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Cardinals nearly drafted Abdullah, not Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on June 30, 2016 – 9:31 pm

There will be some interesting parts to the Cardinals’ 2015 season revealed now that “All or Nothing” is now available to stream on Amazon video. One is there right at the outset of the first episode. The cameras take you into the Cardinals’ draft room when they are on the clock in the second round, all set to select Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah — VP of player personnel Terry McDonough is literally on the phone with Abdullah — when the Lions end up taking Abdullah the pick before Arizona. (The disappointment is palpable. It’s a scene you have to watch play out.)

How much would’ve changed last season had the Abdullah pick been made? Without the ability to draft Abdullah, the Cardinals took outside linebacker Markus Golden in the second round. And then they went with running back David Johnson in the third round. Golden has already played his way into a probable starting job following a solid rookie season, while Johnson had 13 touchdowns as a rookie and is going to be the anchor for the Cards’ running game in 2016.

Johnson, in fact, is a guy who the Cards’ decision-makers feel can be a star in the NFL. Abdullah had a solid rookie year for the Lions too, but I’d guess the Cards would have no desire to flip Johnson for Abdullah right now. Johnson showed he can run the ball and his ability to catch is fantastic (Johnson made a grab on a wheel route during OTAs that had teammates marveling. In the offseason.)

Feels like this turned out pretty well for the Cardinals.

Ameer Abdullah, Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon

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Rookies signed at warp speed

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2016 – 3:22 pm

It’s not hard to remember, not if you have been following the Cardinals for any length of time, but signing draft picks used to be much, much more difficult. Yes, the ease in which picks are signed these days is rules-related — once the new collective bargaining agreement essentially slotted each pick’s money and took the hardest part (money) out of the negotiating equation, things were going to speed up.

But to think the Cardinals already have all of their draft picks under contract on May 9 is impressive. The time frame to finish up since 2011, when the new CBA went into effect, has gotten earlier and earlier:

2011: Amid the chaos of so many signings as the CBA was ratified post-lockout just as training camp was starting, first-rounder Patrick Peterson and second-rounder Ryan Williams signed July 31.
2012: First-rounder Michael Floyd and third-rounder Jamell Fleming signed June 11.
2013: First-rounder Jonathan Cooper signed July 29.
2014: First-rounder Deone Bucannon signed June 5.
2015: First-rounder D.J. Humphries signed June 1.
2016: Sixth-rounder Harlan Miller, third-rounder Brandon Williams and fourth-rounder Evan Boehm sign May 9.

The Cardinals aren’t unique — the Bears have been signing their entire draft class within a couple days of the draft the last couple of seasons, for instance — but to have all those deals done not only before the players break prior to camp but before OTAs have even begun is a good thing. The days of the Cards having their first-round pick sit out at least a few days of training camp — or more, Wendell Bryant — are long over.


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No trades, no QB and draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2016 – 5:07 pm

The Cardinals made no more trades. And they didn’t get a quarterback.

Those were the top two things on the possibilities list going into the draft, in part because of Paxton Lynch and his presence at the back half of the first round. If Lynch had been on the board for the Cardinals, it would have been intriguing — would a team tried to trade up for him with a sweet deal? Or might the Cardinals go ahead and take him as that long-awaited shot at a QB of the future? But it became moot when the Broncos traded up to 26 to get Lynch.

After that, the Cards didn’t have the capital to trade up into the second round and didn’t see a reason to move back. Meanwhile, if there were other quarterbacks around in whom the Cards had interest, they didn’t excite them enough to pull the trigger. And frankly, once you get to the fourth or fifth round, those QBs left are likely backups at best.

Instead, the Cards went heavy on defense, and heavy on the secondary. You can say what you want about needs and best player available, but often for teams those things dovetail as they set their draft board and it’s really not a surprise the Cards ended up with a potential starting center and depth in the secondary, in addition to an upgrade on special teams.

— All things considered, Robert Nkemdiche should be an excellent piece if he can go hard and stay away from any off-field issues. There’s a reason someone so physically gifted was there at No. 29. The reality is he would have gone soon after if the Cards hadn’t picked him, so the Cardinals didn’t stretch to take him. But they need something out of him this season, and he he needs to become that guy on the defensive line as that position evolves over the next couple of seasons.

