2015 NFL Draft: Arizona Cardinals Draft Grades

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DE Shaq Riddick (No. 158)

Oct 11, 2014; Lubbock, TX, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers defensive back Shaq Riddick (4) rushes Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb (7) in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals got a high value pick taking Riddick here. He’s got the baseline requirements of a really good edge rusher. He’s smart, he’s put on some weight to make sure he can compete at the pro level, and he is really, really fast.

He’s more of a linebacker than he is a defensive end with the Cardinals, and he’ll probably get more playing time by moving back there, The Cards added two other defensive ends in the draft and already have a few on the roster. Regardless of how Riddick fits in, it looks like the Cards should try to get him in the game.

Riddick is a good player. With any luck, he’ll turn out to be a big time steal, something that would definitely improve the overall prognosis of Arizona’s draft. He’s a freak athlete who looks like he belongs. Getting that sort of player in the fifth round is lucky.

Grade: A

WR J.J. Nelson (No. 159)

Oct 25, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; UAB Blazers punt returner J.J. Nelson (1) on a punt return during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas defeated UAB 45-17. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson is 5’10”, weighs 154 pounds, and ran a 4.28 at the combine. I stared at those numbers for a few seconds just to make totally sure I wasn’t misreading. This young man is really small, but he’s also really fast.

The Cardinals picked him to be a special teams returner, a position that Arizona has not been able to comfortably fill for the last couple of years. With that in mind, they made a smart call by picking someone with a high motor. However, Nelson may not have been the best way to do that.

He’s fast, but he doesn’t change direction well, and physically is not big enough to absorb contact. This is a big issue. It’s not a great combination of being unable to avoid hits but also being unable to take them.

I certainly don’t feel like this was a bad pick. Young guys tend to bulk up when they reach the pros if they put in the work. That is something he’ll need to do to be effective. He still has the speed needed to give something to the Cards on special teams, which has been an underrated killer for a while now.


TE Gerald Christian (No. 256)

Nov 29, 2014; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals tight end Gerald Christian (18) runs the ball against Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Josh Forrest (45) during the second quarter at Papa John

Arizona went the route of tight end with the last pick of the draft. This year’s Mr. Irrelevant is a solid athlete who’s a good blocker. He isn’t much of a receiver, but Arizona doesn’t need him to be.

With starting tight end John Carlson announcing his retirement this morning, Christian is a decent bet to make the roster. I’m a-okay with that. If Arizona can maybe find a veteran tight end to be the first guy, Christian can be in when an extra blocker is needed and Troy Niklas can take over when more receiving is called for.

The tight end position has not been one area of strength for Arizona in a while. Christian won’t single-handedly fix that. However, if your seventh round pick is a guy with a clearly defined skill set that can help your team, that’s a fine pick

Grade: B+


Ultimately, this draft is nothing to throw a huge party over. They made mostly decent to good picks, but they didn’t translate to a ton of immediate impact guys. The Cardinals are not leaps better than they were a week ago.

The good news is that they don’t really need to be. Keim wanted to use the draft as an opportunity to fill the remaining cracks. Picking up some edge rushers, a solid running back, a fast return man, and an offensive line upgrade fits that bill nicely.

The Cardinals have a couple of guys who will immediately play, a couple others who will wait their turn, and a couple whose contributions are up in the air. That’s not something to be displeased with. Keim has proven to be a capable drafter, and he added to his resume this time.

Final Grade: B+