NFL Nation: Ryan Swope

Cardinals losing rookies at high rate

December, 10, 2013
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Losing rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu for the season wasn't just a blow to the Arizona Cardinals' secondary, it's a continued decimation of the Cards' 2013 draft class.

Mathieu is Arizona's fourth drafted rookie to suffer a season-ending injury this season, following guard Jonathan Cooper in the preseason and linebacker Alex Okafor in Week 3. Wide receiver Ryan Swope was forced to retire after suffering a concussion during minicamp. Arizona only has four draft picks on its active roster after releasing tight end D.C. Jefferson, a seventh-round pick, in early November.

The Cardinals' four injured draft picks are tied for most in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans this season.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was concerned another rookie was about to be sidelined two weeks ago when rookie running back Andre Ellington, Arizona's second sixth-round pick, tweaked his left knee leading up to the Eagles game on Dec. 1. Arians thought Ellington, who was sidelined for the game, had hurt his ACL. But it turned out to be not nearly that bad as Ellington played Sunday against the Rams.

Arians doesn't expect Mathieu to return by training camp next year, but the other rookies, Cooper and Okafor, are slated to be healthy by July.

“It definitely has got us,” the coach said. “We got lucky with Andre Ellington.

“But, yeah, with Swope and Coop and the rest of them, it's a shame because we really needed them.”

Taking stock of 2013 NFC West picks

September, 3, 2013
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Eighty-six of the first 88 players drafted in 2013 remain on 53-man rosters entering Week 1. The two exceptions play for NFC West teams.

The Arizona Cardinals' Jonathan Cooper, chosen seventh overall, suffered a season-ending leg injury during preseason. He is on injured reserve. The San Francisco 49ers' Tank Carradine, chosen 40th overall, remains on the reserve/non-football injury list while recovering from a knee injury.

Twenty-five of 39 NFC West choices this year remain on their original teams' 53-man rosters. That includes all seven picks for the St. Louis Rams and seven of nine for the Cardinals. The 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had a higher number of picks arranged lower within each round, and fewer open roster spots to accommodate them.

Injuries have left six picks from the division on various injured lists. Three of the Seahawks' top five picks will not help the team anytime soon. That includes Harper, defensive tackle Jesse Williams (injured reserve) and cornerback Tharold Simon (reserve/physically unable to perform). Percy Harvin, who cost Seattle its 2013 first-round choice, is also injured.

Five 2013 draft choices from the division landed on their original teams' practice squads. One of them, fourth-round choice Chris Harper, subsequently left his original team (Seattle Seahawks) to sign with the 49ers' 53-man roster.

Three picks from the St. Louis Rams and one from the 49ers are scheduled to start in Week 1. Cooper would have started for the Cardinals if healthy.

Harper wasn't the only NFC West draft choice to land on another team. The 49ers' Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round choice, wound up with Kansas City after the Chiefs claimed him off waivers.

Arizona Cardinals cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: Placing linebacker Daryl Washington on the reserve/suspended list for the first four games was easily the most significant move the Cardinals made, but that was a matter of course. Specific to the roster, Arizona kept only four wide receivers on this initial 53-man roster, an indication the team could remain in the market for a wideout, especially one with the deep speed coach Bruce Arians has sought for his office. Ryan Swope and Mike Thomas were candidates in that area, but concussions forced Swope into early retirement, and Thomas was one of the players Arizona released. The team does have plans to play cornerback Patrick Peterson at receiver, however. We should keep that in mind when looking at the overall numbers at the position.

QB numbers: There had been some thought that the Cardinals might choose between keeping a third quarterback (Ryan Lindley) or a fifth running back (Ryan Williams). Arians had already said Williams was going to stick around. We didn't know whether Lindley would remain on the roster after finishing his 2012 rookie season with zero touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Lindley played well against Denver in the final exhibition game, however, and he wasn't among the players Arizona released on this initial reduction to 53. It's still too early to say whether Lindley has any roster security.

What's next: The Cardinals could be in the market for another interior defensive linemen after the team released nose tackle David Carter. Carter played 272 snaps on defense last season. His status heading into camp appeared somewhat secure based on past playing time. Carter was excited about transitioning to a scheme that he thought would free up defensive linemen to use their talents as pass-rushers. Dan Williams appears to be the only true nose tackle on the roster.