— All three of the defensive backs taken are in the same mold: Brandon Williams, Marqui Christian and Harlan Miller have speed, can significantly help on special teams, and aren’t ready to drop in and play a major role on defense yet. The Cards have had success in this area with Justin Bethel, but in truth they still need Bethel to become a better cornerback and not just a Pro Bowl special teams guy.

— I like that Christian won the Cliff Harris award for the nation’s best defensive player in small college (Divisions II, III and NAIA) and I like that Adrian Wilson was impressed by him at a college all-star game. Wilson has a talent for scouting — Keim wouldn’t have given him this job if he didn’t believe that — and we will see if he has forecasted correctly.

— Would the Cardinals have liked Ryan Kelly at center? I’m sure. But I think the pick of Evan Boehm makes so much sense. He’s got the credentials, even as a fourth-rounder, and he’s got the mentality that not only fits Bruce Arians but Harold Goodwin. Lyle Sendlein started for many years as an undrafted rookie. It’s easy to picture Boehm doing the same.

— Does the youth at cornerback mean the Cardinals bring back Jerraud Powers? Arians said they don’t need to add any vets. If he did come back, do they keep five cornerbacks (Peterson, Bethel, Powers and the two draftees)? Last year they only had three cornerbacks on the roster because they kept five safeties.

— Among the positions I’d expect the Cards to hit in the undrafted rookie market: long snapper, quarterback, wide receiver. All three things weren’t hit in the draft. They will need another arm behind center and they certainly need a long snapper.

— That’s it. We’ll see how this draft class truly pans out around the 2019 season. In the meantime, rookie minicamp is next weekend.


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Wednesday before the 2016 draft

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2016 – 4:57 pm

The draft, thank goodness, is close.

There are many who love the run-up to the draft each year. I’m not really one of them. Let me know who the new Cardinals will be and we’ll go from there. It’s a little different when this franchise was picking top 10, but 29th (or 30th, we’ll get to that in a second)? There’s just so much that can happen that changes the dynamic whenever it is the Cards actually make a pick. Still, I wanted to put out some thoughts as we head into the 2016 selection process.

— I won’t be surprised if the Cardinals trade down Thursday night. Yes, Steve Keim said it’ll be harder for picks to make the team, but if they can spin the late first-rounder into an early second-rounder and maybe an early fourth, those guys are far enough up the food chain to be near-locks. So much of it has to do with who is available when the Cards are on the clock. That seems obvious but it’s also true. You figure the quarterbacks available — and teams trying to move up to get one — would influence that the most.

— The Cardinals (without a trade) will pick the 29th player but the NFL is still listing them with the 30th pick. No. 29 was supposed to be the Patriots, who lost it in DeflateGate, so if you are curious to know why the league’s draft tracker has a difference, that’s it.

— If I had to guess, I’d say the Cardinals do draft a QB at some point but it’ll be Saturday.

— It’s hard to argue with those who think the Cards would take center Ryan Kelly in the first round if he’s there. I don’t think he will be. I think it’ll most likely be defense — a cornerback if one is there, a defensive lineman if not. Wouldn’t rule out linebacker/pass rusher, but I’d lean toward an up-front guy.

— I don’t do mock drafts these days — I know, a crushing disappointment — but we do have a mock coming from the Cardinals, straight from the mind of safety Tony Jefferson. He has the Cards taking Clemson safety-or-corner T.J. Green. Maybe Jefferson eventually follows in the footsteps of one-time Cardinals defensive back Corey Chavous, who was a draft guru even when he was playing and continues working in that role these days.

(Cohort Kyle Odegard will have a full mock draft roundup of all the picks made across the internet for the Cardinals tomorrow.)

— The Cardinals currently have 73 players on the roster, so room for 17 right now. With six draft picks, that means 11 undrafted free agents. I think there will be more than 11 undrafted rookies signed, so I expect some cuts, and that doesn’t include the possibility of adding picks.

