This is, to me, a list of the top-5 players on the current roster (as of May 29th) of current unknowns that could surprise coaches and fans alike. There will be rookies, there will be veterans, but in any case, you will either be surprised or be a know-it-all. I did another list of who I thought would be the starters at various positions that have been unresolved to that point, this one could be similar, but I’ll try to make it original. Let it begin.
1. Olsen Pierre - Defensive Tackle (3rd year player)
To many, this may come as a “we already know him” type of thing, but it’s only because the Cardinals deploy multiple fronts on the defensive line. Now, the Cardinals started the 2016 season with nine defensive linemen, and had one constant inactive player throughout the year. No, it wasn’t Robert Nkemdiche. It was Olsen Pierre, a relative unknown who I personally thought was just someone who the Cardinals were keeping around until they needed to fill a roster spot because of injury.
I was consistently wrong throughout the season, as Pierre stayed on the roster all season, and it almost gave me the feeling that the Cardinals weren’t going to let Pierre go they were afraid of someone else snatching up an unrefined talent. I mean, one look at Pierre and you see a behemoth at 6’5’’ and 293 pounds. I understand that many think the Cardinals are set on the defensive line with many (MANY!) contributors, but could it be the raw talent of Pierre who could replace Calais Campbell or Frostee Rucker (as starter)?
The competition is fierce, but there are two open spots on the defensive line, and it’s almost a safe bet that Nkemdiche has enough talent to make up one spot. I understand that the Cardinals love to deploy 6-7 d-lineman (my guess: Mauro, Nkemdiche, Gunter, Peters, Frostee, and Pierre). Olsen Pierre would need to replace Campbell’s ability to split defenders, use very strong hands that outstretch blockers, and ability put his hands in the passing lanes.
2. Marquis Bundy - Wide Receiver (2nd year player)
So many things to address with this pick, but remember, I’m just naming off surprise gems. First: Much has been made about finding the heir apparent to Larry Fitzgerald, but let me go ahead and address this May; There’s not going to be just one player who will replace Fitz’s production and leadership.
Second: According to Mark Dalton PR for the Arizona Cardinals, Bundy was arrested on April 6th, so many questions arose for him. Fair, but it wasn’t a Michael Floyd occurrence, just a drunken experience that didn’t seem to affect his character in the eyes of Bruce Arians or Steve Keim. The man lost his hat, and in drunken rage, let his emotions get the best of him. I get it. He didn’t swing on a cop, but rose his voice unequivocally to the point that the officers couldn’t get through to him. I understand both sides, and I won’t judge either.
To me, Marquis Bundy (like Olsen Pierre) has great size, and at 6’4’’ and 215 (according to nfl.com) he could eventually be a major contributor for the Cards. Just like Pierre, he played zero games last year, but instead spent a majority of the season on the practice squad until being called up to the big leagues. He was a special teams guy last year, this year he needs to show crisp route running. He doesn’t need to be as crisp of a route runner, just needs to be a 10-15-yard option for Carson Palmer. Also, I’m not forgetting how hard it could be for Bundy to get starter minutes with John Brown, Fitz, J.J. Nelson, and Chad Williams essentially being in front of him, but keep an open mind.
3. Lucas Crowley - Center (rookie)
You know what, I will be that Cardinals writer and fan that is completely weirded out that the Cardinals extended A.Q. Shipley. I know that many were equally astonished, so I’m not moving on. Look, to me, Shipley’s contract isn’t dire, it could be a one year contract, with there only being $325k dead money if the Cardinals wanted to avoid the $2,112,500 contract (according to spotrac.com). Let’s think logically Mr. Keim, why wouldn’t you save a few bucks from shedding Shipley’s contract so that you could resign guys like John Brown, Deone Bucannon, Corey Peters, and maybe even Larry Fitzgerald for one more year?
Now let’s focus on who could replace Shipley if need be; Lucas Crowley, a rookie from North Carolina who I had a 6th round grade on him and current starting right guard Evan Boehm. I currently am interested in the undrafted free agent, as I think he should beat out veteran Tony Bergstrom, or at the very least give him a run for his money to be end up being a practice squad player.
I’m totally okay with Crowley not being a rookie starter, as they’re a lot of intricacy inside a Bruce Arians offense; snap count, blitz recognition, blocking scheme, a pro huddle, and most obviously not being in a spread huddle. This is more like ‘maybe he could be the future of the position’ or could carve out a career like how David Andrews of New England did as an undrafted free agent. Quite honestly, the Cardinals could have three open positions on the o-line next year, so it’s time to stack up the position-less players.
4. Nordly Capi - Outside Linebacker (2nd year player)
This more about depth, not about being a starter or future starter. Last season, I thought Alex Okafor play at a very competitive rate, even though he was a backup to both Markus Golden and Chandler Jones. He went to New Orleans for a bigger contract, and that left the Cards with a dent in the linebacker room. Who’s there? Both Alani Fua and Gabe Martin have played more inside linebacker then outside, Kareem Martin hasn’t done anything in 3 years, and Jarvis Jones is being depended on to perform in Okafor’s spot. No bueno.
I look at a guy like Cap Capi (cool name) and think “please save us from a downplay when either Chandler or Markus take a break. Here it is; the Cardinals play from multiple fronts, sometimes utilizing 2-4 linebacker/defensive ends at a time so that they can have 3 safeties on the field. Speed kills, and I know that Nordly Capi has it. He ran a 4.7 at his pro-day, so what went wrong? Capi transferred from Colorado State after not receiving a lot of chances to play.
To me, it’s a make-or-break type of year for Capi. If he wants to be in the NFL, he needs to not be a friendly face, he needs to destroy his competition in camp, and become a force off the edge. I think it’s possible (maybe least possible then the others), but now is the time to put the work in for him.
5. Steven Wroblewski - Tight End (rookie)
The tight end room is classified as such: weak. Seriously, I’m not trying to be a downer, but I am completely shocked that the tight end position (outside linebacker also) wasn’t addressed during the draft. Instead, the Cards are depending on the veteran presence of Jermaine Gresham to be able to influence the tight end room that lacks starting experience. Between Troy Niklas, Hakeem Valles, Ifeanyi Momah, and the two rookies Ricky Seals-Jones and Steven Wroblewski, there is a combined 10 catches (Niklas and Momah).
Not much belief that Niklas can shed the injury-prone label, Momah seems like a tall lanky receiver, Valles had a couple drops, and so that leaves me to believe that Seals-Jones and Wroblewski could earn a spot on the roster and could contribute at a modest level. Seals-Jones was a 5-star recruit who was disappointing during his junior year and still decided to come out as an early entrant for the draft. No, no, no, I’m focusing on Wroblewski, a somewhat unknown.
Wroblewski is a bit of an unknown, I literally went to the team website to read up on his information and stats, all I could see is that he started his junior and senior year and racked up decent stats during his senior season. No, that’s not what interests me, it’s the size he brings to the Cardinals; 6’7’’, 252 pounds. I would assume his size helps him being a big target, but that’s obviously not what Bruce Arians likes in his tight end. Ask Jermaine, Heath Miller, and Aaron Shea. If Wroblewski can develop into a good (maybe great) blocker, we would FINALLY have our tight end of the future ladies and gentlemen.