Players cut: OT Jamaal Johnson-Webb, LB Kenny Rowe, DT Padric Scott, WR Kerry Taylor, LB Reggie Walker, S Jonathon Amaya, C Adam Bice, WR Dan Buckner, DT David Carter, TE Alex Gottlieb, WR Charles Hawkins, G Senio Kelemete, LB Zack Nash, LB Colin Parker, TE Richard Quinn, G Chilo Rachal, S Curtis Taylor, WR Mike Thomas

Three things: Cardinals-Broncos

August, 29, 2013
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Three things to watch for Thursday night in the Arizona Cardinals' final exhibition of the 2013 season, set for 9 p.m. ET against the Denver Broncos in Denver:

1. Williams' performance. Running back Ryan Williams appears to be fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster two years after suffering a torn patella tendon during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He has only two carries during this preseason. Will the Cardinals emerge from this final preseason game thinking Williams can become a relevant contributor? This game could provide some answers.

2. Speed at wide receiver. Coach Bruce Arians has sought a vertical threat for his offense. Rookie Ryan Swope was a candidate for the role on some levels until concussion concerns forced his retirement. Mike Thomas, who spent part of last season with the Detroit Lions, could provide something along those lines. To what extent can the final preseason game provide some answers at wide receiver?

3. Third QB. About half the teams in the NFL figure to keep fewer than three quarterbacks on their 53-man rosters. Is there any reason the Cardinals should keep a third this year? Ryan Lindley gets one last chance in this preseason to show he's worth a spot. Lindley has no touchdown passes in 17 attempts this preseason. He had no touchdown passes and seven interceptions on 171 regular-season attempts as a rookie in 2012. He had one touchdown on 92 attempts during the 2012 preseason. It all adds up to one touchdown pass in 280 preseason and regular-season attempts. He has played under less than ideal circumstances. Can Lindley emerge from this preseason on an upward trajectory?

On Ryan Swope's continued absence

June, 12, 2013
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The concussion-related symptoms that kept Cardinals rookie receiver Ryan Swope from practicing last month continue to sideline him, ESPN's Adam Schefter notes.

Coach Bruce Arians suggested nine days ago that Swope would be fine.

General manager Steve Keim compared Swope to Brandon Stokley when assessing Swope on draft day. The comparison seemed to emphasize their playing styles. Stokley has also had a significant concussion history.

Swope, who had two documented concussions at Texas A&M, was a sixth-round draft choice.

Keim acknowledged Swope's concussion history while noting that Swope had not missed much playing time, a positive in the Cardinals' assessment.

"Then to couple that with the amount of production he had, and then going into the combine, the guy has answered every test," Keim said. "His times at Indy were remarkable. He ran in the high 4.3s. His three-cone, which is one of my favorite drills, which judges a lot of the change-of-direction and movement skills, he ran a high 6.5, low 6.6 three-cone, which was easily one of the best times at Indy this year."
Sometimes it takes a few years to fully assess an NFL draft class' impact. Imperiled veterans can't afford to wait that long.

Among the NFC West veterans on alert as 2013 rookies arrive for minicamps Friday:
Twenty-three of the 38 players NFC West teams drafted in 2013 ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in February.

The chart shows the times they recorded, providing a feel for the track speed teams from this division added through the draft.

Three of the six fastest times belong to players the St. Louis Rams drafted. The team drafted two wide receivers in the first three rounds, moves designed in part to improve team speed at the skill positions.

These and other NFC West draft choices sought to improve their 40-yard times at various pro days and private workouts. The times they recorded in those settings might have affected their draft stock. I chose to focus on the times collected under the same controlled settings.

The speed Ryan Swope displayed at the combine makes him an intriguing addition for the Arizona Cardinals in the sixth round. Concerns regarding concussions contributed to Swope's relatively low draft status.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wanted to add a speed receiver in the draft. The Cardinals could have more in mind for Swope than would be typical for a player drafted so late. General manager Steve Keim said he and Arians had tracked Swope closely.

"We were extremely excited that he started to slide," Keim said. "He is a guy that not only can stretch the field vertically, but has some underneath quickness. He kind of reminds me of Brandon Stokley a little bit, someone you’re probably familiar with when he came out of a small school in Louisiana.

"He does a nice job working the middle, can play slot, can play the outside, and will also be able to help us on special teams."

Keim pointed specifically to Swope's time speed as part of the receiver's appeal.

"His times at Indy were remarkable," Keim said. "His three-cone, which is one of my favorite drills, which judges a lot of the change-of-direction and movement skills, he ran a high 6.5, low 6.6, which was easily one of the best times at Indy this year."
Eight days away from the NFL draft, and ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has raised his game. In his latest mock draft, he's going three rounds. It's an Insider article, so you'll need a subscription to view the entire piece. But, as always, I can give you the lowdown on the AFC North teams ...

