clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rating the rivals: how good was the Cardinals’ draft?

PFF called Arizona’s draft “excellent.” I beg to differ.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Josh Rosen Press Conference Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

How well the 49ers’ division rivals drafted is almost as important as their own draft. Akash Anavarathan recently looked at the Seahawks results. Let’s look at the Cardinals.

Pro Football Focus rated Arizona’s draft as EXCELLENT, which makes sense since the choices have high PFF ratings. But those college scores don’t necessarily predict success on Sundays, especially with undersized players (Kyler Murray) or those with degenerative knee conditions (Deionte Thompson).

They also don’t take matchups into consideration, and there are strong reasons to think that some of these picks will be especially weak against the Niners.

I’d describe the Cardinals’ draft as high-risk, high-reward — but if a couple of the higher picks don’t work out, it will be seen as a disastrously wasted opportunity.

Byron Murphy was a good pick, but this slate starts and ends with Kyler Murray. He was a great college talent, but he remains 5’10” and was arguably drafted too high. Running quarterbacks are injury-prone, and he’ll face Bosa, Ford and Buckner, or Donald and Fowler, four times this year.

You can talk about Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Baker Mayfield all day, but those are the three short QBs who worked out (compared to 4,397 since 2000 who did not). And Murray can be expected to struggle even more against a team with, say, two 6’ 8” defensive linemen.

I covered Michael Vick when he was the Eagles QB in 2013 (pre injury), and I swear he had to break the pocket and scramble sometimes just to see who was open. Whatever you think of Kyler Murray, he’s no Michael Vick. He’ll be somewhere between Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manziel — and anything less than Mayfield is a failure.

It’s important to see Murray in the bigger picture. The pointless, failed effort to deceive everyone about that pick destroyed Josh Rosen’s trade value, so Arizona spent two top-ten picks on a very short quarterback, a 5th round pick and a very low 2nd — No. 62 overall. Top ten picks are rare and extremely valuable. If Murray flops — or, almost worse, is average at best but too good to cut — that is a horrible lost opportunity.

As for the rest of the draft, they grabbed a lot of talented players who dropped in the draft. That could mean they’re a bargain or it could mean there was a good reason for those falls, and that Steve Keim outsmarted himself. When you do it several times in a draft, you’re setting yourself up for a big failure.

Deionte Thompson only cost a fifth, but he has a degenerative knee condition and was already too slight in college. As a Trailblazers fan, the Brandon Roy comparison is still painful.

Larry Fitzgerald is still amazing for a guy in his late 50s (actually 35), so drafting wide receivers makes sense, but Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabella also dropped and for good reasons. Isabella seems low ceiling and maybe too soft for the NFL.

Butler is tall, but raw— and may not cut it (like so many other tall WRs who haven’t panned out). Heck, Kelvin Benjamin is only 28 and they could have signed him off the street. A rangy and wily veteran like Richard Sherman should be able to smother Butler without breaking a sweat, hopefully destroying his confidence in the process.

The biggest failure of the Cardinals’ 2019 draft is what they didn't pick — any decent offensive linemen. Their OL was terrible last year (a factor in Rosen’s struggles), and the Niners built a devastating front seven by adding Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to Buckner, Armstead and Thomas. So who did the Cards draft to defend their prized rookie QB?

Georgia center Lamont Gallard (pick #179) and Morgan State tackle Joshua Miles (pick #248, out of 254 total). Neither will add as much as 30-year old free agent signee J. R. Sweezy. Gallard is 6’3”; an anonymous scout told “I wish he was bigger but he’ll end up playing.” Wow, that’s a hearty endorsement!

Miles was a good gamble given his athleticism, but didn’t achieve that much even against small conference competition. He was third-team All-Mid-Eastern-Athletic Conference. Conclusion: the Niners pass rush is going to feast on Arizona this year.

Two or three flyers would have made sense for Arizona given how bad they are, but this package of picks seems like a reckless gamble that could easily turn into a massive failure. All of which is good news for Niners fans.