After advancing to the NFC Championship following a 13-3 season in 2015, the Cardinals have been on the decline. They hit rock bottom in 2018, posting a 3-13 record. Worst in the league on offense, the Cardinals averaged only 14.1 points per game. Also poor defensively, the Cardinals gave up over 26 points per game. They went with Kyler Murray with their first pick in the draft, but who else did the Cardinals select? Let's examine the first six picks.
Round 1 (1st) Kyler Murray (QB) Oklahoma
As a freshman for Texas A&M, Murray rushed for 335 yards and threw for 686 in three starts and eight games overall. He transferred to Oklahoma and was a redshirt in 2016. He played in just seven games as a reserve and made one start in 2017. Last season, Murray exploded onto the national scene, rushing for 1001 yards and 12 touchdowns, while throwing for 4361 yards and 42 touchdowns. His efforts earned him first-team AP All-American honors and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year among others. He joined Deshaun Watson as the only two quarterbacks in FBS history to rush for 1000 and throw for 4000 in the same season.
New head coach Kliff Kingsbury is a huge fan of Murray, which made it easy for them to move away from Josh Rosen. The question about Murray will be his durability due to his relative lack of size and 5’ 10”. Murray is extremely athletic and mobile, who throughout college avoided big hits. He seems well-suited to run the offensive scheme that Kingsbury will use. It’s just a matter of Murray staying on the field. If he can, the Cardinals should have a successful attack.
Round 2 (33rd) Byron Murphy (CB) Washington
Murphy was a redshirt freshman and was noted for his work on the scout team. The following season, he played in only three games a freshman due to a broken foot. Murphy had some good games late, including an interception in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State. He recorded 58 tackles and four interceptions as a sophomore, earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors.
As a second round selection, Murphy should be in position to contribute from the start. He adds depth to a secondary that was torched last season. The one starter at corner is Patrick Peterson, but Murphy could challenge for the other starting spot this season. He displays all the skills necessary to succeed at the NFL level and is a find pick for the Cardinals at this spot.
Round 2 (62nd)Andy Isabella (WR) Massachusetts
As a freshman, Isabella was mainly a kick returner before starting ten games as a sophomore in 2016, catching 62 passes for 801 yards and seven touchdowns. He surpassed those totals as a junior, hauling in 65 for 1020 yards and ten touchdowns. Getting the eyes of the scouts as a senior, Isabella had 102 receptions for 1698 yards and 13 touchdowns, earning second-team AP All-American honors.
Isabella was part of the Josh Rosen trade to the Dolphins for the 62nd selection. Not gifted with size, at only 5’ 9”, Isabella is very fast and can stretch the field. However, the Cardinals still need a big, physical receiver. However, Isabella has versatility and can help the Cardinals in the kick return game, so he should provide some sort of immediate impact.
Round 3 (65th) Zach Allen (DE) Boston College
Playing sparingly as a freshman, recording only two tackles, Allen made a more significant impact in 2016 with 36 tackles and six sacks. Earning honorable mention All-ACC as a junior, Allen had a team high 15.5 tackles for loss of yardage and 100 tackles overall. As a senior, Allen had 61 tackles, 6.5 interceptions, 15 tackles for loss and two blocked kicks, earning second-team All-ACC.
Allen has good size at 6’ 4” and 280 pounds and the ability to but an effective run stopper. Best suited for a 3-4 defense, Allen is a solid pick for a team that is in need of added bodies along the defensive line. Although maybe not a starter this season, Allen should be in the mix and see some action on a consistent basis.
Round 4 (103rd) Hakeem Butler (WR) Iowa State
As a redshirt freshman in 2016, Butler caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He had a more significant role in 2017, scoring seven times on 41 catches, earning honorable mention all-conference. Butler was among the top ten in receiving yards with nine touchdowns last season, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors.
After Michael Floyd left after 2016, the Cardinals have been searching for a big, physical receiver. They may have just found their man in Butler, who comes in at 6’ 5” and just under 230 pounds. He has adequate speed and has the physical traits to outduel defensive backs for the ball in one-on-one situations.
Round 5 (115th) Deionte Thompson (S) Alabama
Thompson was mainly a special teams player as a freshman and sophomore, starting only two games during that time, making 34 tackles with one interception in that period. He got a chance to play last season and was first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC, registering 79 tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Once a weak part of the defense, the addition of Thompson adds depth at safety, as the position is showing signs of being a solid unit. Thompson has decent size at 6’ 1” and just under 200 pounds. The problem with getting him on the field this season is his relative lack of experience, having started only one season. The amount of playing time Thompson sees this season will be a direct relationship as to how fast he learns and develops into an NFL safety.