I think the Cardinals are the most likely team to be as good as they normally are, but with a very high chance of completely falling apart. This season hinges on how good Carson Palmer is and after how poorly he has looked in the past year and a half leading up to this season I doubt he will get back to form. I know Palmer is younger than the likes of Brady and such, but he has sustained a ton of injuries over his career and I think it has finally caught up to the veteran quarterback. If the season looks like it is getting out of hand from them I can see a lot of change coming to this team next off season and it will be interesting to see what happens there. Overall, this team has some very high end players, but not enough solid players across the board to make a real Super Bowl contender like the Patriots, Seahawks, or Packers.
This offense is what worries me the most with very little depth at some key positions. None more so than behind Carson Palmer where their back ups are Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton, and Trevor Knight. Those guys will not get the job done if Palmer gets hurt or continues to play poorly. Plus, their offensive line is one of the weakest ones in the league where there is no defining stand out blocker to lean on. Mike Iupati is the only true stud on the line, but I think his play has declined since his big contract. Meanwhile, former first rounder D.J. Humphries needs to show something or else he will most likely be labeled a bust. Now at the skill positions on offense they have a stud running back in David Johnson, but after the past few seasons of getting nicked up his health needs to start being questioned more. The depth behind him is not that great either in case he gets hurt again where a lazy Chris Johnson is the next viable option. Then there's the receiver position where the front office has decided to continue to put it on an aging Larry Fitzgerald's shoulders to move the ball down field. A lot of people love John Brown, and J.J Nelson, but to me their both the same thing in terms of explosive production if they can stay healthy. Plus, both are too undersized to handle a big work load if Fitzgerald gets hurt. I was really hoping they would solve that issue via the draft, but I guess they will worry about it once Fitz actually retires. I also, hoped they would find a real tight end option to open up the middle of the field, but they will continue to trot out former first round bust Jermaine Gresham.
This defense will always be a threat to slow down offenses as long as their secondary stays intact and by that I mean everyone outside of Patrick Peterson. Even Peterson I worry about since we have seen many top corners fall off a cliff production wise as they get older like Darrell Revis, and Joe Haden where their main traits were their speed like Peterson. Not that I hope he stops playing well, Peterson is one of my favorite players it's just hard to predict when the floor will show up on corners. Meanwhile, the corner opposite of him may well be Justin Bethel a special team star, journyman Tyvon Branch, or Tramon Williams....yikes that's bad. That was another position I was hoping they worked on in the draft. Safety should be a strength if Tyrann Mathieu can stay healthy, but that's a doubtful proposition since he has never played a full season in his career. I liked the pick up of Antoine Bethea, but I really hope Budda Baker makes the starting line up on week one. That kid has a lot of potential and similar traits to Peterson and Mathieu to fit very well in their defense. Up front may look different on the line after stand out Calais Campbell left for Jacksonville this off season. To me they did not do enough to patch that hole where Rodney Gunter or Josh Mauro figure to start. They better hope last year's first rounder and highly touted high school recruit Robert Nkemidche can keep his head on straight and play to his potential. I do like that they retained Chandler Jones and have emerging star Markus Golden across from him to create a nice pass rush. I also really hope their first round pick Haason Reddick can start next to Deonne Buchannon since I am not a fan of a severely undersized linebacker being my only stud on the inside.
In the end, I can see this team being a major disappointment and stun many pundits with how bad their record will end up. I do not expect Palmer to play to a high level again and can see this as a lame duck year much like Peyton Manning was in his last season. It does not help that his surrounding cast is less than what is desired for an aging weak armed quarterback. This defense will also not be as great as years prior with question marks from front to back at several key positions and many injury concerns across the roster. They may be able to sweep the season series against the Rams and 49ers, but I always think divisional match ups are hard to predict since they know each other so well and even the bad teams generally play better. I doubt they beat the Seahawks in either of their match ups. Then they face off against the Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, Bucs, Texans, Titans, and Giants are the teams I can see beating them and even bad teams like the Jags or Colts can pull off wins I think. I think this team will end up with a disappointing 4-12 season and with many questions about what direction they want to go in.
