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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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.
Tags: draft, Jaron Brown, Seahawks, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson, undrafted rookie free agents
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General Manager Steve Keim made it pretty clear last week when it came to his thoughts on potential draft-day trades, especially with the Cardinals sitting with only six draft choices as of right now: “I think our philosophy would be to acquire more picks and move back.”
(Yes, it could be a smokescreen but I do not think so. Keim is about the draft picks.)
“We do think it’s deep enough where I really do think that you are going to get third-round players in the fourth and fifth round, guys who can come in and be immediate impact players for you,” Keim added. “I think, when it’s all said and done, you want to acquire more picks.”
Whether that can happen will be seen. Sure, the Cards would like to pick up an extra pick or two. They pulled off a couple trades last year that could end up paying off. The second-round trade down — essentially giving up the chance to take linebacker Manti Te’o and instead picking up linebacker Kevin Minter — provided the extra fourth-round pick to take guard Earl Watford. Watford could very well end up being a starter this season. And trading down in the fourth round so the Giants could take QB Ryan Nassib (the Cards took pass rusher Alex Okafor six picks later) netted an extra sixth-round choice that turned out to be running back Andre Ellington — and we all know how that turned out.
“Acquiring more picks, it gives you a better chance to hit on players,” Keim said. “It’s just simple mathematics.”
But another team would have to want to trade up, obviously, to make something happen. The Cardinals aren’t the only ones who a) like to gather draft picks and b) understand the depth of the draft. It also depends on what is going on in the draft at the time the Cardinals are on the clock. Who is sitting there the Cards might take, and who could be there by the time the Cards — if they trade down — would be able to pick again. Those are the factors a team must weigh.
“If we’re trading back, in particular, what clump of players are we looking at in our own (top) 120 that are still going to be there?” Keim said. “Dropping back six or seven picks, then you know you have to have six or seven guys left on your board that you like or have a similar value to the player you’re possibly missing out on. That’s the one thing you have to really drive home with the room is, ‘Guys, we may miss out on this player, but here are the five or six guys that could be in contention.’ As long as you’re OK with those players and they fit what you do, I think trading back makes sense.”
Tags: draft, Steve Keim, trade
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You have to hand it to GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians, who managed to make a 30-minute pre-draft press conference entertaining considering that no real news can come out of it. As willing as both are to interact with the media, no secrets are coming out. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have some fun with it.
“Everything you hear this time of year is the furthest thing from the truth. Except from us two,” Keim deadpanned.
And as far as mock drafts go, Arians — who smiled and said he read ‘em all — was blunt: “They make for banter and chatter and good bar talk, but there isn’t much reality to it.”
As far as the other quick-hit highlights (I’ll post a story later today on the homepage):
— Keim wouldn’t rule out trading up but made it clear trading down made much more sense. Keim wants to have more than the six draft picks the Cards already have. It’ll be wait-and-see if that can happen.
— Keim said coaches and scouts have already reached out to some players who may not get drafted, to try and sell them on the idea of the Cardinals as a good fit and signing in Arizona as an undrafted free agent. That’s interesting, since the draft itself will alter the roster landscape.
— Neither would rule out drafting a quarterback, although Arians acknowledged it’s tough to have a first-round pick sit. There are quarterbacks they like. No, they wouldn’t say who. (At one point, Arians was asked how many QBs they would take in the first round. “Ten,” Arians said with a grin.) But taking a guy later? That sounded less promising as Arians talked about how many holes are in the games of QBs that last that long. “To think you’re going to draft (a QB) in the third round and he’s going to beat out (third-stringer) Ryan Lindley, that’s tough to do.”
— Arians said the potential suspension of Daryl Washington would not change how the Cards make their picks.
— The Cardinals finished their “120” board this morning, the list on which the Cards will make their draft selections. The powers-that-be will run through a bunch of mock draft scenarios Tuesday in order to try and get a sense of the many ways the first round can go.
— Keim said Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier can play inside or outside, and in regard to Shazier’s smaller size, noted that he was similar to the 49ers’ Patrick Willis and bigger than Navarro Bowman.
— He said ASU’s Will Sutton is more of a 4-3 under tackle.
— Keim said there are “four to five” safeties at the top of the list. After that there is a dropoff to guys who may or may not be able to start in the NFL at some point.
