The Arizona Cardinals have a problem.
That problem is simply, they cannot get their first round picks on the field.
Since Steve Keim and company took over, the Arizona Cardinals have drafted: Jonathan Cooper, Deone Bucannon, D.J. Humphries, Robert Nkemdiche and Haason Reddick in the first round.
Cooper and Bucannon played significant snaps (more than 50% of the teams offensive/defensive snaps) together in three games in 2014. They played in nine together in 2015.
For those keeping track, that means in 2013-2015 (three first round picks) those picks were on the field for 13 games (obviously Humphries never played in ‘15). Remember, Bucannon was not a starter in 2014 and Cooper only started two and played in significant time in three. So if we want to get really serious, their first three first round picks from 2013-2015 started 18 games total together (nine for Cooper and nine for Bucannon before Cooper went down then lost his job).
2016 saw Robert Nkemdiche join the fold, he didn’t start or play any meaningful snaps in ‘16, so only Bucannon and Humphries made headway in that category.
They started exactly 13 games each.
Let’s get rid of the funny math portion and look at it like this. There have been 69 possible starts for the Arizona Cardinals to be had since 2013, what percentage of starts available have the first round picks played?
Cooper - 11/69 16%
Bucannon - 40/53 75%
Humphries - 14/37 38%
Nkemdiche - 0/21 0%
Reddick - 3/5 60%
Those numbers, they are bad. Now, a significant amount of those have been injuries, which is tough to prepare for, but this isn’t an evaluation of the evaluator, no this is just about why we are seeing the Cardinals struggle so much in 2016 and 2017.
When your first five picks have started only 68 out of a possible 185 starts, or roughly 37% of possible starts since 2013, that is a massive issue.
Why? Well, first the obvious, you have invested heavily in these players and need them on the field, but the second problem is, you then continually have to make roster decisions based on these players.
The Cardinals didn’t want to invest in another guard highly in 2014, they needed to believe in Cooper. In 2015 they had to “move on” and bring in Mike Iupati, shifting Cooper over to the right guard position before eventually trading him away as a throw-in for Chandler Jones.
Look at Humphries. They had a solid if unspectacular tackle pairing in Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie. They let Massie move on and let Humphries take over at right tackle before shifting to left tackle in 2017. We see the obvious issues through the first five weeks of the season. They couldn’t draft a player to play tackle in 2016 or 2017 because of the Humprhies investment and the left over investment in Veldheer.
We are seeing the problem in Nkemdiche not playing and hitting thus far along the defensive line where they lack a difference maker.
Want to pinpoint one of the biggest problems for the Arizona Cardinals, look no further than their inability to get much of anything from their first round picks the last five seasons.