By my count, the Cardinals have 89 players currently on the roster. Thirteen of those spots are committed to wide receivers. That's more than any other team in the NFC West, which seems silly since WR is one of the team's positions of strength. It shouldn't come as a surprise if cut-downs start here. Until then, let's find out what the new guys bring to the table and if they have a chance to stick around for a while.
Arif Hasan says of Brown, "With solid hands and a great workout at his pro day, Brown figures to do more in the NFL than he did in college. He’s agile and extremely physical, perhaps best known as a willing and devastating (for a receiver) blocker than anything else." Though he likes Brown's ball skills, he goes on to say that Brown struggles to deceive defensive backs or create yardage after the catch, theorizing that it will be difficult for Brown to contribute consistently at the NFL level right away. Considering his size, athleticism, physical play, and the uphill battle at wide receiver, I can't help but think the team might be better off trying to convert him to safety over the next year or two.
Projection: Practice squad
Brown's combination of size, speed and blocking ability make him an excellent prospect but he needs polish.
Most of you probably know more about U of A's Dan Buckner than I do, so permit me to catch up. NFL.com likes his height and length as a vertical and red-zone threat but states he lacks suddenness, taking a while to build up to his top speed. After pulling up short while running the 40 as his pro day, Buckner said, “I think I catch the ball fairly well, but I want to be more than just a big, tall possession receiver.” Buckner matches up well with Jaron Brown and LaRon Byrd as a vertical, outside receiver, but will struggle to displace either of them if he has trouble getting separation against NFL corners.
Projection: Practice squad
A "quarterback's best friend"-type prospect, Buckner possesses enough tools to succeed in the NFL but will probably be limited to the practice squad in his first NFL season if for no other reason than the depth ahead of him.
An instinctive, polished technician, The Daily Norseman's Arif Hasan had this to say about Lawson:
When in a pattern, Lawson has the ability to set up defenders with a head fake, a shoulder fake, a double move or even foot fakes. He makes every route look the same, and it’s deadly. He knows how to position himself as he attacks the ball so that he has exclusive real estate. I like his movement in and out of cuts, where he can maintain speed without rounding off his routes too much, although there’s some work to be done here.
Hasan cites Lawson's sub-par athleticism as a significant drawback, and he's correct. Despite his dedication to the craft, there aren't many receivers who make it in the NFL running a 4.68 40. NFL.com worries about his size but Lawson is a hard-worker who loves practice, and that gives him a chance.
If Lawson proves to be a reliable target early in camp, he has a chance to make the roster based on consistency alone. He won't stretch the field or take the league by storm with dazzling athletic ability, but he won't need to if he can make a couple catches a game in a limited role. On the other hand, a lack of upside makes him a long-shot for the practice squad.
Rios was a big-time player for Marist, setting basically every receiving record in the school's history. You can see by the highlights that his speed was no match for FCS defenses, helping maintain an eye-popping 23.5-yards per reception his Senior year. His 40 time was reported between 4.38 and 4.47. One of his most impressive stats, and the one that might earn him a job in the NFL, wasn't on offense, however: 8 blocked kicks.
“The amount of special teams he played for us — on the punt team and he had blocked so many kicks for us in his career,” Parady said. “They knew he was going to be willing to do the dirty work, so to speak. As a kid who put up numbers at the receiver and that he was still willing to do the dirty work, those are things that popped off to the scouts. Those things were really big in his work ethic.”
Projection: Practice squad
A hard-working special teamer is exactly what you want out of your fifth or sixth wide receiver. Having a little bit of size and deep speed helps a lot, too. Rios could surprise and claim a roster spot but is more likely to wind up on the practice squad as the adjustment from FCS ball to the NFL will be a significant one.
Tyler Shaw, WR, Northwest Missouri State
6'0" 180 lbs.
A track guy, Shaw grabbed attention at his Pro Day when he was clocked between 4.3-4.5 seconds in the 40 yard dash. Shaw said of NFL scouts present at his workout, “A lot of them are interested in my speed, and pretty much as long as I can keep on good weight, that’d be a big positive. I’ve been hearing mixed things from scouts, so it’s mixed feedback about my size and if my hands are good enough to catch the ball. Sometimes my speed doesn’t show as much on film as they’d like.” Speed is one thing, but Shaw will need to focus on football from here on out if he's going to have a chance.
Spending the months leading up to the draft focusing on track hurts him, as does the sheer volume of receivers already on the roster. Still, if he can harness his speed on the field, he might make it to the practice squad.