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NFL Draft: Grading Cardinals' early round selections

With the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, CardinalsSource takes a look at Arizona's first three selections of the weekend and offers our analysis of what the franchise is getting in each player.

1st round: Haason Reddick

Grade: B+

Summary: When the Cardinals found themselves on the clock with the 13th overall pick in this year's draft, even general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians likely weren't prepared for the number of quality defensive players still available. After nine of the first 12 players selected were offensive players --including three quarterbacks-- Arizona had no shortage of potential immediate impact contributors left on its board.

The Cardinals ultimately decided to go with Reddick, a pick the national media fell in love with because he possesses a rare blend of speed and explosiveness and has the versatility to play either inside or outside linebacker. That positional flexibility is the very reason the Cardinals fell in love with him, and the decision to draft Reddick is very much in line with how the organization values players.

The reason we didn't give the selection of Reddick an 'A' is because there's a possibility that Reddick never develops into more than a sub-package player, because he's a bit slight to play on the edge in the NFL and he's never played inside linebacker at any level.

To draft a player who doesn't necessarily have a natural position is a bit of a risk when you own the 13th overall pick, but it's obviously a risk the Cardinals were very comfortable with. Reddick's tape playing outside linebacker suggests he has transferrable traits to become a 3-4 Mike or Will, but if the Cardinals are hoping their first round pick contributes on more than just third downs as a rookie, they'll need Reddick to make significant strides during training camp.

2nd round: Budda Baker

Grade: A

Summary: Our highest mark for any Cardinals' draft pick goes to the Washington safety who was still available early in the second round. Though Keim had to surrender a handful of selections to move up the board to draft Baker, he's the player best equipped to help the Cardinals immediately and fills a significant need at the back end of the team's defense.

Baker is only 5-foot-10 and slipped out of the first round because of long-term questions about his durability, but make no mistake, he's a first round talent who should help offset the losses of Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger to free agency.

Baker has drawn comparisons to current Cardinals' safety Tyrann Mathieu because he can serve as a nickel corner as well as a deep safety, but Mathieu has better ball skills and a more innate feel for making plays closer to the line of scrimmage. With that being said, Baker might have a higher ceiling as a coverage player because he tracks receivers closely and has such natural instincts. 

Aside from providing the Cardinals with help at the back end of their defense, Baker can aid Arizona as a special teams asset as well. Baker ran the fourth fastest 40-yard dash time of any safety at the NFL Combine, and you can be sure the Cardinals will find a way to take advantage of that speed in creative ways.

3rd round: Chad Williams

Grade: B+

Summary: By nature of Williams playing his college ball at Grambling State and having a limited amount of film for us to view, his selection is the hardest grade to peg. Williams could be the next player in a growing line of third round studs the Cardinals have snagged under Keim and Arians, or he could flame out completely and be overwhelmed by the speed of the game in the NFL.

Much like the selection of Reddick, this choice was philosophically in line with the Cardinals' organizational approach to the draft because Williams plays at a position of need, boasts top end speed and is a small school talent. There's nothing the Cardinals love more than flexing the muscle of their scouting department, and if Williams pans out, Arizona will again able to celebrate the achievement of finding a diamond in the rough.

Aside from Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, Williams was the first player selected who didn't receive an invite to the NFL Combine. The Cardinals were initially on the clock with the 77th overall pick in the third round, but the team probably had its eyes on Williams all along and knew he would still be there much later on.

By trading the 77th pick to Carolina, Arizona moved back in the third round, chose Williams, and gained a fourth round pick it used to select a potential impact player along the offensive line. That move alone proved Keim and Co. had a clear strategy on day two of the draft and executed it well, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact Williams will have at the next level.

Williams could be the next John Brown, a small school wide receiver with blazing speed who finds immediate success in the Cardinals' offense, or he could be the next Marqui Christian, a small school whiff that was essentially the scouting department's version of a heat check. Time will tell, but for the time being, we can't go higher than B+. 


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