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Monday, 26 January 2015

Three Years Later: Grading The 2012 Arizona Cardinals Draft

There is a saying amongst NFL fans and experts that you can't really judge a draft until three years down the line.  This is because the NFL has such a shorter season compared to the NBA or NHL, it takes three years of starting every game in the NFL just to achieve the same amount of play time in half a season for the NBA.

It also doesn't help that the NFL has no affiliate or development league beyond the practice squad of each team.  So getting a clear picture of how a draft pans out is always a degree in patience.  All of the post-draft grading articles are rubbish because the players are being graded on how they performed in college and college doesn't really translate to the NFL.

The Arizona Cardinals had seven picks in the 2012 Draft.  It was an offense heavy draft for them as they took three offensive linemen, a quarterback and a wide receiver.  The only two defensive players they selected were both cornerbacks.

Round 1 / Pick 13 - Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame

With their first pick of the draft the Cardinals go against the grain and select wide receiver Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame.  Many had expected the team to go for offensive line help in the form of tackle Riely Reiff (selected by the Detroit Lions) or guard David CeCastro (selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers).  Instead they opted to go with a wide receiver to complement star wide out Larry Fitzgerald.

At the time of the selection, Ken Whisenhunt was still the head coach and his philosophy was make rookies earn their roles on the starting roster.  For this reason, Floyd didn't see a whole lot of action in his rookie year hauling in just 45 receptions for 562 yards and two touchdowns in three starts.

In his second sason, Floyd had a breakout year, catching 61 balls for 1,041 yards and five touchdownsn and helping the Cardinals achieve their first winnong season since 2009.

The 2014 season was Floyd's third with Arizona and it was a huge disappointment.  Many expected Floyd to improve on his 2013 season but instead he had 47 receptions for 841 yards and six touchdowns.  Some may point to the quarterback situation as to why Floyd underperformed (Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton were both lost to injury before the end of the year), but when you're made the #1 receiver in camp getting the ball shouldn't be an issue.

Overall: I feel the Cardinals made the right choice with Floyd.  While his numbers have dropped, he's still young and can improve.  They could have taken one of the offensive linemen mentioned earlier but considering they fell to the later rounds, it would have been a reach to take them at 13.  Taking Levi Brown over Adrian Peterson in 2007 still weighed heavily on the organisation at the time. Grade: B-

Round 2 / Pick 51 - **Traded to Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 as part of Kevin Kolb deal**

The Cardinals traded their 2012 second round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterbac Kevin Kolb in 2011.  It was one of the worst trades of all time as Kolb only played 15 gaes out of a possible 32 dure to various injuries.  Kolb left for Buffalo after the 2012 season and then retired.

Round 3 / Pick 80 - Jamell Fleming, CB Oklahoma

With their second pick of the draft, the Cardinals selected a cornerback from Oklahoma.  Jamell Fleming was taken with the 80th overall pick and what a huge bust he turned out to be.  After impressing in preseason and camp, Fleming earned some playing time as a rookie before dropping off the face of the earth. 

Some people speculated that Fleming had a run in with defensive coordinator Ray Horton about how much playing time he was getting.  Whaatever the reason, Fleming never saw the field again as a rookie.  In 2013, Fleming's second ear in the league, he somehow did enough to make the final 53-man roster before being cut after Week 1.

Since then, Fleming has held down a series of practice squad jobs for various teams including the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens.  A hige disappointment.

Overall: Fleming was a solid player at college and was known for his tackling abiity.  Unfortunately that didn't translate to the NFL.  Grade: F

Round 4 / Pick 112 - Bobbie Massie, OT, Ole Miss

The 2012 NFL Draft wasn't very deep as far as the offensie line talent went.  As a Cardinals fan I remember how happy people were to finally get Bobby Massie in the fourth round.  He'd been projected to go in the second round but for some reason or other, had slid to the fourth round.  It was a huge steal for the Cardinals who had finally found a starting right tackle.

Due to an injury to starter Jeremy Bridges, Massie would see action as a rookie.  In his first few games for the Cardinals, he was dreadful.  But after looking at his stats on Pro Football Focus, Massie vowed to do better.  And he did.  In his second year, the Cardinals chose to bring aboard veteran Eric Winston who started at the right guard spot.  Winston wasn't all that impressive and wasn't brought back on board for the 2014 season.

So Massie was back in the starting roster for the 2014 season.  While he gave up seven sacks, he had a solid season overall and is of course still learning. 

