Six-Pack With Draft Expert Chris Steuber

With all the focus on Matt Leinart's make it or break it year, fellow USC alum Deuce Lutui has been flying under the radar, it's time for Lutui to be on the hot seat. Scout.com's draft expert Chris Steuber answers questions about Lutui's future, how NFL ready this year's rookie class is and much more in this AZRedReport.com exclusive.

Amberly Richardson: With the release of Marcel Shipp, Tim Hightower is in a pretty good position with J.J. Arrington as his only competition for the No. 2 role. Edgerrin James has a decade of experience under his belt, what do you think Hightower's chances are of becoming the predecessor of James?

Chris Steuber: It's highly possible, and while it's good to be optimistic about Hightower's potential as a featured back, it's better to be cautiously optimistic. Hightower had a solid career at Richmond and he has ideal size to be an every down back, but his speed is a concern, and he isn't much of a playmaker in the open field. After this season, Edgerrin James has one more year on his contract. I anticipate James will be with the Cardinals next season, and that will give Hightower another season to learn from him.


QB Anthony Morelli
((Eric Gay/AP))

AR: QB Anthony Morelli saw his first action in a Cardinals jersey in their preseason opener versus the New Orleans Saints. He was sacked twice and completed two passes out of six. The Cardinals have their third quarterback in Brian St. Pierre, what does the future look like for a guy like Morelli?

CS: I wasn't very high on Morelli as a prospect, and there's a reason why he wasn't drafted. He has great size and looks the part of a promising quarterback, but when you get him on the field, it's all mental with him. He's got a strong arm and he knows that, so when he tries to squeeze a ball between defenders he appears shocked that it was picked off. His accuracy and decision-making have always been suspect with me, and anytime you're not accurate as a quarterback, that will lead you to being a designated clipboard holder or a journeyman going from camp to camp trying to make a squad.

AR: The Cardinals loaded up on defensive front seven help this off-season, Antonio Smith and Darnell Dockett are expected to start at defensive end, does Calais Campbell or Kenny Iwebema have a shot of beating out either of those guys?

CS: As much as I think Calais Campbell has a chance to be a special player, I don't think he or Kenny Iwebema have a shot at starting this season. The biggest problem I have with Campbell is that he needs a fire lit under him to get motivated and show his true potential. He has tremendous size and could be a difference maker on the outside, but his conditioning is a problem and he has to improve his feet. Iwebema is an interesting prospect who has upside, but he's inconsistent and streaky. He will show glimpses of promise followed by instances of frustration.


Brandon Keith

AR: Arizona's offensive line is gaining some continuity, but if anyone goes down it will be a cold day in Arizona. How ready is Brandon Keith to step up if he has to?

CS: Brandon Keith could step in if he has to, but he will not be a finished product who can consistently hold his own up front. Keith's best attribute is his size and feet. He has to work on his technique. He relies on his strength too much, and that hurts him as defenders with better hand placement get in on him and are able to make plays in the backfield.

AR: Deuce Lutui's former USC teammates Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush are under a lot of pressure this season to step up, should Lutui be feeling the same pressure? Especially since Elton Brown is clicking at his heels for the starting job?

CS: Absolutely, anytime you're not living up to your promise and making mental mistakes, you're not helping your team succeed. Lutui's inconsistency has been a problem and hasn't helped the offensive line block for Kurt Warner or Matt Leinart. Lutui is entering his third season, and by all accounts this is the season you know whether a high draft pick has a chance to become a starter, backup or journeyman.

AR: On a similar note, Ken Whisenhunt pointed out that Lutui made too many "bonehead errors" last season, did his mistakes go unnoticed at USC or is this all about transitioning to the big league, still?

CS: From 2000 – 2007, USC has had 40 players that were drafted into the NFL and only a handful of those prospects have panned out to be quality players. With that said, I think the program Pete Carroll runs at USC is outstanding, and he's able to recruit a lot of great talent, but it makes you wonder if it's the program and the system that allows the players to be successful rather than the true talent they possess. Being surrounded by great talent, especially on the offensive line, has the tendency to hide your flaws, because the talent that surrounds you makes up for what you lack. Like I said, I think this is a huge year for Lutui. This is the year you will finally see if he's for real or a bust.


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