Even if the Cards don’t make a pick tomorrow, it’ll be an interesting night all the way around. See you then.

2016 NFL Draft


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Center may be college non-center

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2016 – 4:51 pm

Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen are gone. And while A.Q. Shipley remains and the Cardinals have signed a couple of other street free agents in Taylor Boggs and Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, it’s pretty clear the Cardinals are on course to draft a center at some point. Maybe it’s the first round, a guy like Alabama’s Ryan Kelly (who has been a favorite for mock drafters to scribble next to the Cardinals at 29th overall.) But it won’t be a surprise, even though the Cards don’t have a second-round pick, if they wait. After listening to both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians Tuesday, it shouldn’t even be a surprise if one comes later — and isn’t even technically a center. Not yet.

“In this draft, there are several opportunities to draft centers in all rounds,” Keim said. “Some of those guys are projections. There are some guys in the second, third, fourth rounds, who are going to be guys who played left tackle or they played guard at the collegiate level, who we worked out at center or they played center previously in their career that we think has the skill set. There are going to be opportunities to address that position if we feel necessary.”

Arians noted a couple of very good NFL centers like Jeff Hartings of the Steelers and Tim Grunhard of the Chiefs (Grunhard played guard in college, Hartings started his NFL career at guard before moving to center) that made the move. “When you say a college center, there might be three college centers, but there are 15 potential centers,” Arians said.

Options obviously open up a lot of possibilities for that first pick. Waiting on a center makes it easier to take a cornerback. Or a defensive lineman. Whatever Keim might want.

Ryan Kelly

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Draft (i.e. QB) trade changes NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on April 14, 2016 – 8:06 am

The draft was changed significantly Thursday morning, and with it, so was the NFC West. The Rams, now in Los Angeles, completed a huge trade with the Tennessee Titans to acquire the No. 1 overall pick. It will be a quarterback, either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff (the conventional wisdom seems to be Wentz.) The Rams were picking 15th overall, so the price to move up 14 spots was hefty: The Titans get back not only L.A.’s first-round pick but also two second-round picks and a third-rounder this season, as well as the Rams’ 2017 first-round pick (which if the rookie QB struggles, could be pretty high.)

The Titans did add in a fourth- and sixth-rounder in the 2016 draft back to the Rams.

It’s a reverse of what the Rams did in 2012 when they shipped the No. 2 pick to the Redskins so Washington could take QB Robert Griffin III. RGIII flamed out after an excellent rookie year, but the Rams didn’t really benefit much from the trade either — they have yet to make the playoffs since then. Now coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead have come to the point where they need to make a push or get pushed out of their jobs, so they pushed all their chips in for a QB. Neither Wentz or Goff have the same kind of buzz around them like a Cam Newton or Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston. Its a risk.

Meanwhile, you figure a No. 1 overall pick would play right away, meaning the Cardinals will be seeing a rookie QB twice this season. The Rams have two very good part in place to help a rookie QB — a running back who looks like he will be great in Todd Gurley, and a very good defense. If the QB pans out, the Rams will be in good shape over the next few years. If not, their roster will take a hit from giving up so many high picks. But like Cardinals GM Steve Keim says often, most of the time the QBs that become the “QB of the future” can only be found at the top of the draft. The Rams made sure they made it to that mountaintop, regardless of the price.



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The Cardinals’ exact draft picks

Posted by Darren Urban on March 29, 2016 – 8:02 am

With the draft about a month away, the official draft order was announced Tuesday of all seven rounds. The Cardinals currently have six picks: One each in rounds one, three, four and six, two in the fifth, and none in the second or seventh. That could change if GM Steve Keim decides to wheel and deal at some point. The picks in the grand scheme of the draft:

— First (29th overall)
— Third (92nd)
— Fourth (128th)
— Fifth (167th)
— Fifth (170th)
— Sixth (205th)

The draft’s first round will be held April 28th beginning at 5 p.m. Arizona time (8 p.m. ET). The second and third round are April 29th starting at 4 p.m., and the final four rounds are Saturday starting at 9 a.m.

