Arizona Cardinals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M – Round 2
The Cardinals were fortunate to land Josh Rosen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and it was an astute pick for them to get him some receiving weapons in Round 2. Arizona was lucky that local boy Christian Kirk made it to its second-round pick. Larry Fitzgerald is aging, and the Cardinals lost some other veterans in free agency. Getting a young play-maker for Rosen was a necessity. At Texas A&M, Kirk was a dangerous threat and looks like a safe pick to pan out as a pro starter.

For the NFL, Kirk fits as a slot receiver and returner who also has some ability to line up on the outside. He is a fast wideout who can challenge defenses vertically and take the top off a defense. Kirk uses his quickness to create separation and is a threat to rip off yards in chunks. When cornerbacks and safeties play on their heels, Kirk is a threat to burn them and get open deep down the field. Cornerbacks who have good enough speed to sit on Kirk’s routes can give him problems. That was evident last year when Florida’s Duke Dawson was aggressive in challenging Kirk and gave him problems. Still, he is a quick receiver who can get open and rip off yards in chunks.

On top of his being a threat as a slot receiver, Kirk is a dynamic punt and kick returner. He has excellent vision, cutting ability, and enough breakaway speed to be a dangerous special teams weapon. Early in Kirk’s career, he should compete to be the starting slot receiver and the featured returner on special teams. Taking Kirk in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft made a lot of sense, and Arizona probably landed a starter on offense and special teams with that selection.

2017: Budda Baker, S
2016: Evan Boehm, C
2015: Markus Golden, LB
2014: Deone Bucannon, S
2013: Kevin Minter, LB

Most Likely To Bust

Mason Cole, C, Michigan – Round 3
The Cardinals were in need of adding talent to their offensive line because the unit did not block well during the 2017 season. With star running back David Johnson coming off an injury and a rookie quarterback who has had concussions and a season-ending shoulder injury, Arizona needed to build up the blocking talent for those critical players. Unfortunately, I think the Cardinals may have drafted just a backup quality player in Cole.

The 6-foot-4, 303-pound Cole doesn’t have a special trait, such as being very strong or particularly athletic. He was a solid college player, but he does not generate a lot of movement in the ground game and isn’t a center who projects to handling the big zero-techniques. NFL speed rushers could also give him problems. In the NFL, I think Cole is going to be a backup-caliber player, and in the third round, every team wants to get a future starter. Of Arizona’s early-round picks, Cole has the most bust potential.

2017: Haason Reddick, LB
2016: Robert Nkemdiche, DL
2015: D.J. Humphries, OT
2014: Kareem Martin, DE
2013: Tyrann Mathieu, CB/S

Potential Boom Pick

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA – Round 1
The Cardinals have been in desperate need of a franchise quarterback for years and were fortunate to land Rosen in the 2018 NFL Draft. Carson Palmer retired, and Arizona has needed a replacement for many years. Trading up to land Rosen was a wisely calculated risk, and he is a good fit for the organization. If Rosen avoids injury, I think there is a significant possibility that he ends up being a boom pick for the Cardinals.

If it weren’t for questions about his personal makeup and durability concerns, Rosen could easily have been the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Of the top quarterback prospects from the 2018 NFL Draft, Rosen has the best mechanics and is the most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it. Rosen’s tight spiral helps him to get his passes through tight windows and beat good coverage. There is no throw that Rosen can’t make for the NFL, and he is already among the stronger arms of the starting quarterbacks in the league. The ball just explodes out of his hand, and you wouldn’t see his passes wobble when he went downfield.

For a college quarterback transitioning to the NFL, Rosen has impressive footwork, and that leads to him throwing the ball accurately with good placement. Rosen’s accuracy, timing, precision and arm strength make him deadly to move the ball down the field in a blur. He is good at running the 2-minute drill and is fully capable of carving up prevent zone defenses. Rosen has good vision to work off his first read and find open targets, plus possesses the pocket presence to throw in the face of the rush. With his arm, feet, vision and stature, Rosen is the prototypical pocket-passing quarterback prospect for the NFL.

In order for Rosen to be a boom pick, he has to stay healthy, and that is a big challenge for the Cardinals, as their offensive line was a real weakness in 2017. Building up his protection will be a top priority over the next few years. He is not a mobile quarterback and takes some hard shots in the pocket, so getting the ball out quickly will also help him to avoid injury.

Rosen also has to stay focused on football and work to be a good teammate in the locker room. If he stays on the field and is a solid teammate, then I think Rosen could be a boom pick for the Cardinals.

2017: Chad Williams, WR
2016: Brandon Williams, CB
2015: David Johnson, RB
2014: Troy Niklas, TE
2013: Jonathan Cooper, G

Future Depth Player

Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham – Round 4
The Cardinals are set at the starting running back position with David Johnson, but last year their depth was tested when Johnson went out with an injury. Arizona needed to improve the talent among its backup running backs, and Edmonds was a nice selection to lead off Day 3. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder is a quick back who darts through the defense with a burst. Edmonds also has receiving ability, so he will be able to take on some of the third-down duty to help protect Johnson from injury and keep him fresh. Edmonds had some injury red flags, and at his size, he probably won’t ever be a three-down starter in the NFL. However, he could be a nice backup running back to rotate into the game.

2017: Will Holden, OT
2016: Harlan Miller, CB
2015: Rodney Gunter, DT
2014: Ed Stinson, DE
2013: Ryan Swope, WR

Walt’s 2018 NFL Draft Grades:

10. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA B Grade
I worry about Josh Rosen. There are stories about his lack of dedication to football. There are partying issues as well, which is why I thought his fit in New York would’ve been a disaster. He also has an injury history. There were also some unreported things about him that I found troubling as well.

That said, I can’t hate on this pick. Rosen is the last of the “top” quarterbacks available, and Arizona’s only viable player at the position is Sam Bradford, who may not make it to Week 2. All the Cardinals surrendered were third- and fifth-round picks, so this is a good deal.

47. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M A Grade
I’ve had Christian Kirk slotted to the Cardinals at this pick for a long time, as the fit absolutely made sense. Kirk, once considered a first-round prospect of some sort, can be considered a steal in the middle of Round 2. The Cardinals desperately needed receiving help, and Kirk will provide that as well as a boost in the return game.

97. Mason Cole, C, Michigan A- Grade
The Cardinals found their next quarterback, then they gave him a dynamic weapon to work with. Now, it was time to give him better protection, which was essential, given the state of the poor offensive line. Mason Cole played left tackle at Michigan, but he’s a natural, fundamentally sound center. I think Cole could’ve gone about 20 picks earlier than this, so I like the value.

134. Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham B Grade
Chase Edmonds is the sort of running back Bill Belichick would like, but Steve Keim is the one taking another Pennsylvania prospect. Chase Edmonds is a nice third-down back who can contribute on special teams. This is a solid pick, as Arizona needed better insurance for David Johnson.

182. Christian Campbell, CB, Penn State B+ Grade
Christian Campbell is a great athlete, but hasn’t been able to translate that to on-field play yet. If the Arizona coaches can mold him into the player he should become, he could be a starter in the near future. He could also flop easily, but it’s a good decision to take this sort of a shot in the sixth round.

254. Korey Cunningham, OT, Cincinnati B Grade
Korey Cunningham possesses plenty of upside. He’s very athletic, and he was also productive at Cincinnati. The problem is that he lacks the length to be a tackle and the strength to be a guard. If he can develop some strength, he might be able to stick around as a backup lineman.

2018 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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