Arizona Cardinals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Zach Allen, DE, Boston College – Round 3
The Cardinals were fortunate to land Allen in the third round of the draft, as he easily could have been a second-round pick. Allen was a very safe pick to develop into a quality starting base end in the NFL. He produced back-to-back impressive seasons for Boston College, with a lot of production as a tough run defender and quality contributor in the pass rush. At the top of the third round, Allen was a really nice pick for Arizona.

In run defense, Allen is a real asset, and his huge tackle total in 2017 – 100 tackles – was no accident. Constantly, he put his team in good down-and-distance situations from making tackles near the line of scrimmage. Allen is very good at taking on blockers, tossing them to the side, and taking down running backs before they can get to the second level. He is a very tough run defender. With his thick frame, Allen is strong to hold his ground at the point of attack. He anchors very well and is tough to move. With his heavy hands, Allen is adept at shedding blocks quickly and then uses his quickness to chase down backs. Allen is disciplined, intelligent, and shows good vision to get in position to make stops.

In the pass rush, Allen is a physical defender. He has a powerful bull rush and consistently pushes offensive tackles into the pocket. Allen plays with good leverage to get underneath the pads of tackles and then get them on roller skates in their backpedal. Allen has heavy hands to shed blocks and break free when he gets upfield. With versatile size and some quickness, Allen has the ability to rush from the inside as well as coming off the edge. Allen could use more pass-rushing moves for the NFL. With his size and strength, it would be nice to see him add a club or rip move.

Allen can fit as a base left end to battle right tackles in a 4-3 defense and also would be a great fit as five-technique defensive end in a 3-4. Before long, I think Allen will emerge as a solid starter in the desert.

2018: Zach Allen, DE
2017: Budda Baker, S
2016: Evan Boehm, C
2015: Markus Golden, LB
2014: Deone Bucannon, S
2013: Kevin Minter, LB

Most Likely To Bust

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma – Round 1
This is a pretty bolg prediction to say the No. 1-overall pick in the draft is the player most like to be a bust of a team’s early-round picks, but Arizona general manager Steve Keim has made a lot of bad picks, which is why the franchise fielded the worst team in the NFL in 2018. Keim somehow survived that terrible season, and I’m not convinced that he didn’t make another mistake this year. Murray is a risky prospect and has bust potential for the NFL.

In speaking to sources from a number of different teams, they were all in agreement that an offense would have to be changed and built around Murray. Every team source said that Murray will have to play out of the shotgun because he is too short to be under center and do quick passing off of three-step drops. Thus, the offense is going to have to be built around Murray, who is not a quarterback who can be plugged into any NFL offense. That also presents some problems for his pro team in finding a backup quarterback who can execute the same plays. Therefore, it is going to take a team that is willing to commit to Murray fully and go all-in on building the entire offense around him.

Here is what one general manager of a quarterback-needy team told me back in January about Murray, “You’re going to have to change a huge amount of your offense for him. He’s too short, so you can’t put him under center and do a three-step drop. He’s too short to see through 6-foot-5 offensive linemen and defenders getting their hands up. Those west coast offense plays are out the window with him. You have to build the system for him, and he is not a plug-and-play in a pro system like an Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, [Matthew] Stafford, etc. You also are going to be presented with problems for the backup quarterback because Murray is so unique and you won’t be able to find a backup that can duplicate what he does. If Murray gets hurt, you may to do a huge overhaul to the offense in order to suit the backup. He has a good arm, and he’s athletic, but you have to really commit to him and build everything around him if you’re going to take him.”

On top of the height, teams are concerned about Murray being thinner framed and worried about him holding up from the hits of NFL-sized defenders. They also have some makeup concerns about Murray as he is not a team leader, and at Oklahoma, he spent more time with his baseball teammates than his football teammates. Murray is known to have a bit of an attitude and an ego, so I wonder how he will handle the adversity that will come in the NFL.

Murray was constantly compared to Russell Wilson because both of them are short, mobile, great runners, strong-armed, accurate, and have a background in baseball. But Wilson is the exception and not the norm for NFL quarterbacks. I’m not convinced that Murray can overcome the height issue like Wilson has done, and as a result, I see Murray as having real bust potential for the NFL.

2018: Mason Cole, C
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

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington – Round 2
While I think Kyler Murray was a risky selection to open the draft, I loved the pick of Byron Murphy to lead off the second night. Some teams had Murphy as their top-rated cornerback and thought that he stood a real chance to go in the top 20. Landing the second-best cornerback prospect in the draft at the top of the second round was excellent value for Arizona.

Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake is a former NFL defensive backs coach who has developed the likes of Aqib Talib, and Lake did an excellent job of coaching Murphy. Murphy enters the NFL as a polished cornerback with good technique and intelligence.

What stand out significantly about Murphy are his awareness and his instincts. He does an excellent job of reading the offense and getting himself in position to make plays. Murphy is instinctive in his route diagnosis, aware of what the offensive is trying to do, and reacts quickly. With his instincts getting him in position, Murphy shows good ball skills to break up passes or pick them off. He is very calm and comfortable with the ball in the air, displaying a knack for timing his contact well to avoid penalties while breaking up passes. During his NFL career, Murphy could produce some good interception totals because he has good hands to snatch the ball out of the air and he plays the ball extremely well.

Through Lake’s coaching, Murphy has the versatility to play inside or outside, which will help him to contribute quickly as an outside or slot cornerback. Murphy can play zone, off-man, or press-man coverages. On the negative side, Murphy is skinny and his playing speed is above average at best. Those were the issues that kept him from going in the first round. Thus, Murphy’s thinner frame and speed would make him not as good of a fit as a press-man corner for the NFL.

