Arizona Cardinals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Budda Baker, S, Washington - Round 2
The 2017 NFL Draft had a strong class of safeties, and Arizona had a need at the position after losing D.J. Swearinger and Tony Jefferson in free agency. Baker was a highly touted player who slid to the second round over size concerns. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder is undersized for safety in the NFL, but he does have the talent to also play nickel cornerback.

For the NFL, there is a lot to like about Baker in pass coverage. He is a natural free safety who has exceptional instincts. Baker is very fast to read a quarterback's eyes and routes, plus does a superb job of breaking quickly on the ball. Baker is a smart defender who never seems to be out of position. His instincts and recognition skills put him in position to make a lot of plays as he was all over the field for Washington. Baker could also cover slot receivers in man coverage as he has excellent speed, feet and agility to run with wideouts. While Baker lacks size, he really competes hard and makes up for it with his grit.

If Baker was three inches taller and 15-20 pounds heavier, he would likely have been a top-20 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Evaluators across the league really like Baker as a player; however, they have concerns about his size and him holding up in the NFL. Given his weight and style of play, they think he could have problems avoiding injuries and staying healthy. As a result, I think Baker is more likely to be a good starter rather than a boom pick because he could have a hard time staying on the field enough to be a star.

2016: Evan Boehm, C
2015: Markus Golden, LB
2014: Deone Bucannon, S
2013: Kevin Minter, LB

Most Likely To Bust

Haason Reddick, LB, Temple - Round 1
Reddick was one of the most media-hyped prospects of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was a fast and dangerous edge rusher for Temple but was moving to linebacker for the NFL. That would have been deadweight on his draft stock, but with a strong Senior Bowl week, he sent a jolt into his draft stock by performing well at the new position. Some other teams didn't grade Reddick high at all, and he was one of the riskiest picks in the first round considering he has barely played the position he will have to man in the NFL.

In speaking with scouting sources, they say that Reddick is athletic with explosive speed and edge-rushing skills for the NFL. He is very good in space and versatile as a run-and-chase pursuit defender. On the other hand, they say with his limited experience at linebacker, he is going to need a lot of time to develop. His instincts aren't there yet, and he will have to learn how to read his keys quickly as a linebacker. Offenses will challenge Reddick's ability to make reads and will run at him consistently. He is going to have to learn a lot in pass coverage as well. Because of those concerns, multiple area scouts told me they gave Reddick a grade of low third-round/high fourth-round choice even though they knew he would go much higher. They just felt he was too risky considering he possesses almost zero experience at his NFL position and has a ton to learn while facing a much higher level of competition than what he saw at Temple.

The Cardinals have taken some risky transition players recently in the first round with some ugly results. Obviously, 2016 first-rounder Robert Nkemdiche was a massive disappointment as a rookie. Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (2015) has been underwhelming, while Deone Bucannon (2014) had to move from safety to linebacker. Guard Jonathan Cooper was a huge bust as the seventh-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft after Michael Floyd didn't work out after being the 13th-overall pick in 2012. Thus, the track record doesn't speak well for Reddick panning out as a conversion pick. I think he has some of the biggest bust potential of any pick in the first round.

2016: Robert Nkemdiche, DL
2015: D.J. Humphries, OT
2014: Kareem Martin, DE
2013: Tyrann Mathieu, DB

Potential Boom Pick

Chad Williams, WR, Grambling - Round 3
The Cardinals took a sleeper receiver in Williams in the third round, but he has a lot of talent with a serious skill set for the NFL. The 6-foot, 204-pounder has sneaky quickness and an ability to stretch the field. Williams was a star receiver at Grambling, and he showed it wasn't a fluke with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl.

In 2016, Williams totaled 89 receptions for 1,334 yards with 10 touchdowns. He also had a strong junior season with 64 receptions for 1,012 yards with 11 touchdowns. While playing in the Senior Bowl, Williams used his speed to separate from cornerbacks and flashed that he is fast enough to stretch defenses vertically.