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Rd. 1 (32) LB Kevin Minter, LSU
Rd. 2 (62) OT Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Rd. 3 (94) S Phillip Thomas, Fresno State

Hensley's comment: All three picks address needs. Minter is a tackling machine who is more of a long-term solution than Rolando McClain. Armstead is a project who would be a reach in the second round. Thomas is a playmaker and fills a big need at strong safety, where James Ihedigbo is currently starting. My only problem is the lack of a wide receiver. The Ravens haven't replaced Anquan Boldin and need to find a pass-catcher in the first couple of rounds.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Rd. 1 (21) S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Rd. 2 (37) RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin (via Oakland)
Rd. 2 (53) LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
Rd. 3 (84) WR Denard Robinson, Michigan

Hensley's comment: The Bengals would be very happy if Vaccaro fell into their lap at No. 21. Strong safety is the biggest need on the team. While I agree the Bengals need to add youth to the backfield, Ball is more of an inside runner like BenJarvus Green-Ellis. North Carolina's Giovani Bernard represents a better change of pace. Greene, who led the Big East in tackles for the past two seasons, can step in at weakside linebacker. Robinson could become a Josh Cribbs-type return man for Cincinnati. All of these picks address the top needs for the Bengals.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Rd. 1 (11) G Chance Warmack Alabama (via San Diego)
Rd. 3 (68) QB EJ Manuel, Florida St.
Rd. 3 (76) CB Darius Slay, Mississippi St. (via San Diego)

Hensley's comment: Kiper and I are thinking alike when it comes to the Browns. I believe the Browns will trade out of the No. 6 overall pick (I see them getting a second-round pick from the Chargers and not a third-rounder), but I don't like the choice of Warmack. By all accounts, he's a great guard prospect. I just don't think teams should take a guard in the top half of the draft. Where I agree with Kiper is taking Manuel in the third round. He's drawn comparisons to Cam Newton, the quarterback who ran Rob Chudzinksi's offense in Carolina. This pick has a lot of potential. Slay would address the need for a cornerback, although he may not be ready to start right away. He started just one season at Mississippi State.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Rd. 1 (17) TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Rd. 2 (48) OLB Cornelius Washington, Georgia
Rd. 3 (79) WR Ryan Swope, Texas A&M

Hensley's comment: It's very reasonable that the Steelers take a tight end, outside linebacker and wide receiver in the first three rounds, although it may not be in the order that Kiper has it. Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who is a popular pick for the Steelers in many mock drafts, is going to the Jets at No. 9, according to Kiper. This is why Kiper is sticking with Eifert for Pittsburgh in the first round. The Steelers rarely make moves in the first round, but they could fall back and still get Eifert, who has drawn comparisons to Heath Miller (who was taken 30th overall eight years ago). It's a reach to take Washington in the second round. He's a rush linebacker who has only shown flashes in college. Swope is a fearless receiver who isn't afraid to go over the middle.

Advancing the WR conversation

February, 25, 2013
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At least two of our teams will have wide receivers on their priority list this offseason. The Minnesota Vikings need all the help they can get, while the Chicago Bears probably would benefit from a receiver with deep downfield speed.

So what did we learn over the weekend about the draft-eligible receivers? The speedsters got majority of attention but, as in every year, they are not necessarily the best receiver prospects.

Texas' Marquise Goodwin, for example, ran a blazing 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. But receiving drills "exposed some weaknesses," according to Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. Goodwin "isn't a natural route runner," Muench tweeted.

West Virginia's Tavon Austin, on the other hand, was as smooth in receiving drills as he was in the 40 (officially a 4.34), and now has a good chance to be a first-round pick. Other likely first-rounders are Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and Cal's Keenan Allen, according to ESPN's John Clayton.

I spent most of the scouting combine focusing on time with NFC North coaches and general managers, leaving the reporting on draft-eligible players to ESPN's vast array of specialists. But many of you are looking to at least be pointed in the direction of that coverage, and that's fair.

On receivers, a good place to start is Todd McShay's daily blog . You need an Insider subscription to read all of it, but I can pass along a few tidbits -- including the suggestion that Patterson's teammate at Tennessee -- Justin Hunter -- is "a better overall receiver at this point."

Other receivers who jumped out to McShay were Texas A&M's Ryan Swope, who surprised scouts by running a 4.34 in the 40. USC's Robert Woods is now "solidly in the second-round range," according to McShay, and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins might be as well.

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