The Arizona Cardinals went into the 2014 NFL Draft with needs at safety, quarterback and outside linebacker. Not all of those needs were met (particularly an edge rusher at outside linebacker), but the Cards still did a good job in the draft this year adding both immediate depth and potential starters for down the road.
A physical, hard hitting safety who can support the run and also cover the seams against tight ends was at the top of the Cards wish list this offseason, and they filled it with their first round pick. Deone Bucannon (Washington State) looks like he should be a perfect complement to FS Tyrann Mathieu and the loaded secondary being built in the desert. Bucannon, Mathieu and CBs Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie could form one of the defensive backfields in the league outside of the Seattle Seahawks.
Bucannon was a probably a little bit of a reach at 27th overall, but he’s got good upside and the fit was too good to pass up. Plus, by trading down seven spots with the New Orleans Saints, they picked up an additional third round pick while still getting the guy they were targeting all along.
Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame) was a little bit of a surprise pick at no. 52 overall, mainly because tight end wasn’t a huge need with the free agent signing of John Carlson to pair opposite of the incumbent Rob Housler. Still, Niklas is an impressive physical specimen with major upside who plays tight end the way Arians wants. Soft hands and tremendous in-line blocking skills are the two most valuable attributes of an Arians’ tight end (Heath Miller the perfect example), and those are strengths in Niklas’ skill set. He’s incredibly raw (he’s only been playing TE two seasons after bouncing around at OT, DE and OLB), but with a little patience and time he could develop into a very good tight end in the NFL. Not really a ‘need’ pick nor the best value pick, but a high upside pick who’s a good fit schematically.
Kareem Martin (DE, UNC) and John Brown (WR, Pittsburg State) were the teams third round picks. Both have very high upside but will need time to develop. Martin looks like a perfect fit for the 5-tech and could potentially replace 33-year old Darnell Dockett after this season, when his salary jumps to $6.5 million. Martin is a tremendous athlete at nearly 6-foot 6, 272-pounds. 35-inch arms, 4.72 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical and a 129-inch broad give you an idea of the kind of physical tools he’s been blessed with. Solid pick at no. 84 overall.
Brown is transitioning from division 2 football, so he’ll definitely need some time to adjust. With 4.34 speed, he can flat out fly though, which the Cards have been looking for to truly stretch the field and provide a reliable deep threat. He likely won’t beat out Ted Ginn for the slot this year, but should still see some time. Plus he should be able to contribute in the return game as well.
Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech) was an outstanding pick in the 4th round. A big, athletic, strong armed physical freak who has the highest ceiling of any QB in the draft, he’s a perfect fit for Arians vertical offense. He’s incredibly raw, but Arians has a rich history of turning raw athletes into polished NFL gunslingers (Ben Roethlisberger comes to mind).
In the 5th and 6th, Arizona took Ed Stinson (DE, Alabama) and Walt Powell (WR, Murray State). Stinson doesn’t have the elite athleticism but makes up for it with smart play. Powell was a reach (even for the 6th round), but has reliable hands.
Overall, a high upside draft. Bucannon should start from the get go. Niklas, Martin and Thomas are very high upside developmental guys and Brown finally provides the deep speed AZ has been looking for. The value of the picks overall wasn’t great, but they were all terrific schematic fits.