1 (13) - Haason Reddick LB - Talent wise and need wise this was the right pick for the Cardinals who needed a linebacker with proper size to pair with their undersized converted safety Deonne Buchannon. However, I believe inside linebackers or those off the line have been almost made a non factor in the out come of the game. With teams running less they are not really needed to stop the run then in the pass game they can be easily picked apart in a mismatch against a bigger and fast tight end or even a quick small receiver. Look at how little of an impact Luke Kuechly, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Vontaze Burfict, Navorro Bowman, and others have not been on many winning teams unless they have a good quarterback or a great surrounding cast. Heck even Bobby Wagner one of the best linebackers in the game would not be winning games without his great line and secondary. The Giants win all the time with a poor linebacking corp and same can be said about the Packers on the interior. In the end, they could have done better with this pick like taking a corner or defensive lineman. Not to say Reddick will be a bust or anything I actually think he will be a fine player.
2 (4) - Budda Baker S - This was a great pick by the Cardinals who have a lot of injury concerns in their safety unit. Mainly with Tyrann Mathieu who has never played a full season. I do wonder about Baker's ceiling due to his slight stature being only 5'10" and 195 lbs where defending tight ends may be an issue. He is a better tackler than expected and plays with a high level of intelligence, but in the NFL where ever one is bigger and faster his adjustment period may take longer than others. I expect him to beat out aging Antoine Bethea and will have an up and down season that shows a ton of promise moving forward.
3 (34) - Chad Williams WR - Williams looked nice at the East-West shrine game and during the pre draft process, but I think they could have done better. Of course the Cardinals took a shot on him with his off field concerns with their willingness to take on players with baggage. I love that his has nice size compared to the current receivers behind Fitzpatrick, but I was not in love with his lack of explosive play on the outside. He may turn out to be a nice receiver, but I wish they could have done more at a position where they have very little depth.
4 (8) - Dorian Johnson OG - They did need better depth on the line behind the over paid and oft-injured Mike Iupati and also the mediocre Evan Boehm. Johnson has a lack of overall strength, which is why he slid down to the 4th round, but he is a nice technician when you watch his tape. I doubt he breaks on to the starting roster barring an injury or if he pops right away. He has some nice potential to develop into a quality starter in a year or two at best in my opinion.
5 (13) - Will Holden OT - I love this pick way more than the Johnson pick prior to this one. Holden may just be a right tackle in the NFL, but to me he is ready to start right away with his strength, and quality hand work. I doubt he will ever be an All-Pro or anything, but I can see him be an above average blocker throughout his career. His upside is a bit limited, which is why he slid down in the draft or was not that highly talked about. However, they got a potential starter from day one if needed in the 5th round.
5 (36) - T.J. Logan RB - Unfortunately, the potential quality back up running back broke his wrist at practice and will need possibly 12 weeks until he is ready to come back to the field. It's unfortunate for the rookie who had talent to be a quality change of pace back behind David Johnson. We will have to wait and see where his potential lies.
6 (24) - Ruby Ford S - Coming into the year Ford had a lot of potential as a high draft selection prior to getting nicked up his last year at Auburn. I do think he has the explosive quality and ball skills to be a potential great late round find. I do like to see him get stronger and less injury prone to stay on the field. He will most likely take over as a strong special teamer to start his career and possibly being a nice depth option at a weak position for the Cardinals.
2018 Off Season:
I think next off season is going to bring a lot of change for the Cardinals if they play as poorly as I expect. If they do end up with a 4-12 season I think Bruce Arians will just retire given his myriad of health problems and age. Meanwhile, GM Steve Keim may be needed to be replaced after build this roster with very little depth and taking too many risk on players with poor health over the years via the draft. Whatever happens next off season the biggest key will be replacing Carson Palmer or finding his understudy if they really wish to keep the veteran for another year. Plus, Larry Fitzgerald is probably going to retire and the depth behind him needs a lot of work. Same can be said about their secondary outside of Peterson and a healthy Mathieu. Overall, next year's off season will be an interesting one out in the desert.
My 2018 Mock Draft:
1 (4) - Josh Rosen QB UCLA
2 (4) - Troy Fumagalli TE Wisconsin