— Arians was impressed with Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas’ arm strength. He hesitated slightly when asked if Thomas’ future position is QB. “He thinks so,” Arians said.
— Keim on Johnny Manziel: “He’s one of the few guys this year when you are evaluating players where you want to get a big Coke and a popcorn box, put your feet up and it’s fun to watch. … There are not many guys who have come out with his skill-set. He’s a polarizing figure.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, draft, Johnny Manziel, Logan Thomas, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, quarterbacks, Ryan Shazier, Steve Keim, Will Sutton
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First, the facts: The NFL has made no decision about when the 2015 draft will take place. They have made that clear. But there has been plenty of speculation that the league has embraced the idea of a May draft instead of late April, in order to spread NFL news out even further across the calendar. This morning, it was floated the notion that maybe, just maybe the NFL would actually push the draft back another week next year, to mid-May.
The NFL is going to do what it is going to do. I’m not a big fan of a later draft, mostly because I’m not a big fan of the incessant pre-draft analysis even in the years before a late April selection. It seems like it’s going on forever this year (and we still have a week to go) and another week, well, you get the idea. More importantly, you wonder what it means to have these rookies essentially lose two weeks of transition time. Or three weeks if it moves another week later. As it is, the Cardinals’ draftees will arrive one week before OTAs start. That’s one week to kind of digest the playbook before going on the field with veterans. Do I expect Bruce Arians to again split the work into two groups much of the time? Yes. But less time for the rookies isn’t a good thing.
(Of course, it affects every team equally, so …)
You wonder if at some point it pushes the Cards’ summer work later too. Arians is keenly aware of getting his staff enough down time before training camp opens. Even though everything is a little later this year, the Cards’ final minicamp day is actually a week earlier than last offseason, giving the coaches a solid month-plus off before the grind really ramps up.
The Cardinals have been sensitive to how the later draft can impact their work in the draft room too. “What you have to watch out for now is not to overanalyze,” Arians said. “You have a grade on a guy, you go back and watch him, you try to find out some more stuff, and pretty soon there won’t be anybody worth drafting. You won’t like anybody. Fall in love with them and take them.”
Frankly, that paralysis-by-analysis has always been a pitfall even before the draft came later. There will never be any way to know how the date change impacts the picks and realistically, teams will adjust. They always do.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, offseason
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The first Cardinals draft I covered as a beat guy was back in 2001, which just so happened to be the highest pick the Cards have had since I have been around the team — second overall. That’s 13 drafts overall and 14 first-round picks. As the Cards get closer to this year’s draft (jeez, is it ever going to get here?) I thought I’d hit the first-round picks I’ve seen, with both my initial thoughts at the time and what hindsight has brought.
— 2001: T Leonard Davis. It was a no-brainer. Davis was a sure thing, taken right after Michael Vick. He’d be the 10-year left tackle the Cardinals sought since Lomas Brown had left. Bigg (he went by the nickname “Big” and at some point, started adding an extra “g”) was just that, a mammoth man. Sure, the Cards decided to play him at guard his first season, but that was so he could get used to the game. Dave McGinnis even brought myself and Kent Somers to his office one day to show us Davis manhandling a couple of defenders. I remember him totally rag-dolling Bears safety Mike Brown on one play. Problem was, he never really panned out as a left tackle, even though Denny Green insisted on shoe-horning him there. He was a better guard, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank on a guard, so he later got big money from the Cowboys. And made the Pro Bowl. As a guard.
— 2002: DT Wendell Bryant. What I really remember is hearing how then-defensive line coach Joe Greene had been so impressed with Bryant the player and the person during a workout up in Wisconsin. Uh, yeah, not so much. Bryant was a holdout until the regular season started of his rookie year, and he never climbed out of that hole. A total bust.
— 2003: DE Calvin Pace and WR Bryant Johnson. Ahh, the everyone-assumed-Terrell-Suggs-was-coming-to-the-Cards draft. This was the most surprising first round. The Cards traded down from No. 6 overall, thinking in part they could get DE Jerome McDougle. The Eagles jumped to No. 15 to get McDougle, and the Cards reached for Pace at 17 and then took Johnson at 18. Pace ended up a decent player, although he didn’t really hit his stride until Ken Whisenhunt showed up. This was a thank-goodness-for-Anquan-Boldin-in-the-second-round class.
