Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011 NFL Draft; Arizona Cardinals

I feel sorry for Cardinals fans.

Ok I'm lying, I don't. But if I wasn't a 49ers fan then I would feel sorry for Cardinals fans. From the big game in 2009 to the big slump in 2011. Last year the Cardinals sucked and to this day the only person who has the slightest idea how the Cardinals managed to win any games - let alone five of them - is God. And he ain't telling anyone.

The biggest issue was of course, Quarterback. After the giddy heights of Kurt Warner the Cardinals sank to the low ebb of Derek Anderson, a quarterback so bad even the Browns didn't want him. What they needed then was a half decent draft. It didn't even have to be the greatest in the world, just a pretty good draft to put them back on the road to success.

Picking up a new young QB was a desirable option. Arizona already had Max Hall, John Skelton and Richard Bartel, but none of those names really blows you away as an amazing young prospect. I saw more than a few comments around the interwebs from Cardinals fans hoping that their team would draft Ryan Mallett or Christian Ponder or etc. One nutjob even wanted them to get Cam Newton if he was still available.

As it turned out they were all to be sorely disappointed but at the same time elated, as their team used its number one pick (fifth overall) to select Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU.

I say they were elated because Peterson was hailed as the number one corner overall in the draft, so naturally that's a good thing. Except that personally I don't think Peterson is anything to write home about. He's ok, might even find a use as a nickel corner. Maybe make that a dime corner.

But as a first rounder? And the first corner taken off the board at that? No freaking way. I spent about five minutes watching the LSU Defense and thinking to myself "kid is ok, not bad", before I realised I was watching the wrong corner. Then I went back & watched through it again, and by the same point I was thinking "what the hell is so special about this kid?"

I just can't see anything that to me makes him a standout. He really isn't all that great. As a punt/kick returner, then yeah, I can definitely see the appeal. But as a pure corner I thought he was barely average. He often played too far off the man, close to what I would call "Sherman Loose". Sometimes that worked in his favour, as he was so far over the top of his man that an overthrown ball would provide the opportunity for an interception.

But really, is that how we're rating corners now? Because they occasionally have a pick thrown into their lap? I certainly saw nothing approaching what I would call NFL starting level play from a corner. I don't know where the Peterson hype came from, maybe the combine (where he did well), but surely not off the game tape? Or if it is then, shit, I got really unlucky multiple times with the games I saw.

But who knows? Everyone else seems to be creaming their pants over Peterson and hailing him as this pro bowl ready prospect who's going to excel at the next level, so I accept that I'm absolutely in the minority over this one. I just don't see it myself. I think he's going to be a flag drawing bust.

Onto round two and with the 38th pick overall the Cardinals took Ryan Williams, running back, Virginia Tech.

I like Williams. His vision is a bit so-so, but his power is really good and he plays with his pads down, running behind them not under them. In that sense he's quite like his fellow Arizona RB Chris "Beanie" Wells. Maybe Ken Whisenhunt is looking to build a power running game for the season ahead? Williams would fit that mold certainly. But don't be all consumed by the power side. When he hits the open field and has the room to get his legs going, Williams can really fire up the jets and move.

As indeed we will move - to round three - and with the 69th pick overall the Cardinals selected tight end Rob Housler, from Florida Atlantic.

Now the Cardinals could be in a tight spot regarding tight ends this year, as most of theirs are heading out the door into the occasionally lucrative world of free agency. So they needed someone like Housler. I just think they could have done better than Housler.

But it is what it is, and what it is, is (confused yet) an overall ok tight end. Hands are not bad. Route running is ok, if lacking a little in polish, especially at the "top" of the route. Housler's run blocking is a strong point and when taken in the light of the Williams pick, the lack of a decent QB and Coach Whisenhunts background with the Steelers, this might be part of a run-first grand master plan that is brewing in Arizona.

I know, I'm not convinced either.

In round four the Cardinals went with defensive end Sam Acho from Texas (Longhorns). In the NFL he'll likely play as a pass rushing outside linebacker and honestly I'm of two minds about Acho. What I've seen of him suggests to me that he will be nothing special. In fact, I suspect he'll be nothing more than a blip. But... one thing that has crossed my mind is that Acho seemed to be building himself up over time, getting better and better statistically as the seasons went by. Maybe Acho is just getting ready to break onto the big scene?

C'mon Cardinals fans, I'm trying to find the positives, I really am! Acho's gonna suck though. I'm sorry. I don't see it.

