BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has been the head man for three NFL drafts now, and for the most part, he’s nailed them all, including the 2015 NFL Draft, which saw some budding superstars emerge in running back David Johnson, outside linebacker Markus Golden, defensive tackle Rodney Gunter and wide receiver J.J. Nelson.
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks graded out Arizona’s 2015 rookie class, and he was quite impressed with the group, giving them a B+.
Here’s what Brooks had to say about the class, along with some positions he thinks the team should focus on during the NFL Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis, Ind.:
“The Cardinals have emerged as a heavyweight in the NFC behind a talent-laden roster loaded with young playmakers,” Brooks said. “The “Birdgang” will remain among the NFL’s elite with a rookie class that showed tremendous promise throughout the season.”
“David Johnson is an impressive all-purpose RB1 with the size, strength and speed to deliver explosive plays as a runner or receiver,” Brooks said. “He amassed over 1,000 scrimmage yards — and really delivered the goods as the Cardinals‘ feature back down the stretch of the season.”
“J.J. Nelson flashed big-play ability as a deep threat on the perimeter,” Brooks said. “Although he only snagged 11 receptions during the regular season, seven of those grabs went for 20-plus yards, showing a glimpse of his impact potential.”
“Markus Golden was a nice find as an energetic pass rusher off the edge,” Brooks said. “He not only has a knack for getting home (four sacks, to go along with two forced fumbles), but he plays with a relentless spirit that energizes the unit.”
“D.J. Humphries failed to make a positive impression as a rookie, but he remains a talented prospect with immense potential,” Brooks said.
As far as the Combine goes, here’s Brooks thoughts on that:
“The Cardinals‘ defense needs to replenish the active rushers along the front line, something they could do with the No. 29 pick in the draft,” Brooks said. “Thus, the team likely will spend much of the combine visiting with the likes of Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell and Boise State’s Kamalei Correa to see if they can fill roles as edge rushers. The Cardinals also could study Clemson’s Kevin Dodd and Oregon’s DeForest Buckner to project their potential as five-techniques in Arizona’s 3-4 scheme.”