As I stated in my previous article, I was mixed on the Arizona Cardinals draft. It was a decisive draft, for sure, and I believe general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians got the guys they wanted. But with each pick, I found myself going “Who?!” Maybe I don’t know college football as much as I think I do, but most of Arizona’s choices weren’t the guys being hyped up in all the pre-draft media outlets.
So in a way, it may feel like I am picking the lesser of the evils – not entirely the case. I like the upside of almost every pick Arizona made. But it is tough to make a case for every pick being a home run.
With that being said, second round selection and former Fighting Irish tight end Troy Niklas may be Arizona’s closest pick when you factor in all the following: value, fit, team need and potential impact.
First round selection Deone Bucannon is close, but Niklas was a better value at his particular draft position in the eyes of many experts. I still think Bucannon will be a stud, and definitely will impact the 2014 Cardinals more than Niklas will. But in five years, Niklas has a chance to be one of the league’s best tight ends, something Arizona has never really had and shouldn’t be understated.
First off, Troy Niklas fits very nicely with the identity of the Arizona Cardinals under Bruce Arians. Throughout high school and in his freshman year at Notre Dame, Niklas was a two-way player. That versatility manifests itself in his overall skillset as well as his mentality of the game. In his introductory press conference, he said described himself as a guy who loves the physical contact of football, and it shows in his tremendous blocking. That combined with a value for defensive contributions should help him fit in with an Arizona team that is defense-first, like the rest of the NFC West.
In addition, the Niklas pick makes a ton of sense in terms of team need. The current roster has no tight ends to go crazy over. John Carlson, Rob Housler and Jake Ballard have all yet to really break out after each being in the league for at least three years. From a pure talent standpoint, Niklas figures to jump right in to the mix and challenge those guys right out the gate.
In terms of potential impact, Niklas strikes me as a high-floor-high-ceiling kind of guy. He will find the field instantly in run situations because of his blocking game, which is pretty advanced considering his youth. While it’s not very sexy to draft a block-first tight end, Arians knows that guys like that have a place on an NFL roster. And that’s Niklas’ floor. His ceiling will be whatever his receiving game progresses to, which could be anywhere from average to well above average. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, his size alone will give him that tight end advantage, and being a converted defensive end shows he has the athleticism to make the adjustment to being a consistent receiver.
In summary, Arizona drafted Troy Niklas to be the tight end of the future. His current skillset will help him contribute instantly, with the potential to grow into his freakish 6-foot-6 frame. He’s a flat-out football player, and has the greatest chance of the Cardinal draft picks to become a Pro Bowl player. Currently recovering from a sports hernia surgery, I personally can’t wait to see how this guy does in practice. Everything I’ve seen and heard about the guy tells me he is a high-energy, high-motor, smart player that will help this team win championships in the desert.
If that’s not something worth getting excited over, I don’t know what is.