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With Draftees, A Waiting Game

Posted Apr 30, 2012

No way to know yet what picks will produce this season

Cards' No. 1 pick Michael Floyd hauls in a pass this past season, but there's no way to know yet what he'll do for the Cards this season. (For a list of the Cards' undrafted rookie signings, click here.)

It’s all guesswork.

Not the draft itself – not with the hours each team puts into sorting through all the players and grading their potential, although there is an element of guessing even in that – but the draft aftermath. It’s impossible to know how the new group will turn out, especially in the days right after they were picked.

“Obviously,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “what you are going to say at the end of the draft is you are excited about the guys that you picked.”

There’s no reason not to think that. The man-hours put in to find those players should leave the team encouraged. But even Whisenhunt – who makes his rookies earn their time – made mention a couple of times over the weekend how a player like Michael Floyd, for instance, hadn’t proven anything yet on the NFL level.

It’s easy to sit and think Floyd will suddenly be the No. 2 receiver. Or that fourth-round pick Bobby Massie will be the starting right tackle. Those fit the narrative, especially in April. There is so much time before games begin for real, however.

The glare of the spotlight is always intense draft weekend. Even the players selected late bring with them a certain attention.

Think back to 2011. The Cardinals spent a sixth-round pick on Quan Sturdivant and at the time, it looked like a bargain, especially with the Cards needing depth at inside linebacker. By the time the season began, though, Stewart Bradley had been signed, and Sturdivant spent the season on the practice squad.

The 2012 season is going to turn not on Floyd, or Massie, or Jamell Fleming. It’ll turn on Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb (or John Skelton), and Calais Campbell and Adrian Wilson. It’ll be the veterans of drafts past, such as Daryl Washington and Levi Brown, who will have the greatest impact right away.

That doesn’t mean younger players can’t contribute. No one probably would have guessed that Sturdivant’s sixth-round partner last year, David Carter, played significantly at nose tackle and upstaged former No. 1 draft pick Dan Williams in training camp.

Taking away the injury equation that would force someone to play, Fleming and sixth-rounder Justin Bethel could be active just to play special teams this year. The Cards lost key special teamers like Richard Marshall and Sean Considine and they need to be replaced.

The way the offensive line eventually shakes out may be the most intriguing part of what came from the draft. Whisenhunt mentioned the need to get younger talent in the pipeline, but can, for instance, Massie make enough of a step forward to dislodge Jeremy Bridges as right tackle? Is seventh-rounder Nate Potter better than, for instance, D’Anthony Batiste?

Perhaps the only guarantee – and things, I suppose, can always change – is that quarterback Ryan Lindley will be fighting to be the third-string quarterback. Rich Bartel will have his opportunities to be the backup in theory, but with Kolb and Skelton dueling for the starting job, it will be an upset if the loser of that battle isn’t No. 2. That leaves one spot for Bartel and Lindley, because it’s unlikely Whisenhunt will choose to have four QBs, even if one was on the practice squad.

“At the end of the day, the fans wanted us to be in a position where we had an improved football team,” general manager Rod Graves said. “I think we have certainly given us a chance to do that.”

In the draft aftermath, that’s all a team can ask for.

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