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Watching those #Cardsdraft gems

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2016 – 9:42 am

The draft is near. It’s one month away today, actually, and as part of the countdown azcardinals.com will have six videos to mark the time to this year’s selections. The #CardsDraft Gems will feature one player who was found after the first two rounds who has shown he can perform past the limits some of the draft analysts gave him when he was coming out of college.

The series starts with running back Andre Ellington — a 2013 sixth-round pick — today. Two weeks out from the draft (April 14) will be 2015 fourth-round defensive lineman Rodney Gunter. One week out from the draft (April 21) will be 2015 fifth-round wide receiver J.J. Nelson. Three days before the draft (April 25) it will be third-round wide receiver John “Smokey” Brown. Two days out (April 26), it will be third-round safety Tyrann Mathieu, and the day before (April 27) it will be third-round running back David Johnson.


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Cardinals will draft a QB – unless they don’t

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2016 – 7:50 am

Is there an urgency for the Cardinals to develop a young quarterback, given that starter Carson Palmer is 36 years old? That’s not even a question that needs to be asked at this point. It’s not like the Cards haven’t been talking and thinking about this since Steve Keim and Bruce Arians came into power, though. There was a reason they drafted Logan Thomas in 2014.

So Thomas didn’t work out, and the team traded for Matt Barkley, and at this point, Barkley too is mostly an unknown. He didn’t get any significant practice time in the Cardinals’ offense, and they haven’t seen him in a preseason game. Pinning their hopes on his development — at least, pinning them only on his development — wouldn’t be prudent. The Cardinals probably need to draft a quarterback, and as I sit here in Indianapolis for the current version of the Scouting combine, long before the Cards have had any draft meetings, I will guess they will take one at some point in April.

But it’s not a guarantee. Both Keim and Arians acknowledge the need and importance to obtain a young QB. But both left the door cracked that the Cardinals might not. Keim insists he does not want to force a pick, especially at quarterback. The Cards will scour the background of these second-tier QB hopefuls — like Michigan State’s Connor Cook (pictured below) — knowing the top guys will be gone by the time they draft, and see if one makes sense. If you don’t feel a guy has a legitimate chance to play in the league, it doesn’t make much sense to draft one.

But the search is important. Someone has to play QB when Palmer is done. You’d rather make that decision pro-actively, rather than having it made for you when the time comes.

NFL Combine Football

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How Mathieu impacted Keim’s draft philosophy

Posted by Darren Urban on February 16, 2016 – 8:13 am

Safety Tyrann Mathieu at some point is going to get a new contract from the Cardinals. He’s been perfect for the franchise, both on the field and off it, even with all the questions about him coming out of college. General Manager Steve Keim, in fact, acknowledged Tuesday that Mathieu — who was Keim’s third-round pick in Keim’s first draft as a GM — actually has had an impact on Keim’s draft philosophy.

“Going into my first draft as a GM, there’s no way I thought a player like Tyrann Mathieu should get a second chance,” Keim said during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Now that we gave Tyrann that chance and he’s become the player and the person that is is, he’s changed my thinking on that a little bit that some — some — players deserve second chances.”

It’s a pretty significant acknowledgment. But it’s also worth noting that Keim emphasized that only “some” should get a second chance in his eyes. There are things to figure out from a player who is about to be drafted and those frequently intangible things are what would sway Keim one way or the other.

Keim has to see a player who is “genuinely embarrassed” for whatever mistake might have been made. Keim also needs to believe in a player’s passion for the game, which is something he is searching for from every single one of his draft picks anyway. Mathieu had that passion (which is easily seen daily now) and a love, and Keim was certain that Mathieu understood the Cardinals would be his last chance.

There are a lot of parts of the Mathieu story that helped get him drafted (the Patrick Peterson connection perhaps the most important) but that Mathieu’s impact reached all the way to Keim’s core beliefs is just another reason why Mathieu has been so important to this franchise.

Oh, and when asked about Mathieu’s potential contract extension and whether his two ACL tears could push the Cards to do a shorter deal, Keim made it clear — the Cardinals want to work out a long-term deal with the Honey Badger.

Tyrann Mathieu



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