Murphy could quickly form a good tandem with Patrick Peterson, and in time, Murphy could be the Cardinals No. 1 corner of the future.

2018: Josh Rosen, QB
2017: Chad Williams, WR
2016: Brandon Williams, CB
2015: David Johnson, RB
2014: Troy Niklas, TE
2013: Jonathan Cooper, G

Future Depth Player

Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama – Round 5
In the early going of the 2018 season, Thompson was one of college football’s breakout players, and multiple pro team sources were raving about him in September. They felt that a first-round buzz was building around Thompson, but the play turned out to be a flash in the pan, as he really struggled in the second half of the season. He stopped making plays on the ball, missed tackles, missed interceptions, and ended up getting picked on deep downfield, including in ugly performances against Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson. As a result, Thompson ended up getting mid-round grades, and the Cardinals took him in the fifth round.

I’m not sure that Thompson will ever turn into an impactful starter, but I think he could be a good backup safety who rotates into the game and also helps on special teams. He has good size, speed and upside, so being a solid depth player seems very feasible for him 2018: Chase Edmonds, RB
2017: Will Holden, OT
2016: Harlan Miller, CB
2015: Rodney Gunter, DT
2014: Ed Stinson, DE
2013: Ryan Swope, WR

Walt’s 2019 NFL Draft Grades:

1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma B+ Grade
I think the Cardinals are making the correct decision for multiple reasons. First, it’s quite apparent that Josh Rosen is a sunk cost. This should’ve been obvious leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft when it was revealed that Rosen didn’t have a strong passion for football and just wanted to party instead. Rosen predictably struggled as a rookie. Granted, he had very little help around him, but the same could be said for Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, both of whom showed signs of life in their first seasons. Rosen did not. Second, Murray loves football. Unlike Rosen, he has a passion for the game. He even gave up a very promising baseball career to be an NFL quarterback. He’ll give it his all, and he won’t alienate teammates like Rosen has. Third, by selecting Murray, the Cardinals have given themselves an extra asset, as they’ll be able to trade Rosen for a second-round pick.

All of these factors earn the Cardinals a high grade. I don’t think I can give them anything in the “A” range, as this is their second-consecutive first-round quarterback pick, but I believe they’re doing the right thing, so a B+ is in order.

33. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington A Grade
I had this in my 2019 NFL Mock Re-Draft, so I have to like this, right? I do. Murphy is a steal atop Round 2. Charlie Campbell spoke to some teams that had Murphy as a top-20 prospect, thanks to his great instincts. The Cardinals have needed a solid starter across from Patrick Peterson for quite some time, and now they finally have one in Murphy.

62. Andy Isabella, WR, UMass B+ Grade
The Cardinals just acquired this pick from the Dolphins after shipping first-round bust Josh Rosen to Miami. The Cardinals are finally moving on from Rosen and his drama, and they’re giving Kyler Murray a nice weapon to work with. Isabella was expected to be chosen here, as he’s a talented slot receiver who fits well into Arizona’s new offense.

65. Zach Allen, DE/DT, Boston College B+ Grade
I once considered Zach Allen to be a first-round prospect, but dropped him after he tested poorly during the pre-draft process. However, Allen is a good player who gives tremendous effort. He should be a quality pro for the Cardinals, who needed to find a replacement for Calais Campbell. This is a solid pick.

103. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State A Grade
It’s crazy that some thought Hakeem Butler was a first-round prospect. Butler was expected to go late in the second round or early in the third frame, so this is great value for Arizona. Butler has tremendous height, but he fell because there are concerns about his ability to separate.

139. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama A- Grade
Remember when we thought Deionte Thompson could be a first-round prospect? He had an amazing start to his 2018 campaign, but fell off as the year progressed. He was constantly torched toward the end, looking utterly helpless. He has good upside though, so I like this gamble atop Round 5.

174. Keesean Johnson, WR, Fresno State B+ Grade
Keesean Johnson was one of the worst-testing receivers at the combine, indicating that he doesn’t have much upside. However, Keesean Johnson played better on tape with positive route-running skills. He was also a two-time team captain, so he’ll be giving his full effort for the Cardinals. Johnson makes sense atop Round 6.

179. Lamont Gaillard, C/G, Georgia B+ Grade
Lamont Gaillard was a dependable lineman for Georgia, failing to miss a single game over the past three years. He played both center and guard, so the Cardinals surely like his versatility as a projected backup. I don’t think it’s out of the question that Gaillard will become a starter, but he needs to improve his technique. I like the range for Gaillard, as I had him being selected two picks earlier in my mock.

248. Joshua Miles, OT, Morgan State B+ Grade
Joshua Miles helped himself with a solid East-West Shrine Week, which may have been the primary reason he was drafted. Miles performed then well, presumably giving the Cardinals some hope that Miles could meet his potential. Miles is very raw right now, but Arizona might be able to develop him into a capable blocker.

249. Michael Dogbe, DE/DT, Temple A- Grade
Michael Dogbe was one of the winners from the pro day circuit, posting some terrific workout numbers. This undoubtedly got him noticed, as Dogbe was already known as a high-effort player. He’s a bit raw, but doesn’t seem too far off from being a viable rotational player on a three-man front. I mocked Dogbe in the sixth round, so I like the bit of value Arizona is getting with this pick.

254. Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA C+ Grade
Caleb Wilson appeared in my mock draft at times, but didn’t make the final cut. He’s a mediocre athlete who dropped way too many passes at UCLA. He doesn’t offer much upside, so the Cardinals could’ve made a better Mr. Irrelevant pick.

2019 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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