2016 Arizona Cardinals draft picks: Analysis for every selection

Josh Weinfuss breaks down the 2016 Arizona Cardinals draft class.

Round 1, Pick No. 29: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss | Highlight

My take: If the Cardinals can make sure Nkemdiche doesn't have a repeat performance of his December night in Atlanta, then they have found a late first-round gem. Nkemdiche has the kind of talent that could take a team deep into the playoffs. He might have scared off other teams, but he gives the Cardinals added depth on a defensive line that's already crowded. But where Nkemdiche is most valuable is in Arizona's pass rush -- the area the Cardinals have been focused on all offseason. He's versatile and has "great schematic flexibility," general manager Steve Keim said, which means he can stay on the field longer and have more of an impact.

Defensive line depth: The Cardinals' defensive line room will be crowded. Nkemdiche joins Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, Rodney Gunter, Ed Stinson, Josh Mauro, Red Bryant and Corey Peters on a line that was ranked sixth against the rush last season and helped the Cardinals to the NFC Championship Game. He's not guaranteed playing time, and his path to the field will have seven large roadblocks. That might change between Thursday and Week 1 in September. Campbell is entering the final year of his contract and is scheduled to earn $9.75 million, with a $15.25 million cap hit in 2016; Rucker turns 33 three days after the season opener; and Bryant is 32. The Cardinals can either keep eight defensive linemen or face serious roster decisions.

Cardinals dig deep: The Cardinals' brain trust spent more time with Nkemdiche than any other player in this draft, Keim said. They met with him at the NFL scouting combine, at Ole Miss, in Arizona and Monday in Los Angeles. Keim and Nkemdiche also had multiple phone calls. After his research, Keim felt comfortable enough to risk a first-round pick on him. "He is a guy that we feel like we've gotten to know extremely well," Keim said. "The incident happened. It was an embarrassing situation for him, and we feel like that's in the rearview mirror."

Round 3, Pick No. 92: Brandon Williams, CB, Texas A&M | Highlight

My take: This pick will take some time to evaluate. There are two sides to an initial review of Williams. He addresses a need. Arizona was short on cornerback depth toward the end of last season, and now that Jerraud Powers is a free agent, the penciled-in starting cornerbacks are Patrick Peterson and Justin Bethel, another converted corner. Williams has the strength and speed to be an NFL corner, so physically he passes the eye test. But Williams has played cornerback (and defense) for just one season. Granted, he was able to hold his own with 37 tackles and seven pass breakups, while giving himself a C grade last season. But Williams is still “raw,” GM Keim said. He has a significant learning curve ahead of him, not just with learning the Cardinals' scheme -- which Keim said he fits perfectly -- but he’s still picking up the fundamentals of playing the position. He’ll compete with Bethel this summer for the right-corner job but may have a long road ahead of him before he has the full complement of tools to be a starting NFL cornerback.

Why Williams will succeed: There are three main reasons why I think Williams will eventually be a successful corner in the NFL. First, he’s fast -- like scary fast. He ran his 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds at the NFL scouting combine and his straight-line speed is even scarier. Second, he’s honest with himself about how difficult the conversion to corner was. “It was super hard,” he said after getting drafted Friday night. "... It’s still hard. I’m still learning.” He understands there’ll be a learning curve in the NFL -- not just adapting to NFL-style schemes but as he continues to learn the position. But Williams said his learning curve will be shorter than most will think. “I’m a fast learner,” he said. The third reason is simple: His “physical tools are off the chart.”

Special-teams dynamo: Williams may not -- yet -- be as good of a special-teams player as Bethel, who’s a three-time Pro Bowler at the position, but he could soon get there. Coach Bruce Arians said Williams was one of the best special-teams players in all of college football last year, and with his speed complementing Bethel at gunner, the Cardinals could have a one of the best cover tandems in the league next year. And that could help flip field position, which leads to better scoring opportunities for the offense.

Round 4, Pick No. 128: Evan Boehm, C, Missouri | Highlight

My take: The Cardinals needed a center and they got it. Boehm will come in and compete with A.Q. Shipley to start, not an easy task in Bruce Arians’ complex offensive scheme. But Boehm said he’s athletic enough to play in any scheme. He spent time watching this season watching the Cardinals and his former teammate, linebacker Markus Golden. Boehm’s the son of a coach, who impressed Missouri enough as an eighth grader to earn a scholarship before he stepped foot in high school. He’s a nasty, hard-nosed blocker up front, and he’s tough. Boehm said he suffered a high ankle sprain on the fifth play of the season and played through it.

Round 5, Pick No. 167: Marqui Christian, S, Midwestern State | Highlight

My take: Christian gives the Cardinals significant depth at a position where they’re already young and talented. Even though he spent a lot of his college snaps in the box, he’ll be playing free and strong safety for a Cardinals defense that used five or more defensive backs on about 38 percent of its snaps. Playing that much as a high safety might be an adjustment for Christian, who said he “sometimes” played high safety. But Christian likes to hit and has the speed to stick with receivers, whether it’s over the top or off the line in man-to-man in the slot. He’s also comfortable rushing off the edge if Arizona blitzes him -- but he said he only blitzed about once per game in college.

Round 5, Pick No. 170: Cole Toner, OT, Harvard | Highlight

My take: As long as the Cardinals don’t expect Toner to play in 2016, he will end up being a quality pick. He has the football IQ and quick decision making required for an offensive lineman, but he lacks some size, especially in bulk. But that can be rectified with a season in the weight room. He’ll be a better fit after a season learning under guards Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis, while adding some weight. The biggest concern with Toner is his lack of experience against high-quality talent. He didn’t face it at Harvard and, by most accounts, struggled at the Senior Bowl.

Round 6, Pick No. 205: Harlan Miller, CB, Southeastern Louisiana | Highlight

My take: Miller can make the roster as a third cornerback. He told reporters on a conference call he has experience as an island corner, which will be required in the Cardinals’ defensive scheme. General manager Steve Keim liked Miller’s ability to reroute receivers in press coverage and said he has a natural anticipation that “you can’t teach.” The Cardinals were interested enough in Miller to send both defensive coordinator James Bettcher and cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross to work him out. While Keim and coach Bruce Arians said before the draft it’d be tough for late-round picks and undrafted free agents to make the roster, Miller can play his way onto the 53.