4 Players the Arizona Cardinals Will Regret Passing on in the 2012 NFL Draft
ESPN’s Mel Kiper graded the Cards' overall draft as a B-minus, offering that if one of the three tackles Arizona drafted is a hit, it will have filled its two largest needs (receiver Michael Floyd filling the other "big" need).
I would like to have seen one or two of the late-round picks spent on initial depth and possible replacement players for two defensive positions, a thought shared with Kiper himself, so this list of players the Cardinals will regret passing on reflects those positions.
Jonathan Massaquoi, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End
“No help in the pass rush, or at outside linebacker.” —Mel Kiper, Jr. on Arizona’s failure to draft young depth at the pass-rushing position.
Simply to agree with Kiper, I will overlook the fact that “pass rush” and “outside linebacker” means the same thing in defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme.
Massaquoi was selected by Atlanta with the 29th pick (No. 164 overall) of the fifth round and thirteen picks after Arizona selected its second consecutive offensive lineman, guard Senio Kelemete out of the University of Washington.
Kelemete has the ability to contribute as a rookie; however, Massaquoi has loads of potential, to go along with the big body and quickness to be placed in an early rotation with O’Brien Schofield. He would have been used strictly in pass-rushing situations early on while he learned the extensive playbook during the week in between games.
George Iloka, Strong Safety
“I also thought they could use a safety.” —Kiper on Arizona’s need for depth in the defensive backfield.
Once again, I agree.
Cincinnati took Iloka with the final pick before compensatory picks took over in the fifth; just three spots after Atlanta went with Massaquoi.
This option would have perhaps been even better than that of Massaquoi, as Arizona will soon need a true strong safety to replace aging All-Pro Adrian Wilson.
That is not to say Wilson’s play is on the decline.
In fact, it’s quite the contrary, as the 12-year veteran quietly enjoyed one of the best seasons he has had as a professional.
Still, though, the 6’4”, 225-pound Iloka was the perfect replacement candidate to Wilson, as their play on the field is similar. Iloka needs work in taking better angles in both coverage and in the pursuit of ball carriers, and what better player to learn from than one of the best all-around safeties in football?
The world may never know.
Juron Criner, Wide Receiver
“Criner’s a smooth athlete with big and strong hands.” —Kiper on Criner.
The widely talked about No. 2 receiver position is firmly in the hands of Cardinals’ first-round pick (No. 13 overall) Michael Floyd.
Behind him, however, stand two receivers who, despite each producing career-high numbers across the board in 2011, dropped a combined 11.76 percent of catchable passes intended for them, or 14 total passes (via ProFootballFocus.com).
Criner has great size, standing 6’2” and weighing 224 pounds.
He also possesses massive, 10.4-inch hands, allowing him to snag even the most wobbly passes out of the air with little trouble.
Taken with the first compensatory pick in the fifth round to Oakland (No. 168 overall), Criner is underrated and will be a good receiver for many years in the NFL. Adding more athleticism to the depth chart would not have been a poor idea for Arizona.
Markelle Martin, Free Safety
“Martin is a versatile safety who can play near the box and can hold up on the back end in coverage.” —Kiper on the former Oklahoma State Cowboy’s ability at the next level.
Martin was taken with the 20th pick (No. 190 overall) in the sixth round by Tennessee.
With Cardinals FS Kerry Rhodes coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season, Martin could have been a long-term answer at the position if Rhodes’ foot problems were to persist. While the future status of his foot is unknown, what is known is that the soon-to-be 30-year-old Rhodes is owed $5 million in 2012 and another $5 million in 2013, should he exercise the player option in his contract.
2012 could be his final season in Arizona no matter how he—or his team—performs. Having a backup ready to go in the event of his departure would make a transition easier.
Rashad Johnson is on the roster this season, but as a restricted free agent who signed a one-year tender in April, it is not yet known whether Arizona will re-sign him to any kind of contract beyond 2012.