The last three seasons for the Arizona Cardinals have been about preparing their rookies to take over for veterans exiting the next season.
Deone Bucannon was the most used rookie the Cardinals have taken in the first round in the Steve Keim era, playing 688 snaps, which was an impressive 65% of the snaps.
We all know about D.J. Humphries, with zero, and Robert Nkemdiche saw 82 snaps, which was 7.6% of the overall snaps.
Now, the rally cry for many of fans is the Cardinals need to find an impact player at 13 in the 2017 NFL Draft, except I can’t see that happening.
Not because there won’t be a player who can have an impact, but because that player likely won’t have an opportunity.
When you look at the Arizona Cardinals depth chart, there are three positions that lend themselves to have an opportunity to earn a starting role:
Cornerback 2 - Brandon Williams and Justin Bethel in place
Safety - Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch, Harlan Miller and Antoine Bethea
Left Guard - Evan Boehm, Cole Toner and John Wetzel
When you look at those positions, the names may not invoke belief, but they are all there because they were investments of this regime, of Keim and Bruce Arians.
Does that mean if a player is not going to play they should just punt the pick and get a quarterback?
No, it means that any position is at the mercy of the veterans and other investments in front of them.
A corner has to come in and compete with two athletic freaks that were finding their way as the season ended.
A safety will have to beat out the guile of Bethea at free safety, the play making of Mathieu and the freak athleticism of Branch at strong safety. They also will need to have the flexibility to play multiple positions, something that the Cardinals love in their safeties.
The needs are still there though, they just may not be immediate for 2017:
They need to find another corner, another safety, another defensive lineman, and another inside linebacker on defense. Hell, you could argue they need another edge defender in case Jarvis Jones leaves after 2017.
On offense, it is the same:
Quarterback, wide receiver, guard and tackle on the offensive line, and depth at tight end and running back.
What that means, the Cardinals have all their options open.
There are a couple of places I don’t see the Cardinals going in round one: Running back, offensive line and wide receiver.
Every other position on that list you could make an argument for in someway or another.
It just doesn’t mean that argument will include a player getting on the field a ton in 2017. While I don’t see them playing as little as D.J. Humphries, hopefully not as little as Robert Nkemdiche, but they may not get as many snaps Bucannon.
Which is fine. The Cardinals have done a nice job of putting themselves in a position for the future... That is likely what will happen again in 2017.