Arizona Cardinals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Markus Golden, OLB, Missouri – Round 2
This was a tough choice between D.J. Humphries and Markus Golden. I could see either one becoming a quality starter or becoming a bust. Golden (6-2, 260) is a bit of tweener, and his skill set may not translate to the NFL, so those would be his reasons for being a bust. But I love his effort, and he displayed natural pass-rushing skills when watching Missouri last year. Thus, Golden is my pick to become a solid starter.

The senior started 2014 on fire and drew a lot of extra attention, which helped Shane Ray to break out. After dealing with injury in the middle portion, Golden ended the year in strong fashion and still totaled 10 sacks with 78 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles overall. He is dangerous edge rusher with a knack for getting to the quarterback.

The Cardinals are a great situation for Golden as they need to find an edge rusher. John Abraham and Darnell Dockett are gone, while Lamarr Woodley is not a long-term answer. Alex Okafor had a quality 2014 season with eight sacks, but Arizona could use an upgrade over Matt Shaughnessy (zero sacks) on the other side. Golden could start out as a situational pass-rusher while improving his run defense, but in time, I think Golden will emerge as a solid starter and duo with Okafor.

Most Likely To Bust

D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida – Round 1
As stated above, I could easily see the future reality being flipped around with Humphries as the quality starter and Golden as a bust. However, I’m going with Humphries as the one with the most bust potential for a couple of reasons.

First of all as a player, Humphries never was that great at Florida. He flashed toward the end of his junior year, but he never was the dominant force that he was projected to be. If you asked a Gator fan who watches all the games, they would tell you that teammate Chaz Green (third-round pick by Dallas) actually did more for the Gators over the past three years. Humphries had some good games in 2014, but never was a force for Florida. He is extremely fast with great athleticism, but he is raw and needs development. To make his development even more challenging for him, the Cardinals are moving him to a new position at right tackle.

There also is a size concern. The 6-foot-5, 307-pounder never played that heavy at Florida. The junior was in the 280s and 290s in 2014, he was even lighter as a sophomore and freshman, so it will be interesting to see if he can maintain the weight during an NFL 16-game season. He will need it to take on NFL defensive linemen.

A big reason why I think Humphries could be a bust is injuries. He was constantly banged up at Florida, including a season-ending injury as a sophomore midway through the 2013 season. He had lots of sprained ankles and leg injuries. Humphries seemed like one of those guys who was always getting injured in piles. I think his lack of durability is going to be a real issue in the NFL, and I would bet he is constantly on the injury report.

Other teams thought Humphries was a first-round talent, but they bumped him to Day 2 because of the durability concerns. I think those are the avenues that could lead to Humphries being a bust.

Potential Boom Pick

David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa – Round 3
I think that David Johnson is a potential steal for the Cardinals from the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-1, 224-pounder showed a lot of power at the Senior Bowl to be a downhill runner in the NFL, and the Cardinals needed a back like that to pair with Andre Ellington.

One big reason why I think Johnson could be a boom pick is his tremendous receiving skill. The passing-driven NFL makes him a great fit for any team, but especially the Cardinals because of their talent on the outside at wide receiver. Bruce Arians will use Johnson’s dynamism as a receiver out of the backfield to be a mismatch weapon, and I could see Johnson being a prolific receiving back in the NFL.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Johnson is the 2015 NFL Draft’s mid-round steal at the running back position similar to other backs like Alfred Morris. Johnson could end becoming a superb weapon in the desert.

Future Depth Player

Rodney Gunter, DT, Delaware State – Round 4
The Cardinals lost veterans Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams over the offseason. Both players played significant roles for Arizona, with Dockett being one of the team’s best defensive players since being drafted out of Florida State. The organization signed veterans Corey Peters and Cory Redding to replace them in the short term, but neither is the long-term starter. Perhaps Gunter could factor into that competition in time, but for the immediate future, he looks like he could provide some depth behind the veterans. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder has flexible size to serve as a 3-4 nose tackle or five-technique defensive end. The Delaware State product could be a nice depth player for Arizona.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

24. D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida: B+ Grade
I slotted D.J. Humphries to the Browns’ 19th-overall pick in my mock draft, so this is a slight bargain. I thought Arizona would take Eric Kendricks or a tall cornerback like Byron Jones, but Humphries makes sense as well. Right tackle Bobby Massie was the one responsible for Carson Palmer’s injury against the Rams, so Humphries should provide an upgrade at right tackle. The Cardinals need to do everything in their power to make sure Palmer is protected. They can’t have Bruce Arians debating between Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas in a playoff matchup again.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

58. Markus Golden, DE/OLB, Missouri: B- Grade
After some NFL personnel men looked at a mock draft of mine back in February, I was told to move Markus Golden down to the third or fourth round. Obviously, I didn’t talk to anyone from Arizona. Having said that, I don’t mind Golden at the end of the second round, given that I admittedly had him at the end of the first frame at some point. Golden could potentially help solve Arizona’s pass-rushing issues from the edge.

86. David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa: A Grade
ESPN is talking up Sean Mannion as of this writing, but David Johnson is a much better, more-significant pick. Johnson was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl, making a name for himself coming out of Northern Iowa. I thought he’d go earlier than this in the 50-70 range, so the Cardinals are getting quite a bargain with him. He’ll complement Andre Ellington extremely well.

116. Rodney Gunter, DE/DT, Delaware State: D Grade
I didn’t have Rodney Gunter listed in my rankings. didn’t even know who he was, listing him as a center. Gunter is a strong, big defensive lineman with some upside, but this is way too early for him. Arizona probably could’ve obtained him a couple of rounds later.

158. Shaquille Riddick, DE/OLB, West Virginia: B Grade
Shaq Riddick needs to be developed. He’s razor-thin at just 6-6, 244, and despite this, he played on the defensive line at West Virginia. He needs to pack on about 20 pounds, and he has the frame to do it. If he can accomplish this goal and is able to carry this weight well, he could evolve into a decent starter on the edge. He fits the range in the middle of Round 5.

159. J.J. Nelson, WR, UAB: B Grade
The final player to be drafted out of UAB in a very long time, J.J. Nelson fits the range as a mid-fifth-round prospect. The Cardinals have three strong receivers right now, but Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t have much time left, while Michael Floyd has generated some trade discussions. Another wideout is needed as insurance.

256. Gerald Christian, TE, Louisville: C Grade
This year’s Mr. Irrelevant was productive at Louisville, but doesn’t seem like an NFL talent. He’s not even a good blocker, so he’s a long shot of sticking around the NFL.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: B- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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