Williams went to a good landing spot with the Cardinals. As a rookie, he can learn from a future Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald. Along with Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have veteran John Brown to draw attention. Williams could do some damage as a rotational third receiver. Fitzgerald is nearing retirement, and Brown is in a contract year, so Williams could position himself to be a starter of the future. Of Arizona's early round picks, Williams could be a sleeper who ends up being a real steal.

2016: Brandon Williams, CB
2015: David Johnson, RB
2014: Troy Niklas, TE
2013: Jonathan Cooper, G

Future Depth Player

Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt - Round 5
Holden (6-7, 311) is an experienced tackle after making 37 straight starts in SEC play for Vanderbilt. He has good size to fit at right tackle and could be a backup swing tackle in the NFL. With D.J. Humphries not playing up to expectations, Holden could give the Cardinals a player to push Humphries in the short term. Holden probably doesn't have the athleticism to be a long-term starter at right tackle, but he could be a good backup and swing tackle who could help on either side if there was an injury to a starter. As a fifth-rounder, Holden is an appropriate value to become a reliable backup.

2016: Harlan Miller, CB
2015: Rodney Gunter, DT
2014: Ed Stinson, DE
2013: Ryan Swope, WR

Walt's 2017 NFL Draft Grades:

13. Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: B Grade
This is exactly where I had Haason Reddick, so I think the value is about right. I was tipped off here though, as I had Reddick slotted earlier beforehand (No. 20 to the Broncos), which is where I thought he should've gone. Reddick is a very talented player, so he'll help the Cardinals, who are desperate for linebacker help. Reddick will fill a huge need for sure. However, with Malik Hooker, Jonathan Allen and O.J. Howard still on the board, I would've thought Arizona would have gone after one of them. Still, I can't blame them for choosing Reddick, who should be a very good player for them.

36. Budda Baker, S, Washington: B Grade
The Cardinals surrendered two fourths (one this year, one next year) and they swapped picks late to move up to this spot. Many thought the Cardinals would do that to trade up for a quarterback, but I don't think I would've liked that as much. Budda Baker makes more sense to replace Tony Jefferson. Baker is very talented, and I'm not sure he could've lasted to Arizona even though I had it that way in my mock draft. The thing is, there are a number of talented safeties available, so the Cardinals could've been more patient to fill this need.

98. Chad Williams, WR, Grambling: B+ Grade
The Cardinals have taken chances on troubled players, and they're doing that once again here. Chad Williams was arrested for firearm and marijuana possession a year ago. Thus, talent level is not the concern. It's definitely a risk, but it could pay off, and Arizona is desperate for a receiver. Besides, the Cardinals moved down 21 spots to take Williams, so that helps this grade a bit.

115. Dorian Johnson, G, Pittsburgh: A- Grade
Dorian Johnson would've been a likely second-round pick had he not dealt with any injury concerns. Unfortunately, he has a liver issue, and some teams had him off the board as a result. However, he's very much worth the risk in the fourth round. Arizona will have a solid starter if Johnson can stay on the field.

157. Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt: B+ Grade
Another team was set to take Will Holden several picks later than this in the fifth round, so the value is certainly right. The Vanderbilt blocker has done well in pass protection, but he's not athletic, so he could be stuck at right tackle. Still, the Cardinals needed depth up front, and Holden won't embarrass himself if he has to start.

179. T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina: B+ Grade
This pick makes a lot of sense, as the Cardinals needed some insurance behind David Johnson. T.J. Logan could've been chosen a round earlier, so it's not a surprise that Arizona was able to obtain value with the sure-handed Logan, who ran a 4.37 40 at the combine.

208. Johnathan Ford, S, Auburn: B+ Grade
Johnathan Ford is still relatively new to playing safety, as he's a former running back. However, he performed well at Auburn and then went on to post strong testing numbers. Ford was at his best on special teams in Auburn, so the Cardinals undoubtedly selected him so that he could help them in that regard. I had him off the board 26 selections earlier than this, so there's some value.

2017 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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