Tackle D.J. Humphries, a 2015 first-round pick, sat out his entire rookie year, but started in his second year..
D.J. Humphries understands from both sides.
Two years ago, the offensive tackle was the first-round pick the Cardinals sat on the bench the entire season, OK with "redshirting" him as a rookie. Last year, he made his way into the lineup – only to see the new first-round pick, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, essentially sit out most of the season himself, unable to contribute much.
"My situation taught me first-hand to not expect," Humphries said. "Some people need time to develop, some people are ready. First-rounders like me who are 21 … it takes a lot for a 21-year-old to understand what it takes in the National Football League. With Robert, I have a lot more sympathy because I've been through that."
There is a third side, however. It's the Cardinals' side, specifically the side that says after some key free-agent losses, taking a player – probably a defensive player – in the first round to slide in and help right away could be
The last two seasons, the Cardinals built up a roster that could withstand a decision of patience for first-rounders. The team still had Bobby Massie to play tackle in Humphries' rookie year, and had eight defensive linemen besides Nkemdiche going into last season.
Coach Bruce Arians said there is "no doubt" the roster is deep enough to deal with a first-round rookie sitting. If the Cardinals were to select a quarterback first, a redshirt would be all but automatic. As for other positions, Arians said he'd be "OK" with it.
"Using the last two (first-rounders), they are really good players," Arians said. "They are going to be great players but that does not necessarily happen their rookie year."
Since the Cardinals selected Patrick Peterson in the first round in 2011 – fifth overall – the team has had mixed results. The 13th pick of the 2012 draft was wide receiver Michael Floyd, who had been solid before struggling last season and eventually getting released before the season ended. In the first draft as GM for Steve Keim, the team took guard Jonathan Cooper seventh overall, and Cooper seemed to be a solid choice – until a preseason broken leg
ended his year and helped derail his career in Arizona.
Deone Bucannon has turned into a good player as the 2014 first-round pick, while the jury remains out on Humphries and Nkemdiche.
Keim and the Cardinals feel they have a good process – Arians isn't the only one hopeful for the future of Humphries and Nkemdiche – but Keim acknowledges he knows people are looking at his first-round picks.
"Your name is attached to it," Keim said. "It's your job. Whether you hit on the good ones or you miss, you've just got to be honest about the process. The evaluation process is not easy. There are a lot of armchair GMs saying who you should've picked and those things, but at the end of the day, you've got to trust your eyes and understand the part of process of getting to know these players as people. Having a guy like D.J. stepping to the plate and playing well after sitting his rookie season, it does give you some confidence to trust your instincts."
This draft class as a whole is crucial – the draft "is the lifeblood of every NFL organization," Keim said – because it's the place the Cardinals can build for the future for lower costs. Missing in the draft can set a franchise back.
In the short-term, though, the Cardinals wouldn't mind an immediate boost in 2017.
"I'm very interested in seeing who we take," Humphries said. "Whoever we get, I'm pretty sure those guys will know what they are doing."
Week 2 pictures of the Cardinals during strength and conditioning work