Round five saw the Cardinals dip into the running back pool again (more on this later) as they took Anthony Sherman, fullback from Connecticut. Sherman did well at the combine and certainly impressed me in the on field drills. On tape though? Ehhhh.... ok I'm just gonna come out and say it. A Fullbacks main job is, you know, lead blocking. Sherman's blocking sucks. He commonly comes charging in with his pads too high and just gets stood by the defender and driven back out of the hole. That's not good.

What the Sherman pick does help us with is to pretty much nod sagely and predict that the Cardinals are going to run the ball a lot more in 2011. Like, A LOT more. Still though, I'm not finished on this point which we'll pick up at the end.

Onto round six where the Cardinals had two picks. The first was Quan Sturdivant, inside linebacker from North Carolina.

Sturdivant is pretty strong which is obviously a useful trait for a linebacker. He sees stuff happening early and reacts quickly, showing good instincts against both the run and the pass. His coverage skills are good which is handy for a linebacker who will probably find himself dropping off to cover tight ends etc if he gets onto the field. His run defense needs a bit of work still, as he occasionally seems to come down quickly into a blob of players and then disappears beneath the ensuing pile. For where he was taken, not a bad pick.

The second of Arizona's sixth rounders was defensive end David Carter. I didn't get to see Carter prior to the draft but have since had a sit down with a nice big mug of coffee to watch him play, mainly as a defensive tackle. There are three things that I learnt during this moving picture adventure;

1) That Carter is incapable of tucking his shirt(s) in,
2) That he gets blocked very easily and lacks anything that might be discernable as technique or strength,
3) That Tesco value coffee is fucking horrible,

Though to be fair, I should have realised number 3 when I bought the stuff. They don't call it "value" coffee just for laughs. I was surprised about Carter though. My normal assumption about a player who I haven't yet seen is that if that some team picked him then he must have something of value to bring to the party, and must at least have something that made him appear better than the hundred or so legitimate prospects who were drafted after him or went undrafted.

I really, really - not in a million years - cant understand what in the hell anybody in the Cardinals organisation saw in Carter. All I saw was a guy who got stood up and turned sideways every time the ball was snapped. I mean he looked truly awful and how a team with legitimate needs, at quarterback and offensive line among other things, could blow a valuable pick on such a player is just beyond comprehension. It makes no sense.

Finally the Cardinals used their seventh round compensatory selection to take wide receiver DeMarco Sampson, from San Diego State. And perhaps mercifully after seeing their other picks, I cannot get a damn scrap on this kid, so maybe he's another Larry Fitzgerald in the making and he'll team up with the actual Larry Fitzgerald and thus save the Cardinals season.

Of course, that's being optimistic. Just slightly.

So what did I think of the Cardinals draft overall? I thought it sucked. I thought it sucked hard. And I'm left asking myself one simple question; how in the hell did people not rate that as a worse draft than the Seahawks?

Even if, unlike me, you didn't like the Seahawks draft, you still have to admit that this Cardinals draft was a pile of ass. It just.... sucks!

My main complaint is two fold. Number one, they didn't draft a quarterback. They had the opportunity to have the pick of the litter (excluding Newton) in the first round. Now even if they say they don't like any of those guys, what about Ryan Mallett who slid all the way to the Patriots in the third? Surely the Cardinals didn't hate him that much that they looked at him in the second and said "nope, not for us". Man alive.

My second complaint centers around the O-line. Or specifically the fact that the Cardinals wont have one in 2011 at this rate. They only have five O-linemen signed, none of whom is a legit center. Either the Cardinals are banking on bringing back a lot of guys, or they just feel really good about the free agent market. That's a hell of a risky hand to be playing.

I also don't get it in light of the investment in another running back and a fullback. Why, why in the name of God would you invest two picks in yet another running back when you already have three legitimate backs on your roster and have no O-line? Hell, you can go out and pick up a cheap back or two in free agency who can give you some service in a way that cheap O-line free agents generally can't. You even have one running back and two fullbacks as restricted free agents who aren't unlikely to go anywhere.

It makes no sense. None. Of all the players they could have picked, another running back and another fullback were just about their two least pressing needs. What about defensive tackle? I mean seriously, is David Carter the answer? You've got to be kidding me. What about the secondary? What about finding a decent young pass rusher?

This draft class sucks. It is absolutely hideous. From what I can recall just about the only draft that I hated worse than this was the Titans 2011 class. I remember the Raiders being pretty bad too. All I know is this, if I was handing out lettered grades this 2011 Cardinals class would get an "F" for "Fuck you Arizona for making our division look bad again, just as we were recovering a bit of Kudos".

I hate the Cardinals.

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