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5 big takeaways from the Cards' 2016 draft class

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Posted at 2:25 PM, Apr 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-30 17:25:56-04

The 2016 NFL Draft is in the books. Here are five big takeaways from the Arizona Cardinals' six selections:

1. No QB.

Numerous NFL Draft analysts, including our own Craig Fouhy, believed the Cardinals would plan for the future in the 2016 draft by taking a quarterback in the first or third round. (They traded their second-round pick to New England last month.) Instead, they passed on the opportunity to grab guys who seem to have QB-of-the-future potential like Michigan State's Connor Cook and Ohio State's Cardale Jones.

The Cards are set at QB this year with veteran Carson Palmer locked and loaded for another season, and Drew Stanton re-signed as a capable backup. But the 36-year-old Palmer's career will likely be over soon, which is why some are surprised the team passed up on a QB in a year in which plenty of intriguing options were available.

2. A high-risk, high-reward first pick.

In terms of raw talent, the Cardinals got a steal when Mississippi defensive end Robert Nkemdiche fell into their lap with the 29th overall pick Thursday. But there's a likely reason the 6-foot-4, 296-pounder fell that far: His off-field issues.

The Cards definitely took a calculated risk with Nkemdiche, who was charged with marijuana possession in December and subsequently suspended for what would have been his final collegiate game. They're banking on the idea that he will become a model player on and off the field in the same way Tyrann Mathieu did when the Cards took a similar chance on him in the third round of the 2013 draft.

3. A wildcard in Round 3.

Speaking of high-risk, high-reward: Brandon Williams was easily the Cardinals' most interesting pick of this year's draft. Originally a running back in college, the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Williams switched to cornerback before his final collegiate season at Texas A&M. Cards coach Bruce Arians said he expects Williams to make an instant impact on special teams.

There's no doubt Williams is extremely gifted (not to mention very, very fast), but he's certainly a work in progress, and the Cardinals realize that. Yes, they have had a great deal of instant success with recent third-round picks (see: Mathieu, John Brown, David Johnson), but it's likely going to take Williams more than one season to become the impact player the Cardinals hope he will be.

4. Filling a need in Round 4.

On the flip side, the Cardinals drafted a player they probably hope can start right away with their first pick on the draft's final day. Missouri center Evan Boehm (whose last name is pronounced like "name") was a four-year collegiate starter and, by all accounts, is one of the toughest and smartest players in this year's draft.

The 6-foot-2, 302-pounder and former wrestler made 52 straight starts at Missouri (the most consecutive starts in program history) and didn't miss a game last year despite dealing with a high ankle sprain. With the center position being one of the few in which the Cardinals are weak, Boehm has a real chance to win the starting job upon arrival, just as he did at Missouri.

5. And the rest...

The Cardinals always seem to take at least one player per year from a small school that few have ever heard of. That was the case with their first fifth-round pick Saturday when they took safety Marqui Christian out of Division II Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Arizona took Harvard offensive lineman Cole Toner with their second fifth-round pick. Toner started 27 games at tackle for Harvard and was a two-time First-Team Ivy League selection.

With their final pick, the Cardinals went with cornerback Harlan Miller from another small school, Southeast Louisiana, in Round 6.

As is the case with most players taken in the second half of the draft, each of these men will probably have an uphill climb toward making the Cardinals' regular-season roster. Training camp and preseason play will go a long way toward determining who, if anyone, will make the cut.