The numbers went like this: First, there were 13,000 possible draftees between seniors and potential juniors. That was cut, pretty easily, to 2,000. That group is whittled to 591 decent draft prospects. The Cardinals, led by General Manager Steve Keim, then apply what Keim calls a “Cardinal filter,” which screens out some players based on character concerns or medical concerns or players that don’t fit the Cardinals schematically.
From there, the team builds their now famous “120” board, which ranks the players from 1 to 120 in order of how the Cardinals believe they are the best. In theory, if their pick comes up at No. 20 overall, they are taking the top guy left on that list (which won’t be the 20th guy regardless of what happens, because all teams see things differently.) When their second round pick comes up at 52, again, who is the top guy left on the list?
The best example of this came in the Cards’ impressive 2004 draft, the one that netted Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett in the first three rounds.
“The first three picks were all within the top 17 players on our board,” Keim said. “That’s unheard of, to get guys through 60-plus picks that are in the top 17 on your board. Some of it is the ability to identify as a staff who can play who can’t play, who is a good fit. Sometimes taking a chance on a guy who may have had some issues, whether it is Darnell coming out, Tyrann (Mathieu) coming out, whatever was attached to them off the field we were convinced we knew who they were as football people. Passionate, love the game. I’ve said it many times, if they love it enough, you feel you have a chance to steer them down the right path.”
Here’s the kicker: Those 120 names? They get the Cardinals all the way through the draft. It doesn’t seem like it should. With 254 draft picks, math says 120 names shouldn’t cover a team. But it does every year, sometimes to the first-time amazement of front-office folks who have come on board and gone through the process. It speaks to the differences teams have in how they see players and how needs and scheme fit into the draft process. As the draft goes on, needs might impact the choice between two closely regarded players, but as the Cards proved last year with Andre Ellington — noting his grade stuck out like a sore thumb in the sixth round even though the Cards had just drafted Stepfan Taylor — staying true to the board matters.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Darnell Dockett, draft, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim
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