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Blogs

TE Niklas the second-round choice

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2014 – 5:50 pm

Bruce Arians said at the Scouting combine he wants his tight ends to block first, catch second. And it the second round of the draft, the Cardinals took a tight end who is big enough to fulfill that role. Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas, at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, had 32 catches for 498 yards and five touchdowns this season, but that probably won’t be his priority in Arizona.

“He should become the best blocking tight end in football, if he decides he wants to,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.

The Cardinals now have newcomer John Carlson, Jake Ballard and Rob Housler as the top tight ends. There is no question Niklas will get his time in the two-tight end sets the Cards use. He’s got room for growth. He was recruited to Notre Dame as a defensive end and moved to linebacker before getting chance at tight end. He played both offensive line and defensive line in high school. He was used almost exclusively as a blocker in 2012, so his receiving skills should only improve.

His nickname is Hercules, so he’s got that going for him.

NiklasCombineuse


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Bucannon’s impressive first impression

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2014 – 3:46 pm

Obviously, Deone Bucannon has to be able to play football, and play it well. Otherwise, the other stuff, frankly, doesn’t matter. Not from the NFL perspective. But one of the reasons he is a Cardinal is because of the impression he left with those in the organization he spent time with before the draft, and getting a chance to talk with him for about 45 minutes as he arrived in Tempe, I can see why. He handles himself with maturity and smarts. He is humble. He comes from a military family that definitely has left a positive impact.

In fact, the Cardinals have now drafted safeties in back to back drafts that while they couldn’t have come from more diverse background, seem to work through the same personality: Bucannon and last year’s third-rounder, Tyrann Mathieu.

“You go back to the top of the pyramid, that’s what our owner (Michael Bidwill) wants, that’s what Steve (Keim) wants, that’s what B.A. wants, it’s what Todd (Bowles) wants,” defensive backs coach Nick Rapone said. “We are trying to build a quality team on the field and off the field. Like Deone, Ty doesn’t say a word, he just plays football.”

Both have chips on their shoulders. We all know why Mathieu was hoping to prove people wrong. Bucannon has been undervalued since high school, when he was recruited by just four schools. One was Washington State. One was San Diego State, and interestingly, Bucannon chose Pullman over the beach. (Growing up in a military family, Bucannon said he lived in San Diego for a while when he was growing up and wanted to go someplace different. Pullman is definitely different.)

An example of how Bucannon knows how to handle himself? He was asked today about his big-hitting style and how it might not work all that well in today’s quick-to-fine-on-hits NFL.

“I’m definitely aware, but that’s part of being a professional and becoming a professional,” Bucannon said. “I’m not going to sacrifice any of what got me here, through my aggressiveness and playmaking ability. I don’t want to take away this game I love so much from somebody else by being dumb. That’s not what I want to do. I’m going to be professional about it and be aggressive and I’m going to bring something to this team that the coaching staff and the people in the front office see in me.”


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Notes after a first-round pick

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 10:52 pm

Before I head home for the night, some notes to clean up with after the Cardinals took safety Deone Bucannon with their first-round pick:

– I can see, on various platforms of communication I have with fans, that some are upset (and some are very, very upset) with the fact the Cardinals didn’t take a quarterback. Folks, I feel I’ve made this pretty plain over the weeks (and I’m not the only one covering the team that did) that the Cards could consider a QB but it was going to have to be the right QB in their eyes. If the right guy wasn’t there, they weren’t gonna take him. Taking a QB you don’t believe in is a reach of the highest proportions. It’s what the Titans did with Jake Locker and the Vikings did with Christian Ponder. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I appreciate some of you believe so much in Manziel/Carr/Bridgewater. But it’s not like Steve Keim and his crew aren’t scouting these guys. I think they have a pretty good handle on what they think they should do.

– Speaking of Derek Carr, Bruce Arians actually addressed him specifically, when talking about how the hype of the draft provided skewed perspective for both fans and prospects.

“Sometimes people forget about the player (and his skills) and they start pairing players with teams and push and push and push and it doesn’t happen,” Arians said. “I felt terrible Derek Carr has been attached to us by some people. There he is sitting there on television when we are coming on the clock. That (pick) wasn’t going to happen.”

– Keim got his extra pick. The Cards have No. 52, 84 and 91 Friday. The Texans are first with No. 33.

– Did the Cards have players ranked higher than Bucannon? Of course. But those guys all came off the board by 20, and that’s when you look to trade back. It made sense.

