Had a chance to talk to General Manager Steve Keim the day before the draft one last time. Here are the highlights and you can take it for what it’s worth, especially knowing Keim is ultra-aware of the smokescreens. But a couple of things really rang true, especially since – without knowing how the Cardinals graded prospects — it doesn’t give away anything:
— The most important thing is Keim’s philosophy on picking through the Top 120 board. Keim has always been a proponent of going with elite over all else (how often is that possible, right?) and while sometimes that dovetails with biggest need, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, if Luke Joeckel was there at No. 7, I think that would match both elite and need. Joeckel isn’t going to be there at 7. Who is? We don’t know. But Keim knows through which prism the Cards will make the pick.
“Everyone is putting us with an offensive lineman,” Keim said. “One of my stongest philosophy goes back to we are not going to leave an elite player on the board if it’s that elite player versus an offensive lineman we think is (just) a good player.
“We have seven players we are extremely comfortable with and not all are offensive linemen. The decision has been made because we have already talked about it. If it’s a safety or a pass rusher or linebacker, that is a decision we have already talked about and we’re not going to force the pick just because everyone thinks our offensive line has to improve. In the long run, in two years when needs change, you’ve made a huge mistake.”
I know that will bother some out there. But just because they could pass on an offensive lineman in the first round doesn’t mean they will pass on one in the second. Or third.
— Every draft, a team picking not first (and in the Cards’ case, seventh) has to wait to see how it plays out. Most years, however, you can guesstimate pretty well who those top five or six players will be. This year, it feels like there are 10 or 12 guys who could end up in those top six picks, making things a little more difficult to anticipate.
“There is an element of the unknown that is different from years past,” Keim said. “There have been times when you have been able to map out the first six, seven maybe even top 10 picks. This year it is all over the place. This is really the first day I have been able to come up for air, and I have had my television on in the background. It’s probably the worst thing I could have done. The amount of misinformation, in particular when people talk about our pick, it’s amazing.”
— A big reason for the unknown? Keim said he’s never seen a first round with so many projected picks that are projections — guys who just started playing the game or just started playing their position — yet could go in the top 15. Tackle Lane Johnson falls into that category, for instance. Or defensive end Ziggy Ansah. The pass rushers in particular at the top of the board are hard to get a full read on.
“Look at the pass rushers, other than Jarvis Jones, which one of those guys have elite stats?” Keim said.
— Every team has taken and has made preliminary trade calls by now, and the Cardinals are no different. Anything that would happen to trade down would happen when the Cards are on the clock. Trading up (as I’ve mentioned before) is highly doubtful. Not only would a player have to be there the Cards really wanted — and I believe Keim when he says they are comfortable with their top seven — but the compensation to move up would “have to be minimal.” I don’t see a second-rounder as minimal, which would be what it would take to move up much at all.
“We’re not in a position to give away picks,” Keim said.
— So that’s that. The Cards and everyone else will make their picks tomorrow night and we’ll see how much this all matches up with what happens. Certainly it feels pretty wide open. I still think it will be an offensive lineman, but I don’t know which one. If there isn’t a consensus on who the top pick is going to be, what chance is there to guess at 7?
Tags: draft, Steve Keim
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