Arizona Cardinals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Deone Bucannon, S Washington State – Round 1
Don’t be all that surprising if Bucannon becomes a solid starter for Arizona as soon as his rookie season. It doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t have a lot of competition from a group of Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson and Curtis Taylor. The Cardinals needed a physical strong safety to go with free safety Tyrann Mathieu, and Bucannon is a perfect fit for that role.

Bucannon has a nice mix of ball skills, run-support tackling and hard-hitting ability. In 2013, the senior assembled six interceptions with 114 tackles, three forced fumbles and one pass broken up. A year earlier, he recorded four interceptions, four passes broken up, one forced fumble, and 106 tackles. Bucannon had a solid performance at the Senior Bowl and ran faster than expected at the Combine (4.49 40-yard dash).

In the long term, Bucannon should be a solid starting safety for Arizona. He’ll definitely be a good run-defender and function well as the eighth man in the box. Bucannon may never be an elite safety in terms of pass coverage, especially in man on slot receivers or receiving tight ends. However, Mathieu should handle the majority of those duties. Bucannon should become a quality player for the Cardinals.

Most Likely To Bust

Kareem Martin, DE/OLB, North Carolina – Round 3
It was understandable that Arizona targeted a pass-rusher. John Abraham is nearing the end of a great career, while Daryl Washington has had a hard time avoiding suspensions. The Cardinals could start Martin at defensive end behind Calais Campbell, or they could play him at outside linebacker.

The 6-foot-6, 272-pound Martin has a nice athletic skill set, but he didn’t always played up to his potential while a Tar Heel. The senior recorded 11.5 sacks in 2013, but a number of those came when he went unblocked. Martin had four sacks in 2012 and 2011, so he didn’t have consistent production in college despite being a three-year stater. Martin has the size and speed to be a good player, but he needs to develop some pass-rushing moves and technique rather than relying on only athleticism. knows a number of teams that did not like Martin and had him later than where Arizona took him. He is going to need some great coaching to get him to live up to his skill set, and a 3-4 defense may not fit him as well as playing base end in a 4-3. It wouldn’t surprise this observer if Martin goes bust.

Potential Boom Pick

Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame – Round 2
The Cardinals needed a difference-maker at tight end and landed a talent with a lot of athletic upside. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Niklas has surprising quickness and agility for such a big tight end. He didn’t get a lot of experience in college, but if he had more opportunities, he could have ended up receiving a higher draft grade.

Niklas took Tyler Eifert’s place in the Notre Dame offense for 2013 and had a quality season. Niklas caught 32 receptions for 498 yards with five touchdowns for the year despite the Fighting Irish lacking quality quarterback play. As a blocker, Niklas has potential to be well rounded. He has the size and strength to make a difference at the point of attack.

Arizona is a great landing spot for Niklas in terms of matchups. Defenses will be focused on Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Niklas should have a lot of good single-coverage matchups on linebackers as safeties are used to help defend the Cardinals’ star receivers. Niklas could end up being a great pick by Arizona.

Future Depth Player

Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama – Round 5
Arizona has two excellent defensive ends in Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Both have had great careers for the Cardinals and still have some good years left in them. However as those two age, it makes sense for Arizona to rotate in some backups to help protect the veterans from wear-and-tear.

Stinson has experience as a five-technique defensive end from his time at Alabama. The 6-foot-3, 287-pounder is a tough run-defender at the point of attack, but doesn’t offer much pass rush. Thus, he would be a good player to rotate in the game in running situations to keep Campbell and Dockett fresh to get after the quarterback.

Stinson may not have the upside to be a starter in Arizona, but he should be a quality backup who can execute his role.

Walt’s 2014 NFL Draft Grades:

27. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State: D Grade
Oh man. This might be the new worst pick of the first round. Again, the trade down saves the Cardinals from receiving a Millen, but Deone Bucannon was a concrete second-day pick. I had him in Round 3. I knew that was a bit too late, but I never envisioned him being chosen on Thursday.

At any rate, Bucannon fills a huge need at safety. Arizona had to address the position during the draft after losing Yeremiah Bell this offseason. Bucannon will be an upgrade over what the Cardinals had, but he’s still a reach.

52. Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame: A Grade
I’m a bit surprised that the Cardinals spent such a high pick on a pass-catching tight end, but I don’t think Carson Palmer will complain too much. He’ll love having such a dependable, intermediate target at his disposal. Troy Niklas could have easily gone at the beginning of the second round, so unlike their first pick, this provides a ton of value.

84. Kareem Martin, DE/DT, North Carolina: B+ Grade
The Cardinals had to find a successor for Darnell Dockett, who won’t be around much longer. Kareem Martin could qualify as a long-term starter. The North Carolina product has his flaws, but he has loads of potential, and if he can be coached up, he could develop into a solid five-technique for Arizona.

91. John Brown, WR, Pitt State: C- Grade
Over Bruce Ellington? That’s confusing. John Brown was a Round 5-7 prospect, while Ellington would have provided good value at this juncture. Either way, the Cardinals wanted to find another receiver in the wake of losing Andre Roberts. Brown will be good as a returner, but didn’t Arizona get Tedd Ginn for that?

120. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: B- Grade
Not bad. Logan Thomas has first-round physical talent, but has played like an undraftable player at times. Bruce Arians might be able to coach him up and turn him into a decent starter. More likely though, Thomas will bust. It’s worth the risk in the fourth round.

160. Ed Stinson, DE/DT, Alabama: C+ Grade
The Cardinals wanted to take a five-technique to succeed Darnell Dockett, but two five-techs? It’s a little puzzling, but I guess having good depth never hurts. Still though, I’m not a big fan of this pick; it’s not like Ed Stinson is this great value, or anything.

196. Walter Powell, WR, Murray State: C Grade
Another receiver is a bit confusing, but it’s the sixth round, so I can’t complain too much. As with the Jets, the Cardinals are picking a prospect a bit too early, but again, it’s not a huge deal.

2014 NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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