Steve Keim and Bruce Arians were hired only days apart in 2013. Keim on the eighth of January, and Arians, filling the last coaching vacancy, on the eighteenth of January. A month later, the two were attending their first NFL Combine as decision makers. Two months later, they were drafting their first class.
The class has it's stars, but it also has it's duds, and Keim recently mentioned how certain players from that class helped mold his draft philosophy.
Fast forward to today and the duo is primed to attack their fourth class, and help build a roster that will hoist the Lombardi trophy come February.
So who were those picks from 2013? Let's take a quick recap:
You can look at that list and spot the hits and miss immediately, as well as the contributors. So without further ado, lets go ahead and assign some grades to the players named above.
Cooper lost his rookie year to a freak leg injury after being rolled on by Darnell Dockett. His sophomore season, everyone noticed his limp and his inconsistencies, as well as his tentative play. He was benched in favor of Ted Larsen during the preseason. He managed a few snaps towards the latter part of the season, as the team saw his confidence in his leg growing. He went into the 2015 season as the projected starter, and won the job. However, inconsistent play, and a knee injury late in the season, found him on the bench in favor of Ted Larsen. Cooper has one more chance to make an impression on the coaches in 2016, otherwise he will have to find a new team for 2017.
Minter was drafted as a thumper, something Cardinals needed. Washington was set to be suspended for several games, and the team needed depth behind Jasper Brinkely and Karlos Dansby. Between those two, and the return of Washington, Minter had a full year to learn the game. He played in 13 games, but only recorded four tackles. In 2014, he managed only five starts, but played in all 16 games as the man next to Larry Foote. In 2015, he came in with the starting job his, and expectations higher. He did not disappoint as he was a force in the run game, recording 94 tackles, as well as half a sack, a safety, and two passes defended. 2016 will be his big year as it's the final of his contract. Can he show enough to warrant an extension?
The pick was a high risk/high reward at the time. No body knew if the same player who shined at LSU before being cut for numerous drug offenses, would shine in the NFL. It turned out to be a major homerun for Steve Keim, and he admitted on a radio interview, that prior to drafting Mathieu, he did not think "a player like Tyrann Mathieu should get a second chance". Mathieu has recorded eight picks thus far, despite having not played a full season yet. He lost out on a strong DROY campaign after tearing his LCL and ACL his rookie season, and a 'Comeback Player of the Year' bid this past season. Those injuries, coupled with his recovery year in 2014, are accounted in his overall grade, but he's a playmaker when he's on the field, and by far the best pick in this class.
Okafor was expected to be a reliable piece coming off the edge for the Cardinals when he was drafted. His rookie year was cut short however, after only his very first snap against the Saints in 2013, suffering a torn biceps tendon. His sophomore season was a good bounce back, recording eight sacks and an interception. Much was expected in 2015, but after his two sack performance against the Saints in week one, nothing happened afterwards. He missed the playoffs after suffering a toe injury at a pool party. Like everyone on this list (excluding Mathieu and the departed players) this is his final shot to earn a bigger paycheck in 2017.
A player many thought could earn some playing time at one point, Watford only earned his first two starts this past season. After Massie was announced to be suspended for the first two games on 2015, Watford was announced the starter at right tackle, after DJ Humphries could not impress enough to earn the role. Watford was solid in relief, allowing few pressure and helping the run game substantially. He was placed on IR with a hand injury in early December. He does not have enough playing time to warrant a grade, but he's showed that he could be a reliable shoe in if someone were to get injured on the right side. He and Humphries will compete for the right tackle job, unless the team finds someone they like more on the market.
Taylor was supposed to be a power back for the Cardinals. He was to backup Rashard Mendenhall in 2013, but a rookie drafted later on took that spot from under his nose. Taylor has shown to be an excellent special teams player, and leader. In three years he's carried the ball 116 time for only 381 yards, There are better options out there, so we could likely find Taylor's replacement this year, and let him go in 2017.
Swope was drafted to be a speedster at receiver that Bruce Arians loves. That never came to fruition as he retired in Minicamp after sustaining two concussions after being drafted. He had a history of concussions prior to being drafted.
Ellington surpassed Taylor as the number two back behind Mendenhall in 2013. He was electric his rookie year, rushing for 620 yards and a 5.5 yards per carry average. In 2014, he was named the lead back, and burned under the pressure and the strain that was put on his body. He was relegated to the backup role with the emergence of Chris Johnson in 2015, but more injuries forced him down the depth chart before ultimately finding the backup role again with Johnson being put on IR, and David Johnson being unleashed.
A big tight end out of Rutgers, the 6'6 tight end was supposed to be a redzone threat. Training Camp issues, and preseason were put aside and he made the 53 man roster, but after being arrested for a DUI, the Cardinals cut ties with him, and he never found a home.
Overall Grade: D+
A D+ is pushing it, but if you add a point value to each letter, (1=D, 2=C, 3=B, 4=A), it comes out to a 69%. This class has its contributors, but with only one major contributor, and plenty of inconsistencies from numerous players, it's easy to see this as a class that Keim and Arians, while they do contribute, would like to move on from.