Grading the Arizona Cardinals 2013 Draft

By Matthew Erickson on Thursday, May 2nd 2013
Grading the Arizona Cardinals 2013 Draft

1st Round, 7th Overall: Jonathan Cooper - Offensive Guard, North Carolina

The Cardinals’ offensive line needed some serious TLC. Once the top three offensive tackles went in the first four picks, the Cardinals were choosing between Cooper and Chance Warmack. While many had Warmack rated higher, Cooper is a better fit for Bruce Arians’ zone-blocking scheme. He’ll vastly improve the interior pass protection, and he’ll be an asset as a run blocker. They needed better talent at tackle more, but the 7th overall pick wasn’t high enough for that this year.  Grade: B+


2nd Round, 45th Overall: Kevin Minter - Inside Linebacker, LSU

This pick was a slam dunk. Paris Lenon has played well for them, but they let him walk because of his age and his price tag, and Jasper Brinkley is decidedly average. Minter complements Daryl Washington incredibly well, and he should be a perennial Pro Bowler on that defense. And Arizona picked up an extra fourth-round pick in a trade-back with San Diego. Masterful work.  Grade: A+


3rd Round, 69th Overall: Tyrann Mathieu - Cornerback, LSU

They doubled up on Tiger defenders, but this pick is as risky as the last pick was safe. If Mathieu can keep his head on straight, the Cardinals will have a dynamic secondary. Patrick Peterson should help him, and they can’t go wrong if they want to recreate the LSU defense in the NFL. The third round is a great place to look for risky players with star upside.  Grade: B


4th Round, 103rd Overall: Alex Okafor - Defensive End, Texas

Okafor represented great value in the top of the fourth round, but I question the scheme fit. While Okafor often rushed from a two-point stance in college, he seems to fit best as a traditional 4-3 defensive end, much like John Abraham or Trent Cole. Perhaps Arizona is planning to utilize more 4-3 fronts, or maybe he appealed to them as a rush linebacker.  Grade: C+


4th Round, 116th Overall: Earl Watford - Offensive Guard, James Madison

Arizona traded San Diego’s fourth-round pick to the Giants and added another sixth-round pick, then used the Giants’ fourth-round pick to snag another long-term starter in Watford. He’s athletic and aggressive, and fits perfectly in their zone scheme. Drafting two guards isn’t sexy, but they’ve really solidified the interior of their offensive line.  Grade: A


5th Round, 140th Overall: Stepfan Taylor - Running Back, Stanford

I groaned when the Cardinals signed Rashard Mendenhall earlier in the offseason, but their focus on their running game in the draft restored my faith in Bruce Arians. Taylor is a good fit for a one-cut scheme, and he’s solid in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield. He could be their future feature back, and he would’ve been a great value pick a round earlier.  Grade: A


6th Round, 174th Overall: Ryan Swope - Wide Receiver, Texas A&M

I wasn’t nearly as high on Swope as those who talked about him as a second-day pick, but the sixth round was probably a good place for a receiver of his talents. He has the potential to be a fantastic slot receiver, and he has sneaky speed to stretch the field. But I don’t like his tendency to catch everything with his chestplate, and he’s already had several concussions in college, so one hit from Kam Chancellor could end his career. I think they would’ve been better off targeting a difference-maker at tight end, or a legitimate field-stretcher at wide receiver.  Grade: C-


6th Round, 187th Overall: Andre Ellington - Running Back, Clemson

The Cardinals used the pick they acquired earlier from the Giants to finally end the fall of Ellington. The Clemson tailback was one of the most electric players available in the draft, and there is no good reason he should’ve fallen out of the fourth round. Getting him in the middle of the sixth is larceny. He’s a tad undersized and will never be a feature back, but he’s a dynamic home run threat who will be the yin to Taylor’s yang. Arizona has their backfield of the future.  Grade: A+


7th Round, 219th Overall: D.C. Jefferson - Tight End, Rutgers

Jefferson was an okay value pick at this point. It’s hard to go wrong with any seventh-round pick. I think tight end should’ve been a bit more of a priority for them, though, and if they wanted a blocking tight end, they could’ve targeted Michael Williams a bit earlier, or taken Justice Cunningham, who is a better blocker and a better receiver. They’re minor quibbles, but enough to drop this grade a bit.  Grade: C


The new front office took over a team with a lot of talent and some significant holes, and a guarantee of six brutally difficult games each year: two against the 49ers, two against the Seahawks, and two against the surging Rams. Carson Palmer gives them a window of opportunity to compete while finding a quarterback of the future, but he’ll need an offensive line and a running game. So they drafted him two starting guards and two capable running backs. They also added a long-term starter at inside linebacker, a ball-hawking playmaker in the secondary, and a pass rusher with upside. A good rule of thumb when evaluating a draft: if you come out with three starters, it was a good draft; four starters, and it was a great draft. When all is said and done, I’m sure they came out with at least three.  Grade: A

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