Re-Capping the Cardinals Draft

It’s been a bit since the draft concluded, so I figured it was about time to get some more analysis done on each pick for each team. To this point, our first segment features the Arizona Cardinals.

As each segment is completed, they’ll be added to the Team-By-Team Selections page.

Round 1, Pick 7 – North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper

Redshirt Senior 6’2″ 311 lbs 5.07 40-yard 35 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Ben Grubbs

Cooper, a four-time All-ACC selection, is athletic for his size and it shows in his ability to get to blocks in the run game and displays incredible quickness and fluidity as a pass-blocker. He could improve strength-wise to counter stronger defensive tackles, but is already a more-than capable guard at the professional level before playing a single snap. Cooper can play all three interior line positions, but right now the likeliest position is right guard following the release of incumbent starter Adam Snyder — and the fact that Daryn Colledge was considered the Cardinals best starter along the line at left guard last season.

Round 2, Pick 13 (45) – LSU ILB Kevin Minter

Redshirt Junior 6’0″ 246 lbs 4.70 40-yard 25 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Joe Mays

Like Joe Mays (who has started for Denver as a run-stuffer over the past two seasons), Minter is an undersized tackling machine who should excel as a run defender and in zone coverage. Minter plays physically and projects as a two-down thumper at the professional  level — which is just what Arizona needs at 3-4 inside ‘backer opposite dynamic starter Daryl Washington. Even with the addition of Karlos Dansby, the loss of Washington due to suspensions will allow Minter to compete with Jasper Brinkley and Lorenzo Alexander for a starting spot immediately.

Round 3, Pick 7 (69) – LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu

Junior 5’9″ 186 lbs 4.46 40-yard 4 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Antoine Winfield

Mathieu played extensively in the slot at LSU, playing with physicality and aggressiveness as a corner. The plan in Arizona is to transition Mathieu to safety in his rookie season — although there’s a distinct possibility he could be utilized to cover slot receivers, regardless of inferior size. Matheiu’s presence will likely work as a symbiotic relationship with Patrick Peterson, as the coaching staff is relying on Peterson’s presence as a way of keeping Matheiu’s off the field issues in check, while Matheiu can in turn serve as a returner and allow Peterson to develop as a shut-down corner. Mathieu has playmaking ability and great tape from his days at LSU — if he can stay out of trouble Mathieu will likely carve himself a role in the Cardinals’ defense from day-one.

Round 4, Pick 6 (103) – Texas OLB Alex Okafor

Senior 6’5″ 264 lbs 4.92 40-yard 21 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Ray Edwards

Okafor will have an interesting rookie campaign, as he’s going to be making the ever-so-difficult transition from college defense end to pass-rushing outside ‘backer in the pros. Okafor is an interesting selection for Arizona simply because it seemed he’d be more of a fit in a 4-3 scheme due to his run-stopping abilities — 4.92 speed isn’t all that good for a stand-up rusher at the professional-level. At the same time, Arizona’s need of pass-rushers is well documented after a season that saw Sam Acho disappoint as a fill-in at outside ‘backer. A former defensive tackle prior to converting to end as a junior, Okafor relies on strength and bull rush technique to get past blockers, which would better suit him to a run-stuffing position like left end — where the complementary pass-rush abilities would be highly valued. Still, in the fourth-round Okafor is a solid value pick for Arizona.

Round 4, Pick 19 (116) – James Madison OG Earl Watford

Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 300 lbs 5.05 40-yard 24 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Cooper Carlisle

Like Carlisle in his days with Denver, Watford is a bit of a smaller guard who excels in zone blocking schemes due to his athleticism. Following the selection of Cooper in the first-round, Arizona is clearly selecting the JMU product with the potential of developing into a swing guard or to groom Watford as a potential replacement for veteran Daryn Colledge.

Round 5, Pick 7 (140) – Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor

Senior 5’9″ 214 lbs 4.70 40-yard 17 bench reps

NFL Comparison: BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Following the departure of Toby Gerhart to the NFL, Taylor took over as Stanford’s every-down back. Built like a fullback and a runner with the skill set of a pass-blocking fullback, Taylor displays ball security skills in combination with a plodding run-style that may limit his time on the field. With 97 receptions in college and a reputation as a good pass-blocker, Taylor may be able to steal some late-down snaps from Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams as a rookie — that is if either runner is healthy enough to play. It will probably be a bad sign for Arizona if Taylor sees the field often in his first season.

Round 6, Pick 6 (174) – Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope

Redshirt Senior 6’0″ 205 lbs 4.28 40-yard 16 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Eric Decker

Swope has very solid measurables, with great straight-line speed, decent size and good strength for receiver. Not only has Swope drawn comparisons to Decker for reasons of possibly being a contributor right from his rookie season, but the Aggies product also has drawn comparisons to prolific slot receiver Brandon Stokley due to his route knowledge and awareness of the field. Swope can play both in the slot and outside, like Decker, and could line up wherever asked with receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd as solid starters. If he can prove concussion worries are a thing of the past, Swope has a good chance to contribute as a rookie — especially now that Arizona has Carson Palmer at the helm and Bruce Arians’ vertical pass attack being implemented.

Round 6, Pick 19 (187) – Clemson RB Andre Ellington

Redshirt Senior 5’9″ 199 lbs 4.54 40-yard

NFL Comparison: DeMarco Murray

Don’t let his straight-line 40 speed mislead, as Ellington is an explosive runner — and quite possibly the most explosive runner on Arizona’s roster. Ellington flashes an ability to burn in space and make would-be tacklers miss with excellent stop-and-go acceleration and smooth cutting skills. As a runner, Ellington needs to learn to let his blockers set up holes rather than simply rely on his abilities to shake defenders, but at the same time he displays an exceptional ability to get extra yards and fall forward for a back of his size. Ellington showcases more ability to develop into an impact runner at the professional-level than fifth-rounder Stepfan Taylor.

Round 7, Pick 13 (219) – Rutgers TE D.C. Jefferson

Redshirt Senior 6’6″ 255 lbs 4.99 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Richard Quinn

Jefferson is a pure blocker at this point in his career, with no more than 20 receptions during each season during his time at Rutgers and only a measly two touchdowns. There is a decent chance that Jefferson will end up on the practice squad, but Jefferson could carve out a role as a special teams player if he makes the roster.

FINAL DRAFT GRADE: B+

The Cardinals picked up some very useful pieces in this year’s draft, including a late-round steal of Andre Ellington. However, as the same time Cooper was undoubtedly over-drafted as a top-ten pick (no guard has gone in the top-ten in over a decade). With the exception of Jefferson and Watford, each other Cardinals rookie is likely to carve out a role in their first seasons.

That’s it for Arizona. Next up with be the Atlanta Falcons!

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