The Arizona Cardinals drafted tackle D.J. Humphries in the first round last year knowing he might not play right away. They mentioned him competing right away with Bobby Massie for the starting job, but the general sentiment was he would sit a year.
Some might say that is a failure for a first round pick, as someone drafted on Day 1 should make an impact right away.
Perhaps it is to save face for the pick or maybe he truly believes it, but Arizona Cardinals general manager doesn't necessarily think there is a set formula for a first rounder.
"Not everybody is going to contribute," Keim said to the media at the NFL Combine. "Our second, third and fourth-round picks, they are started for us. You look at Markus Golden, you look at David Johnson, you look at Rodney Gunter from Delaware State. All of those guys started for us as rookies. You look at the draft, you say, ‘oh, maybe they missed on the first round pick.' Not so fast. There are some guys who take time to develop and you have to keep in mind that it's a long-term situation not short term."
Keim knew Humprhies was raw and he also noted Bobby Massie "was a guy we had and put a lot of time and effort into," whol ultimately "played good football this year."
Humphries "is a long-term solution, not a short-term fix."
Part of that reason is because of how offensive linemen many times are simply not prepared to play in the NFL. After one year on the bench, the Cardinals believe he is ready to start.
"We drafted D.J. last year knowing we were going to redshirt him because we had so much to teach him," said head coach Bruce Arians. "If he threw him out there, he was going to fail. Once they fail, it's hard to get those scars off."
Humphries "got better every week" having to line up against guys like Calais Campbell and Dwight Freeney in practice. "I think next year he'll be ready to play."
Arizona is hoping Humprhies and Jonathan Cooper, both former first round picks, are ready to step up and take hold of the starting jobs at right guard and right tackle. But if you think they are simply counting on them to perform, you don't know the Cardinals that well.
Over the last couple of offseasons, there has been a trend. At positions where perhaps a young player is being expected to step in, the team brings in a veteran. In Bruce Arians' first season, it was Eric Winston they brought in. At tight end last year when they had a pair of inexperienced guys in Troy Niklas and Darren Fells, they brought in Jermaine Gresham. At inside linebacker, when it was still uncertain Kevin Minter could handle the starting job full time, they signed Sean Weatherspoon. At outside linebacker, where it was Alex Okafor and Kareem Martin entering last year, they brought in LaMarr Woodley.
The team already has a lineman who can start at right guard or at right tackle in Earl Watford, so they already have insurance there. Watford will compete with Cooper and Humphries. But if the past has shown us anything, we should expect to see a veteran lineman with starting experience signed. It might not be a top en lineman, but perhaps a player like Ted Larsen, who has started games and is position flexible. It would be either a flex guard/tackle like Watford or a guard/center like A.Q. Shipley.