by Adam Fournier, Ourlads’ Intern
The Arizona Cardinals have been one of the up and coming teams in the NFL the past few years. The Cardinals achieved double digit wins in the past two seasons and played in the playoffs last year for the first time since losing to the Saints in the 2009-10 NFL season. Arizona’s surge over the past few years is in part to the influx of young talent acquired over the past five years through the draft starting in the offseason after their 2010 playoff defeat.
When looking at all of the Cardinals’ draft selections over the past five years, one name immediately jumps off the page and that name is Patrick Peterson. Peterson has emerged as one of the best defensive players in the NFL since being drafted 5th overall by Arizona in 2011. The former LSU star won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards as a junior and came into the NFL with huge expectations. Peterson has not disappointed, as he has started ever game in his NFL career and made the Pro Bowl all four seasons. The most intriguing pick the Cardinals have made in the past 5 years is Peterson’s former LSU teammate Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy Finalist and Bednarik winner as a sophomore but was dismissed from the team before his junior year. This caused major character concerns going into the 2013 NFL Draft; however, the Cardinals took him in the 3rd round. Mathieu has gotten his life back on track and made an impact on defense the past two seasons before tearing his ACL in December. Mathieu is expected to make a big impact in 2015 coming back from his injury.
Arizona has drafted 3 players that have helped Larry Fitzgerald carry the load at wide receiver since the departure of Anquan Boldin. These three players are Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, and John Brown. Floyd has emerged as the team’s number two receiver behind Fitzgerald, and Roberts was a huge contributor at receiver in his four years with the team. As a rookie in 2014, John Brown filled in the void left by Roberts nicely after Roberts departed for Washington. Floyd and Brown are expected to be major contributors alongside Fitzgerald in 2015. The Cardinals had hoped that former Texas A&M standout Ryan Swope would be apart of this tandem; however, Swope was forced to retire due to concussions before ever playing in NFL. The Cardinals also grabbed another offensive weapon to pair with these receivers in Andre Ellington. Ellington was a 6th round pick in 2013 and emerged as the team’s starting running back in 2014.
Two players that have not quite lived up to their potential are 2013 draft picks Jonathan Cooper and Kevin Minter. Both have shown flashes of their potential but due in part to injuries neither has lived up to their 1st and 2nd round billing. It is unfair to label either as a bust yet, but Minter and Cooper will both be counted on to make an impact in the 2015 season. Also in the have not panned out category are quarterbacks John Skelton and Ryan Lindley. Both Skelton and Lindley have been forced into the starting role at some point in their careers but neither has been impressive. Lindley will likely be remembered as the starter in the Cardinals’ 2015 playoff game in which the Cardinals recorded the least amount of yards on offense in playoff history.
Arizona has also drafted a few players that have made an impact on their defense that has emerged as a one of the best in the NFL. Although no longer with team, Dan Williams made a solid impact at defensive tackle as a starter the past four years along with Alex Okafor, Deone Buccanon, and Daryl Washington. Alex Okafor and Deone Buccanon are still with the team and are likely starters in 2015. However, Washington’s future is uncertain following his suspension for the entire 2014 season. Washington was a Pro Bowl linebacker in 2012 but has had trouble with substance abuse causing him to miss part of 2013 and all of 2014. Washington reinstatement to the NFL is still pending but would be a huge boost to the Cardinals defense if he can return to his 2012 form.