— 2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald. And to think, if Josh McCown’s pass falls incomplete, would it have been Eli Manning? Or would Denny Green have made sure Fitz was No. 1 overall?
— 2005: CB Antrel Rolle. This was pretty straight-forward. Rolle was considered a top-10 talent, the Cards needed a corner. The problem was Rolle came into the league with most assuming he’d be better at safety. He was.
— 2006: QB Matt Leinart. Green said when the pick was made that Leinart falling to the Cards at 10 was really a “gift from heaven.” Seems really silly now. But it wasn’t at the time. (The Cards likely would have taken Jay Cutler, who went No. 11, if Leinart had been off the board.) Truth be told I thought it was a good pick, and I was convinced he would be that QB the Cards needed after his first two starts, come-from-ahead losses — but not his fault — to Kansas City and Chicago (“We let ‘em off the hook!”) Time proved I was way wrong. But it allowed Kurt Warner’s rebirth, so there’s that.
— 2007: T Levi Brown. The Cards wanted a left tackle. Joe Thomas was already taken. The Cards already had Edgerrin James, so Adrian Peterson didn’t make enough sense. And I’ll move on.
– 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was odd. He was raw. He was good. He frustrated sometimes, going from Pro Bowl talent to a guy who wouldn’t pay attention in stretches. But it was the right call. If only he hadn’t been the price for Kevin Kolb …
– 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Beanie was never really healthy. A prime example of why teams don’t look to running backs early anymore.
– 2010: NT Dan Williams. Williams has been a starter and has improved. He forms a nice tandem with Alameda Ta’amu. Funny, the biggest thing I remember of when the Cards took him was that Tim Tebow was picked right before him — virtually eliminating any chance he was going to get mentioned on national TV broadcasts.
– 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Yeah, a good pick. Obvious, but good.
– 2012: WR Michael Floyd. He’s turned into a good player in a short time. He wasn’t the left tackle everyone said they wanted, but he was better than the tackles on the board.
– 2013: G Jonathan Cooper. Coop should turn out to be a wise choice. If any of the big three tackles had been left at No. 7, the Cards probably would have nabbed one, but GM Steve Keim was about best players, and he believes Cooper was that.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, Dan Williams, draft, DRC, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Wendell Bryant
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One of the reasons Steve Keim liked hiring Bruce Arians as head coach was because Arians was so blunt in proclaiming his ability to go young. Young, in this league, often means inexperienced and with the potential for mistakes, and that’s not always a coach’s favorite thing. Of all the ways Arians and predecessor Ken Whisenhunt are different, it is the use of the inexperienced that stands out the most.
Last year, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper and third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu each were inserted into the starting lineup (although Cooper’s injury sidelined him). Andre Ellington got more and more time as the season went on. It’s not as if Whisenhunt didn’t play rookies, but looking at first-round picks alone — the guys you would think would play a lot from the outset — Whiz clearly moved them in slowly. Patrick Peterson was an anomaly (and don’t forget, if it wasn’t for a Greg Toler injury, even PP might’ve started the year on the bench.) Michael Floyd, Dan Williams, Beanie Wells, DRC all were slow to be worked in. Levi Brown needed Oliver Ross’ injury.
Meanwhile, Arians doesn’t bat an eye to go to a Mathieu, or to stick a Bradley Sowell in at left tackle when Brown fails. It leads you to a couple of thoughts. One, whomever is drafted May 8-10 could make an immediate impact. It’ll depend on who it is and what position they play, but even though Arians has repeatedly said this team could go play the season as is and it would work, I’m guessing there will be draft picks that make a difference a la Mathieu and Ellington. The other is that if you are a young player upon whom this staff hesitates, you clearly need to ramp it up, for example, Bobby Massie. It’s not age alone that will provide hesitation in getting you on the field.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Dan Williams, draft, DRC, Jonathan Cooper, Ken Whisenhunt, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The three quarterbacks of the Cardinals were at the facility today, doing a workout, hanging out and prepping for when the team can officially get started with new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris next week. Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley, a cohesive group all last season, looked like it again and made me think of something Bruce Arians told me a couple of months ago. “You have a (quarterbacks) room, (and) if you have a starter and you know who the backup is and you have a third guy who fits in the room, you don’t fool with it,” Arians said. “It’s too delicate of a learning place to fool with it.”
