As we make our way through our summer draft grade series we find ourselves out west with a peculiar team that has a lot on the line this upcoming season.
The Arizona Cardinals got off to a really hot start during general manager Steve Keim’s first few years. With Bruce Arians as his first coaching hire, Keim saw three consecutive double-digit winning seasons with back-to-back playoff appearances from 2013-15. Since then the Cardinals have yet to finish above .500. They finished last season 8-8 in a very competitive NFC West, so it’s not to say this franchise is bottom of the NFL barrel. But with Keim in Arizona as long as he has been, it’s about time for his squads to make the playoffs again—if they don’t he could certainly be on his way out soon.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was this organization's splash hire back in 2019, and with him came first-overall pick, quarterback Kyler Murray. Both have been fine but haven’t been the take-the-league-by-storm additions some hoped they would be. This could really be the year the Cardinals take that leap; on the flip side, with another strong year on the horizon in the division, a fourth-place finish could turn the tides in a bad way for this group.
Let’s look at his last three draft classes to see what kind of roster Keim’s been able to build.
2020 Draft Class
- Round 1: Isaiah Simmons, LB
- Round 3: Josh Jones, OT
- Round 4: Leki Fotu, OT
- Round 4: Rashard Lawrence, DT
- Round 6: Evan Weaver, LB
- Round 7: Eno Benjamin, RB
This isn’t a great start. We thought Simmons was going to come in and be one of the top defensive rookies in the league, but that wasn’t the case. The Cardinals couldn’t exactly find the right spot to get the most out of Simmons in his first season and, to be honest, a lot of that had to do with Simmons himself. Fotu and Jones played sparingly this past year, but when they did it was clear they were rookies making the transition.
This class had almost no impact at all on the team in their first season. It will be quite the climb for this group to redeem themselves in Year 2.
Draft grade: D
2019 Draft Class
- Round 1: Kyler Murray, QB
- Round 2: Byron Murphy, CB
- Round 2: Andy Isabella, WR
- Round 3: Zach Allen, DE
- Round 4: Hakeem Butler, WR
- Round 5: Deionte Thompson, S
- Round 6: KeeSean Johnson, WR
- Round 6: Lamont Gaillard, IOL
- Round 7: Joshua Miles, OT
- Round 7: Michael Dogbe, DE
- Round 7: Caleb Wilson, TE
The 2019 group was headlined by Murry, who is a star from the group. Some people will argue Murray has shown his limitations and are worried about how good he can be, but he has shown flashes of really strong play, especially considering where the position was before he arrived. Murphy has been good for them as an inside/out cornerback, but the rest of the group has not been ideal. Allen and Johnson have been okay; but Isabella, Butler, and Thompson have all been minimal impact players or underperformed, even for their draft spots. Butler is not even there anymore.
With a lot of picks in hand, this class looks like a lot of swings and a lot of misses outside the top two players.
Draft grade: C
2018 Draft Class
- Round 1: Josh Rosen, QB
- Round 2: Christian Kirk, WR
- Round 3: Mason Cole, IOL
- Round 3: Chase Edmonds, RB
- Round 6: Christian Cole, CB
- Round 7: Korey Cunningham, OT
If you were looking for some saving grace for Keim’s drafting staff, you’re not going to find it here. Rosen was a top-10 selection that the Cardinals moved on from a year later, Kirk has been fine but not impactful, and Cole is now in Minnesota. Edmonds might be Arizona’s starting running back this year, so it’s not all bad. But this class stunk.
Draft grade: D-
There’s a reason we’re doing this series, and that’s to determine how close teams are to making playoff pushes or how close they might be to rebuilding due to recent team-building results. The results haven’t been the worst for the Cardinals, but the last three drafts have not given Cardinals fans much to cheer for; eventually, that might come back to bite Arizona in a big way.