– Arians and Keim both said Bucannon can cover tight ends. That would help a team that desperately needs to do a better job of that.

– You have to like that Bucannon talks about his “aggressive energy.” “I’m not afraid to go in there and stick my nose in anything or anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how big you are, I’m coming downhill regardless.”


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Cardinals take Bucannon in first round

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 8:23 pm

The Cardinals traded back and then grabbed a safety with their first pick of the draft, nabbing Washington State strong safety Deone Bucannon. GM Steve Keim had a chance to take safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix at 20, but instead he sent the 20th overall pick to the Saints for the 27th choice, pulling in an extra third-rounder (91 overall) for the swap. GM Steve Keim had said he wanted to get more picks, and the Cards now will have seven selections in the draft. Keim even said he didn’t want to compare him to Adrian Wilson … but then said there were similarities. Wilson noticed too.

Bucannon fills a need for a young safety who can team with free safety Tyrann Mathieu in future years to solidify the secondary. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, Bucannon can hit and joins the 6-foot-plus cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie for a pretty sizable secondary. He’s a big-time tackler who should help in run support, and he’s improved in pass coverage and he had 15 career interceptions as a four-year starter in college. Six of those came last season.

DeoneUSE

 


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On the clock, the Cards have choices

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 10:42 am

It’s draft day. The final mock drafts of hundreds have been filed and there is still a lot of intrigue. It gets even more interesting with the Cardinals selecting at 20. A deep draft and flexibility given the current roster will give plenty of room for speculation all the way up to the pick. As the draft comes closer, it seems more and more people expect a quarterback at 20. Something Bruce Arians said last week resonates, about how a rebuilding team can’t afford to pick a QB early and let him sit — but a team that isn’t rebuilding could. Clearly, the Cards aren’t rebuilding — Arians even said he doesn’t like to use the word — so that leaves open the door for a QB. Carson Palmer doesn’t have a problem with a QB pick, and for the right guy, I don’t think the Cards will either.

That said, Steve Keim has his own thought process. I don’t think Keim/the Cards like a ton of QBs, not in the first round. But I think there are one or two. Is it Derek Carr or Blake Bortles, the guys who have become the chic mock picks? To me, Bortles makes a lot more sense than Carr, but what would be the chances Bortles falls all the way to 20? That too seems a long shot. People want to talk about dropping QBs but in the end, QBs rarely drop. Especially if they have a decent chance to be special.

Keim too said something that sticks with me, the idea of being patient because there are usually unexpected players that could drop. Maybe that means someone who has been universally expected to go top 10 or 12 — I saw one mock with tight end Eric Ebron dropping into the 20s. Keim definitely is a fan of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who could be there and who makes a lot of sense in this defense. An interesting name is pass rusher Anthony Barr — another guy expected to go before 20, but you never know.

Regardless, Keim’s confidence in his staff’s draft process is obvious when he talks about it. The belief is that the first-round pick, whoever it is, will be the right one. And in the end, you don’t know exactly who you have even after the draft anyway. Players are chosen, and you have to wait a little while to find out exactly what you have.

TillmandraftcardBLOG

 


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Actually, 120 is enough for the draft

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2014 – 10:21 am

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.

 

 


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Cards add LB Foote

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2014 – 10:20 pm

The draft is coming Thursday, but the Cardinals decided not to wait until then to add to the roster. The news came out Tuesday night that veteran linebacker Larry Foote is signing a one-year contract with the Cards. Foote confirmed the move to the Associated Press and later tweeted about coming to the Cards. (The team has yet to officially announce the move. Now it has.) With the uncertainty of what will happen with Daryl Washington and any possible suspension along with depth needs in general, a Foote signing makes a lot of sense. It shouldn’t impact the draft and it’s not even a lock the 34-year-old Foote will make the final roster depending on who else ends up on the team. This is a depth move. Nothing has been handed to Kevin Minter, but I don’t think this has anything to do with dissatisfaction with him either.

Foote considered coming here as a free agent back in 2010, He spent most of his career with the Steelers, including last year, although Foote played in only one game before rupturing his right biceps. He coincidentally was cut by the Steelers in March on the same day Pittsburgh released former Cards tackle Levi Brown.


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Draft doesn’t end after the seventh

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2014 – 4:12 pm

As GM Steve Keim mentioned last week, the Cardinals had already begun to reach out to call players (or their agents) who they think could go undrafted, beginning the weird recruiting process that is the undrafted rookie class. At once, the best of these undrafted guys are wooed by multiple teams like they are trying to pick a college all over again, while at the same time dealing with the disappointment that they were not picked at all.

