Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals, yes, the Cardinals, were NFC Champions in 2008. And they did the conference justice. Despite their slightly above average record Arizona bounced the upstart Falcons in the Wild Card round, demolished the #2 seed Panthers next, then helped Philadelphia lose their fourth NFC Championship this decade. If that wasn't enough, after looking like a Super Bowl blowout by the Steelers, Arizona clawed back and almost pulled off the upset. Despite their regular season deficiencies the Cardinals proved that they belonged. Can they do it in 2009?

The Kurt Warner revival was in full effect in 2008. Guess it was a good thing for him to be named the starter, huh? All he did was help the team place 4th in pints scored and total yards per game. Oh and thanks to him the team was 2nd in passing yards per game. The only offensive drawback was an abysmal running game, which was last in The League in 2008, averaging a mere 73.6 yards per game. Solving that issue would make the attack more balanced, probably equating to more victories. Though that's just a guess. They did pretty well being one dimensional last season. It's a good thing Warner and Co. scored 26.7 points per game. That average was just enough to squeak by what their defense allowed: 26.6 points per game, 28th in The League. The Cardinals defense was average (or lower) in all areas, finishing 22n in passing yards, 16th in rushing yards, and 22nd in total yards allowed per game. Some improvement in any of those areas may result in another win too. Again, just a hunch.

Ken Whisenhunt's second year as coach of Arizona ended close to perfection. He didn't end up beating his former team in Super Bowl XLIII but he proved he and his staff can comprise and teach a team worthy of being on the same field as the favorites. With fellow former Steelers coach Russ Grimm as his right-hand man, Arizona could be destined for back-to-back Division Titles and another surprise run at February glory.

1/31/31 - Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
2/31/63 - Cody Brown, DE/OLB, Connecticut
3/31/95 - Rashad Johnson, FS, Alabama
4/31/131 - Greg Toler, CB, St. Pauls
5/31/167 - Herman Johnson, OG, LSU
6/31/204 - Will Davis, DE/OLB, Illinois
7/31/240 - LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Pittsburgh
7/45/254 - Trevor Canfield, OG, Cincinnati

  • LB - Try again.*
  • RB - Check!
  • DL - Check!*
  • OL - Check!
The Cardinals were able to fill 75% of their needs with their eight picks. Because of their hybrid scheme, they either didn't fill the LB need (in a 4-3) or didn't fill their DL need (in a 3-4). The DEs they drafted would be lineman in a 4-3 but OLB in a 3-4. See what I mean? They didn't take any big defensive lineman that would stay on the line in either front. The team uses both the 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. Any way you slice it one area was left unfulfilled. Because of their Steelers roots, I'd say it's more likely the missed out on d-linemen; no big guys were taken to play NT or DE in a 3-4.

GRADE: 75/100

Pick 1 - Why did Wells fall to 31 and manage to be only the third RB taken? Injury concerns, mainly. In my opinion he was the most complete back in the draft, the guy who can become the ground-it-out star like Shaun Alexander. Sure maybe Donald Brown was the better receiver and Knowshon Moreno has the home run ability, but Wells is the type of back that wins you games and Super Bowls. Pairing him with Tim Hightower and a faster back gives them a great 1-2-3 punch sort of like the Giants. Grade: 10

Pick 2 - This selection all but confirms the belief that Arizona will feature more 3-4 alignments than 4-3. Brown is an undersized player that will need to add about 5-10 pounds but he has the skill set perfect for an edge rusher in the 3-4. He was solid value at the end of round two and answered a critical need. Grade: 9

Pick 3 - With the presence of Antrel Rolle and Adrian Wilson I'm not sure where Rashad Johnson fits in, unless Rolle plays CB more often. Johnson is a huge value at the end of round three and could prove to be a huge steal. He was expected to go in the mid to late second round. This wasn't really a need but you can't pass up value like that. Grade: 9

Pick 4 - This was about where Gregory Toler should have been drafted so first glance says this wasn't a reach. And Arizona definitely needed some depth at corner. However, with other DBs available - such as Cary Harris, Victor Harris, Coye Francies, and Mike Mickens - this was a bit of a stretch. Toler needs some development and fine tuning after playing at St. Pauls and not playing against the best opponents. Grade: 6

Pick 5 - Johnson is a mammoth specimen that pretty much could use his weight and brute strength to maul people at the lower levels. In the NFL that won't be an option. Players are faster and will go right around him. If Johnson keeps his weight down and Grimm can shore up his technique and footwork, Johnson could be a premiere guard. I don't see him sliding out to tackle, he's just too big. Another good value pick for Arizona, this time at an area of need. Grade: 9

Pick 6 - At the end of the sixth round this was a nice pick too. Davis gives Arizona another edge rusher that can drop down to DE in a four man front. However, since they already addressed that need, a pure d-lineman such as Myron Pryor, Vance Walker, or Ricky Jean-Francois would have been nice. Davis is still a solid value. Grade: 7

Pick 7 - As a late round pick I don't want to rip on this pick much. While Stephens-Howling was not the best RB available - that would have been Rashad Jennings - Stephens-Howling was the type of runner Arizona needed. With Wells and Hightower they have their feature guy and a bruiser. What about that home run speed, change of pace back? Stephens-Howling is that and will take over for J.J. Arrington. He can also return kicks. Grade: 7

Pick 8 - OK, this is just getting ridiculous. Canfield should have gone in round three and here he is available at 254? He needs work like Johnson but if Grimm can work his magic, the Cardinals may have their two starting guards starting in 2011. And they could last for a decade together. What a draft. Grade: 9

GRADE: 66/80


They didn't grab any defensive linemen but all of the other positions were filled. Not only were they filled with a body, but they were filled with bodies that can become great players that build championship teams. Adding a 3-4 DE or NT would have made this class probably the best of 2009.


WHY: Couldn't give them that coveted A+ because of the lack of d-linemen. But the value they got at the end of each round cannot be ignored. This was an amazing draft class, chock full of impact players and future stars. Give a few of them a year or two to develop and Arizona could be winning division titles every year. Barring Kurt Warner staying healthy through his 40s. Having a capable QB behind him is kind of need still.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Wells
Worst Pick: Toler
Sleeper: Canfield
Instant Impact: Wells
Developmental: Johnson

OTHER DRAFT GRADES - Arizona Cardinals
CBS Sports (Prisco): B-
CBS Sports (Rang): C
ESPN (Kiper): B+ (Brooks): B- (Fan's): B
Walter: A+


2009 NFL Draft Grades Review

No comments: