Jun 10, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu (left) and cornerback Deone Bucannon during mini camp at the teams Tempe training facility. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
With mini camps wrapping up in the National Football League, the rookie class has gotten to show off their prowess a little and teams have seen what they can come to expect in August. This is the beginning of my rookie impact projections, where every pick of every team will be rated on a scale of one to ten. One is little no impact this season, while ten is a major impact that almost cannot afford to be lost. Every players projections are based off of what they can do to contribute to their club this season. Starting off, we have the Arizona Cardinals who made seven selections in this years draft.
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Deone Bucannon (Safety) – 1st round (Pick 27)
There have been reports that Deone is coming along a bit slowly, taking his time to adapt to the defensive scheme in Arizona. However, the secondary is already loaded with premier talent in the likes of Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, and Tyrann Mathieu, who is expected to be back on the field relatively early in the season. Deone shouldn’t feel the pressure to produce and be the leader of the unit, therefore giving him more opportunities to play in space and have more shots at making the big play. I think he can have a year comparable to Mathieu’s season last year, making a noticeable contribution to the defense.
Impact projection: 7 out of 10
Troy Niklas (Tight End) – 2nd round (Pick 50)
Niklas is yet another in the long line of tight ends to come out of the University of Notre Dame, and fits a similar mold and style to previous guys. He is a big, athletic presence that excels in nearly all phases of the game at tight end. He is a solid blocker which will be welcomed especially by quarterback Carson Palmer. He also is a decent receiver with plenty of room to grow and develop. That being said, expect fellow Notre Dame alum John Carlson to start the season off as the number one tight end while Niklas fights Jake Ballard and company for the number two spot. I think overall, Niklas could even challenge Carlson for the most playing time and become a quick favorite of Palmer this season in the red zone.
Impact projection: 6 out of 10
Kareem Martin (Defensive End) – 3rd round (Pick 84)
Martin was tagged with the dreaded “tweener” label coming into the draft process of being just a little undersized to play a traditional 4-3 end, yet seemed a little too big to play a 3-4 outside linebacker. Thus, it struck a little confusion as to how the Cardinals plan to use Martin going forward. He is listed as a defensive end, and many are drawing comparisons of him to Calais Campbell. Obviously Martin will have to bulk up, and also improve his pass rushing tools and techniques to play the end position with distinction. He will likely split snaps at the end position opposite of Campbell and fight for playing time against the likes of Frostee Rucker and fellow rookie Ed Stinson. Martin has the ability to make a small impact this season, but I expect to see some growing pains in year one.
Impact projection: 5 out of 10
John Brown (Wide Receiver) – 3rd round (Pick 91)
Brown was tabbed as a late round receiver heading into the draft process due to his lack of ideal size (5’10”, 179 lbs), his age (24 as a rookie) and overall experience coming from a smaller school. After lighting it up at the combine, The Cardinals added Brown to put some depth and explosion to their receiving core. Reports from camp in Arizona said that Brown has been among the most impressive players for the Cardinals, and one of the best receivers on the field. He is showing great fluidity and quick to pick up the offensive scheme. He will likely push newcomer Tedd Ginn Jr for the slot position, and if Ginn can’t avoid his errant problem of dropping passes, you could Brown making a quick impact on this Cardinal roster.
Impact projection: 5 out of 10
Logan Thomas (Quarterback) – 4th round (Pick 120)
Thomas has been pegged as a project quarterback from the start, much to his disliking, but it’s not a bad thing for the former Virginia Tech Hokie. Physically, Thomas has all the right natural tools and talents to be a great quarterback. He has a cannon arm, he can make any throw, and has great mobility and toughness. However, he is vastly inconsistent and his accuracy leaves much to be desired. He never seemed to hit his full stride and potential while in college, and now gets the chance to learn behind a savvy veteran, and a great offensive staff. Thomas shouldn’t see much if any significant playing time in the next two to three seasons, but if groomed properly this kid could be a Colin Kaepernick like stud.
Impact projection: 1 out of 10
Ed Stinson (Defensive End) – 5th round (Pick 160)
Stinson quietly was a key piece of the Alabama defense that won two national titles, starting twenty-seven games and being a cog of the run stuffing unit. Stinson isn’t going to wow anyone with flashy numbers or superior attributes, but what he will do is provide a huge interior presence along the defensive line. He will likely see rotational snaps at the end position opposite of Calais Campbell and also spell nose tackle Darnell Dockett. I could see Stinson following more in the mold of a nose tackle style run stuffing big man who is vital to the 3-4 defense. With a lack of depth at defensive end for the Cardinals, Stinson could see a decent amount of playing time, especially if he is to outplay fellow rookie Kareem Martin in August.
Impact projection: 5 out of 10
Walt Powell (Wide Receiver) – 6th round (Pick 196)
Powell doesn’t posses any dominant physical skills that you often see from a draft day selection in some manner. He doesn’t have great speed, he doesn’t posses much strength off the line or in space, and also has some prior off the field issues. He is a solid return man even with lacking any dominant physical skills. It is still a little puzzling honestly why the Cardinals invested on a small school player with average attributes and off the field problems. The coaching staff must have seen something, but this team has a pretty deep core of receivers, and if Powell even makes the roster, expect at most to see him as a special teams player.
Impact projection: 2 out of 10
The Cardinals have had some pretty solid recent draft success, and are hoping this years crop is no different. They nabbed a few high impact players in Bucannon and Niklas, and also were able to grab players with the potential to contribute in small doses right away in Martin, Stinson, and Brown. Realistically this team could have four of its seven selections see significant playing time this season which is tremendous.
Look forward to the Atlanta Falcons rookie impact projections coming soon.
Joe Kleine is also co-host of the finsradio.com show The Direct Snap, alongside fellow Phin Phanatic and Rant Sports writer Tyler McMullen. Please check out our facebook at www.facebook.com/theofficialdirectsnap or check us out on Twitter at the handle, @Direct_Snap