Ok so for starters, I am not an NFL Scout. That's obvious. There are guys out there who scout talent for a living. I wish I was one of them. And they have a long, long list of guys that are being overlooked in this particular draft class. The Cardinals, and their scouts, I feel have done a great job of finding some hidden draft gems. A few names include David Johnson, John Brown, and Rodney Gunter.
Now, the list I have has a mixture of small school guys and guys who are just simply not talked about very much but I have heard some intriguing things about. The list is a short one, so feel free to comment about some of your favorite draft gems below in the comments section.
Javon Hargrave, DT, SC State
Let's talk about one guy who is finally starting to generate some buzz, despite his small school status. He, in fact, is a personal favorite of our very own Seth Cox and Jess Root (if you read or listen to them, you know this...). So, I promise guys, I'm not stealing him from you. He reminds me of a more well known Rodney Gunter, but could maybe slide to 5 tech on running downs because of his athletic ability. I would think realistically, if he is there in Round 3 for the Cardinals, they would take a very long look at him.
Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota
Of all the guys on the list, Murray is among the ones I truly hope the Cardinals draft. If nothing else, I will be interested to see where he goes. He is the first of a few guys on this list who were team captains last year, something we all know that Steve Keim and Co. value. His coaches raved about him, and while some consider him lean, he seems to be a guy who could hold his own opposite Patrick Peterson given time. And the best part? The Cardinals could conceivably draft him in the fourth or even fifth round.
Justin Simmons, BC, S
I cheated a little with Simmons, who is getting a lot of buzz recently. I have seen him all over draft boards however, with some having him as a 3rd rounder, and others a 6th. His athleticism is something that you can't teach, as well as his 6'2" frame. He's known as a ball hawk, but could make his mark as a special teamer earlier on then move to safety or possibly corner, a la Justin Bethel. Simmons may be slightly more pro ready given his play in the ACC and his play against top QB's (he had a decent game against DeShaun Watson). Oh, and he's a team captain and wants to be a coach when he's done with football. So there's that.
Joe Thuney, NC State, G/C
As a guy who follows NC State a bit here in good ol' NC, Thuney has been a steady fixture for the underwhelming Wolfpack. He played all 5 positions on the offensive line, which screams versatility if nothing else. We know that Keim values offensive lineman, and Thuney not only went to his alma mater, but was voted an All-American there. Scouts doubt his ability to translate, but that would allow the Cardinals to get him for cheap in the 5th or 6th round one would think. Then again, I have seem him rated as high as the 3rd round. He's also very smart--he graduated as a junior and was on the ACC All Academic team in 2014. He played as a graduate student last season.
Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
Boehm is known as a scrapper at center. He's very built, though not super fast. He had to face very good competition while in the SEC, so I can see his translation going slightly smoother than others. I've seen later round grades on him, however he could go as high as the 4th if a lot of the other centers get snatched up. He was also a team captain...
Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley St.
This seems like a Cardinals pick if any as the Cardinals have a knack for finding value in small school guys. Judon had great production while at Grand Valley--leading the nation at any level with 20 sacks to be exact. Those numbers will drive his value up a bit, but the Cardinals could view him as a pass rushing specialist while coaching him to be a 3-4 OLB eventually. Taking a guy like this in the 4th round seems like a very good idea. Just because he plays at a small school doesn't mean he doesn't know it's his job to get to the quarterback.
Blake Martinez, ILB, Stanford
While a lot of Cardinals fans, including myself, would love to see Arizona take a chance on the hometown kid Scooby Wright, they could look at another hometown kid in Martinez, who's from Tucson. Stanford's defense has been putting out some good pros for a few years now (including our own Josh Mauro), so I'm a bit confused when a player of Martinez's caliber isn't rated well. He seemed to be all over the football field for the Cardinal, but many think he's tight or slow. A fifth (Arizona has two you know) or a 6th rounder spent on this guy also seems like a value pick to me. Oh, and he was a team captain.
Tyrone Holmes, OLB, Montana
Holmes is another guy who was a sack master at a lower level, although Montana has put out a few pros over the years (Jordan Tripp most recently I believe) so Holmes plays at a level where's it's not uncommon. His pro day this year put him on several teams radars, so it's possible with questionable depth at OLB that he could go as high as round 4. The Cardinals may take him later if he falls to them, but they do already have Shaq Riddick who has been waiting in the wings for a year.
Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Yes, USC QBs are not my favorite. They are quite frankly over-hyped and tend to play well below their draft stock (see: Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley). But we do have one USC QB who turned out ok on the roster, and Kessler has put up decent numbers for a couple years now. He's not a plug and play guy by any means, but he may be more pro ready in a couple years. Would he be an upgrade over the aforementioned Barkley? Not sure. But you could do worse for a potential 6th or 7th rounder. He doesn't have the ideal arm strength Arians requires either. But he was a guy admired by teammates and a team captain, so you never know...
Kyle Friend, C, Temple
This guy may not be drafted, but have heard coaches raving about his leadership and his grit at the position. Lyle Sendlein was an undrafted guy, and Friend sounds a lot like him. Besides, Arians used to coach at Temple. And yes, because you asked, he was a team captain.
Travis Feeney, OLB, Washington
Fenney is one of those guys that I'm not sure how he's being rated as low as he is. He sounds like a Myles Jack clone. I guess it's very minute differences that make a player good or great, but Feeney sounds super athletic. He is a converted safety that comes with some injury issues, which will probably cause him to slip into the later rounds. But if he can bulk up a bit, I don't see why he couldn't be an ideal hybrid player like Deone Bucannon.
Brandin Bryant, DT, FAU
I can't take any credit for this deep find, as I saw it on Twitter. It's likely that Bryant becomes an undrafted free agent, but his numbers that he has put up this year were eerily similar to Robert Ndkimdiche. A former track guy, he bulked up quite a bit (near 300 lbs.) and relies on his speed and athleticism. I'll be interested to see if he can land on a roster, especially with the 2 torn ACL's he's experienced while at Florida Atlantic.
Well, that's the list I've been able to compile. I'd be happy if the Cardinals drafted just one of those guys. Who are some guys that you all have come up with?
Oh, and one more thing...Don't necessarily look at the prospects the Cardinals visited with as a starter list. The Cardinals didn't draft anyone they visited with last season.