Arizona Cardinals: Poor drafts having debilitating effect

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01: Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01: Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche /

A collection of draft-day blunders by Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim have impeded the franchise’s progress

It’s finally catching up with the Arizona Cardinals. It’s possible to overcome some miscalculations on draft days. But when a front office makes too many mistakes with the evaluation process, it can certainly have a direct effect on their squad’s won-loss record.

That appears to have happened with the Cardinals. Their record dipped to 7-8-1 last season after a franchise-best 13-3 in 2015. Bad draft picks may have contributed to that lack of winning.

The Cards’ current regime was set in place back in 2013. That’s the year that Steve Keim was elevated to the general manager position. His first two seasons on the job resulted in consecutive “NFL Executive of the Year” awards in 2013-14, but success has been spotty ever since.

The very first draft pick of Keim’s tenure turned out to be a major bust. University of North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh-overall pick of the ’13 draft, was the culprit. He was traded away in 2016 as part of the Chandler Jones trade after three uninspiring campaigns in the desert.

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Arizona’s second-round pick in 2014, Troy Niklas, is still with the organization. Coming out of Notre Dame, “your wife’s favorite player” was supposed to be a perfect combination of a pass-catcher and blocker. But injuries have made Niklas an almost afterthought, and he has hauled in just 10 balls in his three-plus years.

Quarterback Logan Thomas, a fourth-rounder in ’14, was regarded as a possible successor for Carson Palmer. The raw prospect never even came close to succeeding as a passer. Draft-day experts knew that Thomas was a project, so drafting him as high as the Cardinals did made no sense at all.

The jury us still out on 2015’s first-round pick, D.J. Humphries. The offensive tackle red-shirted as a rookie, failing to dress for any contests that season. Humphries played both tackle spots in ’16, but has been placed on the left side for this campaign.

The 2016 crop is not looking promising in the least. First-round pick Robert Nkemdiche has been constantly battling nagging injuries. And even when the defensive tackle has played (which hasn’t been very often), he’s had very little impact.

The third-round pick from last year, cornerback Brandon Williams, was chosen to be a starter. However, the former college running back has thus far been a disappointment. The Cards’ current starter at right guard, fourth-rounder Evan Boehm, has not played well and could be benched at any time.

It’s too early to judge Keim’s 2017 draft. Nevertheless, third-round wide receiver Chad Williams has contributed just two receptions in three games. And guard Dorian Johnson was initially thought to be a steal in the fourth round, but ended up on the practice squad.

That’s quite a few misses on some very valuable draft picks by Keim. Misjudgements that are proving costly. Arizona will need much better results on future draft days going forward.