In the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals drafted quarterback Ryan Lindley from San Diego State University. As an Aztec fan, I was excited to see Lindley get drafted, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but scratch my head about this pick.
The Cardinals have three other quarterbacks on their roster. Kevin Kolb will most likely be the starter, considering that he just got a huge bonus after the Cardinals were officially out on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Despite Cardinals fans’ excitement when they got Kolb in a huge trade before the 2011 season, Kolb’s season was a bit of disappointment, marred by injuries and inaccuracy issues.
John Skelton, the second-string quarterback, actually won more games than Kolb and may have been the favorite for Cardinals fans. Skelton won five of seven games that he started. Without Skelton, the Cardinals might have had a worse record than 8-8.
Then there’s Richard Bartel, who may be the third stringer. It’s uncertain whether Lindley will beat Bartel in training camp and take Bartel’s old job. Bartel is in the last year of his contract and may be on his way out if Lindley takes his spot.
It’s unlikely that Lindley will beat Kolb and Skelton for the start next season and I’m sure most other people do not expect this to happen either. Kolb or Skelton will start, this we know for sure. But as certain as Cardinals fans are about Kolb or Skelton starting, there doesn’t seem to be much certainty about who the future quarterback will be.
Does that mean Lindley could be the future? As of right now, I doubt it, but who knows what will happen later on down the road.
Lindley could have been brought in for a couple of reasons. He could’ve been drafted to give Kolb, Skelton and Bartel the impression that their jobs are not necessarily set in stone.
But I don’t know how I feel about that reasoning, considering the Cardinals did go after Manning during the offseason. And when your team goes after a guy like Manning and makes no attempt to be discreet about it, they are obviously telling their team that they are not fully committed to their quarterbacks. They didn't need to draft Lindley to make that point clear.
There’s another reason why Lindley might have been drafted and I think I like this one better. I'll get to that reason momentarily.
As a junior, Lindley completed 243 of 421 of his passes, threw for 3,830 yards and 28 touchdowns. These numbers were an improvement of his sophomore and freshman season, and at the time, it looked like Lindley was on the rise.
However, Lindley’s numbers weren’t as great in his senior season. He completed 237 of 447 of his passes, threw for 3,153 yards and scored 23 touchdowns. His completion percentage dropped 57.72 to 53.02.
The most probable reason for his decline was losing his two favorite receivers at SDSU to the NFL the prior season: Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. While the San Diego Chargers drafted Brown, the Cardinals drafted Sampson. This means that Lindley will get to throw some passes to one of his favorite receivers, Sampson.
It should be noted though, that Lindley's numbers as senior are still impressive, when considering he lost both of his starters and was throwing to guys like Dylan Denso and Colin Lockett. Denso had only caught four passes before becoming a starter and Lockett was a converted cornerback. Lindley's experience, ability to adapt and utilize the weapons he has was probably one of the reasons why he was drafted.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he watched a lot of tape on Lindley. It was convenient too, because most of the time when Whisenhunt was watching Sampson, he was also watching Sampson catches passes thrown by Lindley.
Whisenhunt also said he wants to load up his roster with a few quarterbacks and have them all compete. He believes that it's necessary to do so in this league.
As I mentioned, Lindley needs to develop, but he's not a bad quarterback. There’s a reason why he was drafted. He’s got some accuracy issues though, and those will need to be addressed.
But in developing Lindley, the Cardinals will have an opportunity to improve their secondary by putting them up against Lindley and Sampson. Lindley has a strong arm and can throw some deep passes that guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd can catch.
It’s unsure whether Lindley is going to be the future quarterback for the Cardinals. He’s going to need some time to develop. And if Skelton’s contract expires and is no longer a Cardinal, Lindley may become the second string quarterback.
But one last thing to note about Lindley is that his issues of accuracy and footwork are issues that he shares with Kolb and Skelton. Unlike Kolb and Skelton, Lindley will have more time to develop his footwork and may become an improvement over Kolb someday.
That is, if Lindley makes the roster. And I believe that he will.