(That’s not always an easy thing. Safety Tony Jefferson was one of those priority undrafted guys last year and while he ended up in a good place and was wanted, he admitted his undrafted reality actually affected his play for part of last year.)

The Cardinals usually assign a scout to a coach and then the two work together to reach out to the players. Yes, as was pointed out on Twitter today, if a team likes the player that much, they could instead draft him, but that’s a story for another day. Bottom line, only so many guys can be picked, and other potential worthy draftees are going undrafted.

“We’ve been aggressively calling players and planting seeds that if somehow they go undrafted, we feel like this would be a great fit for them,” Keim said.

This early UDFA push isn’t unique to the Cardinals. It came out Tuesday the Seahawks not only are doing their own recruiting but actually put together a brochure to send to agents with their own recruiting pitch. The race when the draft is over to pick up the other players to be included in the draft class is always intriguing. If the Cardinals don’t add any late picks — remember, they right now are scheduled to be done after the 20th pick of the sixth round — they will have plenty of time to work the phones and hoping their targets aren’t picked in the extended seventh round. These guys make a difference and some make the team every year. It’s where you find depth through the Jeffersons and Jaron Browns and Lyle Sendleins.

JaronBrownblogUSE

 

 


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In the draft room, time to mock

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2014 – 10:24 am

Today, the front office and coaches and scouts mock.

After oodles and oodles of mock drafts have been sent out through the internet since, well, since last year, really, the GM Steve Keim and his group spend part of today doing their own mock scenarios. The point, of course, is to try and get some kind of handle on what players might be there at 20 when the Cardinals pick and what the Cards would do in that case.

“We’ll do a mock draft, several mock drafts, and our pro scouts will put together a nice, neat board,” Keim said. “We’ll play out some different scenarios and then we’ll be ready to talk about our (undrafted) free agency process a little more with our scouts and our coaching staff.”

The team’s “120″ board takes care of the players the Cards will pick, in whatever way they are thrown at the team come the time the Cards will be on the clock. Still, there are benefits to mocking at this point other than just trying to predict an outcome.

“The mocks I’ve been involved with in past with different organizations, usually it’s a nice stress reliever,” said vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough, who was hired by the Cardinals after last year’s draft after spending a decade in Jacksonville. “You do it a couple of days before the draft and everyone is a little nervous and you have a few laughs. You have the scouts and the coaches and a lot of the coaches in the past aren’t as up on a lot of the mock drafts like the scouts and so you kind of give them a list of the players who are going to go in the first round, it’s realistic.

“The most fun thing I’ve been a part of in the mocks I’ve been involved in, you go through a one-, two-, three-round mock, sometimes you get to the second round and inevitably, someone takes a guy who has already been taken. Usually that’s the guy who gets hammered because he’s not paying attention what’s going on. You hear (someone make a buzzer sound) and the room gets loud and guys have a laugh. It’s an embarrassing moment. But other than that, the pro department does a nice job with the other teams’ needs and it’s fun.”

Bruce Arians joked that Google provides 18 pages of mock drafts when someone goes searching. Keim said it’s probably good not to look at them — “They confuse you and get your mind scrambling for sure.” Still, like everyone else who mocks, the Cardinals will see Thursday just how close they have come.

“This year it’ll be closer (to the truth) because everyone knows who the top 10 or 15 picks will be,” McDonough said.

MockBlog


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Cardinals get back on the field

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2014 – 1:26 pm

It’s a holiday. Kind of. And not Cinco de Mayo, but instead that day in the offseason when the players officially return to the field for football. It’s called Phase 2 in the parlance of the collective bargaining agreement. The rules are simple: Coaches can finally talk to players on the field. Offense can work with offense, defense with defense. No mixing. No helmets. The hour allowed on the field looks a lot like the first chunk of a regular practice, with individual drills and walkthrough-type situations with each unit.

There will be two weeks of this before organized team activities — the ones with the helmets and portions that are offense versus defense — begin May 20. Had the draft happened 10 days ago as usual, the rookies could have been out here but instead, they must wait. It also remains a voluntary situation, so while there was good participation, some players were not here. Interestingly — and not surprisingly — it was Paul Fanaika at first-unit right guard and Bradley Sowell at first-team right tackle to open things up.

We’ll have a photo gallery and a video up later today.

Phase2Blog


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