, Tim Hightower is set to become a restricted free agent, so he viably could leave, but that still leaves Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Jason Wright. Williams also has some learning to do when it comes to pass protection schemes (something that Beanie still struggles with). For Williams to start, he is going to have to look really good. If both Beanie and Timmy are on the squad, I don't think he will start a game this year.
He now is one of two tight ends on the roster. Ben Patrick and Stephen Spach are unrestricted free agents. Spach might be back, but Patrick is likely seen his last days as a Cardinal. The only other is 2010 seventh-rounder Jim Dray. Dray started several games last season and showed enough promise to be a contributor. Housler, though, could become a very, very good player. His size, speed and hands should find him lots of playing time. If I were use my crystal ball (I don't because it is cheating), I would probably see that he shall be the first of all the Cardinals picks to find the starting lineup. It is partly because of skill and a lot to do with the players in front of him on th depth chart.
The fourth round selection has the most players in front of him on the depth chart. Starting will likely be an impossibility. Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, O'Brien Schofield and Will Davis all play OLB. Porter may not return. If I had to guess, I would figure to see Schofield and Haggans starting. If Acho starts, it will likely because of injury hitting almost everyone. I do, though, expect him to see time.
Sherman was drafted to contribute at fullback and on special teams. As fullbacks go, he has all the skills you need. He is nuts, he loves to block, he has very good hands and is a very good special teams player (at least that is the rep he has from college). Reagan Maui'a is a restricted free agent ahead of him. I imagine that Sherman will be number one on the depth chart, but whether he actually starts will be determined by the formation Ken Whisnehunt uses to start the game. If I recall, the starting lineup usually involved one RB, one TE and three WR.
"Q" will not likely start in 2011. At inside linebacker, there are still three players ahead of him, although that may only really be two. The starters will be Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington. It would appear that Gerald Hayes will not be back, considering his play and the money due him in 2011. Will Sturdivant play? Likely, but starting is probably out of the question because Washington looks very promising and the team was very pleased with the play of Lenon.
Carter is viewed as a developmental player. He played DT in college and is expected to have to learn to play DE. The Cards already have Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett at that position. Alan Branch, who plays end and tackle (but is better at end), is a restricted free agent and will probably return. Carter will provide depth, but could be pushed to the side in playing time if the team signs anyone at that position in free agency.
Well, Sampson is a seventh rounder. He is considered a successful pick if he plays at all. He has potential and is very fast, but he also has Larry Fitzgerald, Stephen Williams and Max Komar ahead of him. Early Doucet and Steve Breaston are restricted free agents for right now. Sampson could see playing time, but shouldn't start. But then again, Williams, an undrafted player, started games last season, so really anything is possible. He is getting off on the right foot right now by staying at Fitz' house and working out with him. That sort of attitude will take him a ways in the league if he shows any promise at all on the field.
Now I am not a betting man, but if I were to place a wager on who starts first, I would put money on Housler first. I would put the likelihood of starting in this order:
3. Sherman (again, depends on opening offensive formation)