The Arizona Cardinals under the watchful eye of Steve Keim have gone from bottom of the barrel to stand alone first place, at least through two games, and much of that can be attributed to the general manager and his creation of an excellent team for Coach Bruce Arians to lead.
When you look at the 2014 roster it is littered with young talent and that is what matters in the NFL. Success is dictated by a couple of things:
1. A dominant quarterback: The like of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck or Philip Rivers that can mask deficiencies and get you too the playoffs.
2. A young team, who also is laced with numerous impact veterans, that can be kept young and cheap.
The Cardinals have gone route two so far, no matter how much better Carson Palmer is compared to former Cardinals quarterbacks not named Warner, he is not in that special group.
The problem with route two is, it is only sustainable as you turn over the roster and continue to bring in impact rookies, look at the rookies the Seahawks drafted in 2010, 2011, and 2012, those names are impressive, and led to a 2013 Super Bowl win.
The Cardinals are trying to do the same thing, have they? Let's take a look at the last three Cardinals drafts and see what impact those drafts are having.
2012 draft class:
Round 1 (13) Michael Floyd, WR: Flashes dominance and is an impact player when he is on, but the WR position is such a fickle one that he can never be...well as important as they need him to be until the rest of the team is finished being developed.
2014- 6 rec, 138 yards, 0 TDs
2013- 65 rec, 1041 yards, 5 TDs
2012- 45 rec, 562 yards, 2 TDs
Round 3 (80) Jamell Fleming, CB: Boooo(ust). Just signed to the 53 man roster with the Chiefs, maybe he can make his career worth something there, but as far as his impact of the Cardinals...none.
Round 4 (112) Bobby Massie, OT: Maybe, just maybe, the most important pick in the 2012 class, as he is now entrenched as the starting right tackle, and has been really solid thus far, despite the one sack given up. A starter in round four is important.
Round 5 (151) Senio Kelemete, OG: A back up guard on the New Orleans Saints, still in the NFL, this is important for late round picks, that they make rosters, even if they do not make impact.
Round 6 (177) Justin Bethel, DB: Hello importance of the draft. Maybe he doesn't get a ton of snaps on defense, he does however make an impact weekly on specials, and in that he is a great hit.
Round 6 (185) Ryan Lindley, QB: Spent two years on the Cardinals roster and was pretty atrocious. He was cut and now is on the Chargers practice squad. Nothing to be upset about here. The team took a risk and he did not pan out.
Round 7 (221) Nate Potter, OL: Another two year roster staple who was cut with an injury settlement.
2012 Class: Only two starters, but one is potentially game breaking while the other is Michael Floyd (kidding). Floyd gets the publicity, Massie will make the Cardinals a better team if he continues to play like he has through the last two games.
2013 Draft Class
Round 1 (7) Jonathan Cooper, OG: Through two games in 2014 Cooper has played one snap. Injuries and fatigue and injuries have been the story of 2013 and 2014 for the first round pick, and until he gets on the field, there is nothing that can be said, positively at least, about the pick.
Round 2 (45) Kevin Minter, LB: There has been an interesting development with the Cardinals 2013 pick. He is playing half the snaps, while, well we will get to that shortly.
Minter has played well in his limited snaps through two games. He has been excellent in run situations, a strength coming out of college, and has struggled in his small sample size of snaps against the pass. Minter will continue to improve, hopefully, in coverage and in that he should become a complete player.
Round 3 (69) Tyrann Mathieu, DB: A whirlwind of a force in 2013, his injury set him back and while he has only played five snaps in 2014, much is expected of him moving forward. If Mathieu can build off his 2013 season, he will be a special player, but there will be no way of knowing right now.
Round 4 (103) Alex Okafor, OLB: He has been another injury-prone pick so far. There is a lot of time left for this one, but he has to be active to be relevant. This is the slight difference from a pick like Kelemete and Okafor, while they have both had no on field impact, at least Kelemete is able to play in a back up role, while Okafor is just sitting.
Round 4 (116) Earl Watford, OG: Was finally active in his first career NFL game against the Giants, is now falling into the back up relevancy.
Round 5 (140) Stepfan Taylor, RB: Two offensive snaps against the Giants, looking more and more like a special teams body and situational runner.
Round 6 (174) Ryan Swope, WR: Not going there.
Round 6 (187) Andre Ellington, RB: One of the better running backs in the NFL right now, he has to continue to stay healthy, but his impact through two weeks is undeniable. His future, whether it is for the next three seasons or through an extension, looks extremely bright.
Round 7 (219) DC Jefferson, TE: Was waived from the Panthers injured reserve, is serving a suspension, was a mess of a pick.
2013 Class: Just call this class the MASH unit for now. Ellington is phenomenal, Minter could get there and Mathieu was there and will hopefully be back, but there are so many unknowns right now. Minter is a part-time player, Cooper is nothing right now and Okafor has flashed in situations in the preseason, but this class rests on health at this point.
2014 Draft Class
Round 1 (27) Deone Bucannon, S: The other half of the Minter equation, the two do not play together, and that leaves a hole on defense. It's not that they are bad in what they are asked to do, but only playing 60% of the snaps, while Minter plays the other 40%, is not necessarily getting great return on investment. Consider that the Cards' first round pick in '14 and second round pick in '13 are basically just one player right now (Daryl Washington).
That being said, the fact that both are playing well in the roles they are in, makes this a positive, and it is early.
Round 2 (52) Troy Nikals, TE: Has played in 29 snaps through the first two games, has one catch, but has been rock solid in the run game.
He's a work in progress, but the clay is moldable and looks good.
Round 3 (84) Kareem Martin, Pass Rusher: Seven snaps, one tackle, and a lot of upside all bundled into one player.
Round 3 (91) John Brown, WR: Consistent snaps in two games, playing about 55%, and production, 5 catches, 57 yards and a touchdown through two games.
Round 4 (120) Logan Thomas, QB: What he did in the preseason is no longer important, he's the backup quarterback when Carson Palmer is hurt. Until he either becomes a full-time backup or a starter, there is no way to judge him currently.
Round 5 (160) Ed Stinson, DE: Played 16 snaps the first game, 18 in the second game, and looked better in Week two than Week one.
He has reverted back to being a run stopping DE only, as he's getting no push in pass rushing situations, but he is a rock against the run.
Round 6 (196) Walt Powell, WR: One to watch, as he was cut in favor of keeping extra linebackers, one who is no longer on the roster.
If he doesn't catch on in New York with the Jets, then he may have trouble finding a spot in the league at all.
2014 Class: Obviously it is early, but through two games the best pick is John Brown, followed by Deone Bucannon, and some guys that just need reps.
No starters yet, but it feels like Bucannon is close and Brown is getting comfortable which will allow him to make a move in year two.
Go through the draft classes and you know what you have in the 2012 class, while the other two classes are just a grab bag of questions.
Can the 2013 class get healthy?
How long until the 2014 class starts to gain more time?
It's a long season, but through two weeks, this is what we know.