Overall: Just based on the second half of his rookie year and the 2014 campaign, Massie has been a great pick up for the Cardinals.  The offensive line has been a nightmare for the team in recent years and it's now startung to take shape with additions like Jonathan Cooper and Jared Veldheer.  Grade: B

Round 5 / Pick 151 - Senio Kelemete, OG Washington

It's hard to judge this pick due to the fact Senio Kelemete only played one game or the Cardinals.  onsidering how bad the offensive line was at the time, I'm still surprised that he wasn't given more of a shot.  Kelemete was released and picked up by the New Orleans Saints.

Overall: There's not a whole lot to say about thos pick.  Senio Kelemete was a solid backup who was never really asked to go in and perform.  Grade: D

Round 6 / Pick 177 - Justin Bethel, CB Presbyterian

This was the first of two sixth round picks for the Cardinals.  This one was acquired from the Washington Redskins as part of the deal that had sent running back Tim Hightower to D.C.  It's a tradition for the Cardinals to draft at least one player from a small college.  It often shows how good their scouting department is especially when they find someone like Justin Bethel in the sixth round. 

In case you're not familiar with Bethel, he's just made his second straight Pro Bowl as the special teams specialist.  Bethel is a physical freak who excells at blocking field goals and punt attempts.  If the Cardinals succeed at blocing a kick, you can bet that Bethel

Overall: Perhaps the best pick of the Draft class.  The Cardinals got a Pro Bowl beast.   I for one hope Bethel is with the team for many more years.  Grade: A

Round 6 / Pick 185 - Ryan Lindley, QB San Diego State

With their second sixth round pick, the Cardinals selected quarterback Ryan Lindley from San Diego State.  At this point in the draft, you're basically just filling spots lower down on the depth chart.  Very rarely do sith round picks make any sort of contribution to the starting rosster.  Unfortunaately, this wasn't the case for Lindley.

Lindley saw action as a rookie in a move that still leaves fans sratching their heads.  Lindley played in six games in 2012, starting four.  He threw for 752 yards and seven interceptions.  He threw zero touchdowns.  It wasn't all Ryan's failt though, he was thrown to the wolves unready and unprepared.

Somehow Lindley managed to stick around in 2013, even with a new coaching regime in place.  He didn't play any games.  He was cut during training camp of the 2014 season but it wasn't the last we'd see of Lindley in Cardinas red.  When carson Palmer suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 10, the team wasted no time in bringing back Lindley who was ont the San Diego Chargers practice squad.

After Palmer's backup Drew Stanton went down with another knee injury, it was Lindley time again.  This time he was better prepared.  Excet he didn't plauy a whole lot better than he did in 2012.  He threw 542 yards and four interceptions.  The good news is, he finally popped his touchdown cherry.

Overall:Ryan Lindley was one of those players who had no potential, he wasn't the best player on the board when he was selected.  He was one of those guys who could have been picked up as an undrafted free agent.  He's managed to stick around for three years.  Lindley will go down as one of the worst quarterbacks ever to play for the Cardinals. Grade: F

Round 7 / Pick 221 - Nate Potter, OT Boise State

Nate Potter was the Cardinals' final selection in the 2012 draft.  He was the third lineman taken by the team as they attempted to rebuild their offensive line.  Potter saw action as arookie coming in for the final few games in relief of the disgraced D'Anthony Batiste.  He played quite well but when the new coachng regime started, Potter was reduced to a backup role as well as a positional change to offensive guard.

The 2013 campaign was his last in the NFL as he was released by the team and wasn't claimed bhy any other team for the 2014 season.

Overall: Considering he was a seventh round pick, Potter played a solid game of football as a rookie.  It's a little sad to me that he was never given a shot with another team affter being released.  Grade: C


The biggest bust in the draft was easily Jamell Fleming.  Not only has he been with several teams since leaving Arizona, but for a third round pick he's not been all that good.  It makes you wonder if Fleming was a reach.

Ryan Lindley could be considered a bust as well, but sixth round quarterbacks don't often end up having much of a career anyway.  He was given the starting job because of injury or poor play to other quarterbacks and he played the way you'd expect.

Michael Floyd, Bobbie Massie and Justin Bethel make the draft a solid one.  It's would have been interesting to see what they'd have done with the second round pick had hey not traded it the previous year.  The Eagles traded it to the Green Bay Packers on the day of the draft and the Packers selected Jerel Worthy.

Looking back, I don't think it was a great idea to draft so many projects on the offensive line.  Yes, the offensive line was crap at the time but drafting Potter and Kelemete would have done a while lot to improve it.  Overall: C



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