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Cardinals' Six Biggest Draft Busts During Steve Keim Era

The Arizona Cardinals are still cleaning the mess left by Steve Keim.

As is the case for every NFL team, the Arizona Cardinals have had plenty of busts in their years of drafting. 

Though every team has their fair share of misses and failures, the Cardinals' bust rate over the last ten years has been alarmingly high.

During the Steve Keim era in Arizona - stretching from 2013 to 2022 - the franchise has had more than its fair share of busts, including two of the biggest busts of the 2010s. In fact, those two have arguments for being the biggest bust of the 2010s.

In light of the recent departure of Isaiah Simmons, who is universally agreed upon as a pretty big bust for the team, it has us thinking about some other past mistakes and busts the team has drafted - and boy are there a lot of them.

Today, we take a look at six of the biggest busts of Keim's time at the helm. We do this to learn from our past mistakes and move forward with Moni Ossenfort hopefully leading a new charge for excellence with the team.

One quick note: you won't find Haason Reddick on this list - the reason being he has become a star in the league. It is widely agreed upon that the Cardinals misused Reddick during his time in Arizona and thus doesn't feel fair to include him on a list of guys who were flat-out bad in their entire careers, even outside of Arizona.

With that established, let's go ahead and dive into it...

Hakeem Butler

Hakeem Butler

You may be wondering what a fourth-round draft pick is doing on this list. Don't worry, I'll explain.

Coming out of Iowa State, Butler was an absolute darling for #DraftTwitter, with many loving his size at 6'5" and 227 lbs. Butler was simply a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and he felt destined to become a Pro Bowler. When the Cardinals "sniped" him in the fourth-round of the 2019 draft, the world was left with their jaws on the floor.

The honeymoon ended immediately, however, as Butler missed his entire rookie season with a broken hand and was released the following season. Butler never even made a preseason appearance for the team. Even for a fourth-round pick, that's incredibly bad.

Troy Niklas

Troy Niklas

Niklas wasn't a first-round pick, but that wasn't needed to be considered a pretty big draft bust for the Cardinals.

In a 2014 draft class that is considered one of the greatest ever, Niklas was a massive swing and miss for Arizona. Over his four seasons in the desert, Niklas caught just 19 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns. The most frustrating part is that 11 of his 19 career catches came in his final season. That's downright abysmal.

The only good thing you can say about Niklas' time in Arizona is he played out his rookie contract. Beyond that, this was a pitiful pick.

Jonathan Cooper

Jonathan Cooper

The first pick of the Keim era was an utter failure. At the time, Cooper was the highest guard selected in the NFL Draft since 1986 as the seventh overall selection in 2013. Cooper missed the entirety of his rookie season with a leg injury he sustained in the team's third preseason game. It was all downhill from there.

Over the next two seasons, Cooper played 24 games and made just 11 starts while battling through more injuries. In the 2016 offseason, the Cardinals cut their losses and traded Cooper along with a second-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for Chandler Jones. Thankfully, that panned out wonderfully.

When the best thing you did in your career was get traded for another player, that isn't exactly great. Cooper was an absolute dud to begin Keim's career as a GM and it would only be a sign of things to come.

Robert Nkemdiche

Robert Nkemdiche

What is so frustrating about Nkemdiche is there is no way somebody who is built like him could ever fail to be a dominant player. A 6'3" almost 300 lbs behemoth on the defensive interior should have dominated the line of scrimmage.

Instead, Nkemdiche is one of the poster boys for the classic phrase, "Looks like Tarzan; plays like Jane".

Nkemdiche was the number one overall recruit coming out of high school and he failed to live up to that status in his three seasons at Ole Miss. The Cardinals must've felt they would draft him based on his potential, believing they could be the ones to unlock what he had yet to achieve. Instead, Nkemdiche lasted just three seasons before failing his physical and being released.

This is already a brutal way to see a player bust, but to add insult to injury Chris Jones, who is trending toward the Hall of Fame, was selected eight picks later. Yikes.

Isaiah Simmons

Isaiah Simmons

Simmons may not be the biggest bust the Cardinals have had, but he's one of them.

Coming out of Clemson, Simmons was viewed as an athletic marvel who was going to ascend to stardom based on his God-given talents alone. Between his daunting size at 6'4" and 238 lbs to go with his ridiculous NFL Combine testing numbers including a sub-4.4 40-yard dash time, it felt he was destined to be an All-Pro for years.

Instead, Simmons couldn't find his footing and eventually was lost in a never-ending shuffle similar to that of Reddick. As a new regime came in with a new philosophy, Simmons was quickly realized to not be a part of the plan and the team traded him to the Giants for a seventh-round pick.

There are very few players that can top this, but there is one other who takes the cake:

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen

Rosen is possibly the biggest bust in Cardinals franchise history. Heck, he's one of the biggest draft busts period. To say the Josh Rosen experiment in the desert was a failed one would be just about the biggest understatement you could give.

In his short time with the Cards, Rosen went 3-10 of the 13 games he started, completing just over 55% of his passes for 11 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. 

Arizona would end up with the number one pick after this season and immediately drafted Rosen's replacement in Kyler Murray and shipped Rosen to the Dolphins for pennies on the dollar.

It truly doesn't get much worse than what Rosen was for the Cardinals.