In the context of what the Cardinals might do in the draft, it’s a notable belief. Palmer said today he would understand if the Cardinals picked a quarterback in the draft. He’s not getting any younger, and the Cards would like to have a long-term answer at the position. What team wouldn’t? Arians is a major part of the draft meetings and he of course will have input on the top 120 board. But GM Steve Keim will have the final call, and like any GM viewing the big picture — which Keim most certainly does — settling on a young quarterback would be nice, to say the least.
Is there a guy in this draft worth it? Keim might think so, but he won’t be saying, wisely. Draft meetings are going on about 25 feet from me but there’s no way to know what this group of QBs will be graded by this scouting staff and front office. One thing that is interesting in this situation: Palmer is going to be due an extension after this season, and there is a large difference between paying a starting quarterback what Palmer would command (he’s getting $9 million this season) and what a guy under a rookie contract would cost. I don’t think that’s a determining factor (I don’t think the Cardinals would have a problem with Palmer as 2015 starting QB, assuming his level of play remains solid) but it is something to consider.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, draft, Drew Stanton, quarterbacks, Ryan Lindley, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals, like every team, have a bunch of draft-eligible players visit this time of year. You can have up to 30 come to the team facility, and that doesn’t count players from local colleges or who already live in the area, nor does it count any private workouts a coach or a front-office exec might have by flying out to meet a player. This is, of course, on top of pro days and the combine, where teams have 15 minutes to meet with up to 60 players.
So what does it mean when a player visits Tempe before the draft? Odds are, nothing.
To be sure, players are coming through. (I ran into a couple downstairs the other day. No, I have no idea who they were.) But visits have never meant a ton to me. I remember Levi Brown saying he had no idea the Cards were going to draft him because they hadn’t talked to him beforehand. (No snide remarks, please.) If you just do the math — 25 or 30 visits, plus all the combine guys, plus private workouts, like the one recently by Bruce Arians of Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas that was put out there publicly by the school — that’s at least, what 65 or 70 (assuming possible duplicates)? All that for six draft picks, at least as of right now.
The Big Lead did an interesting article this morning about the topic. When you look at all the guys that are known to take visits last year, the vast majority are never drafted by teams. That’s not a surprise, but it’s also why it makes no sense to worry much about who is coming in. The “visit” tracker TBL used isn’t complete at all, it only listed 10 players the Cardinals met with pre-draft last year. But of the 10, the Cards took only one — Tyrann Mathieu. Quarterbacks were on the list, but the Cards passed on Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon more than once. The Patriots had 43 players known on the visit list last year, and they drafted none of them.
(Quick side note: Some teams announce what players visit, some don’t. For some it’s easier to find out for reporters. When I first started covering the Cards, the team not only announced who visited, but we were allowed to interview them. I remember doing that on the 2001 visits of Leonard Davis and defensive lineman Gerard Warren.)
Again, visits may provide info, but it’s impossible to know what information a team is trying to glean. It’s even possible a team brings in a player to purposely intimate interest when there is none — love the draft smokescreens. In the end, the speculation can be fun but it’s usually fruitless, given all the variables involved.
Tags: draft, Levi Brown, Tyrann Mathieu
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A little of this, a little of that …
— Kurt Warner captured by TMZ talking about Arizona vs. St. Louis. “I probably feel more allegiance to Arizona than St. Louis, just because of the fact there are a number of people that are still there, teammates or in the upper levels (of the organization), being the last place I played, I still live there, there is probably a little more allegiance there,” Warner said. “But still a huge fan of St. Louis and I thank them for everything they gave me.”
I’ve been asked before whether Warner, if and when he goes into the Hall of Fame, would go in as a Cardinal or a Ram. Moot point. Players don’t pick a team for their bust, like you do in the baseball Hall. I just like the fact Warner showed up on TMZ.
— As far back as when Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Cards Bruce Arians was talking about how he had “inside and outside capabilities” at linebacker. Last year, the Cards needed him outside. Now, they need him inside, so it’s no surprise to hear that’s where they are going to play him. It’s highly likely the Cards look at outside linebacker/pass rusher again in the draft (you keep taking those guys when you are building a 3-4 and you don’t have a dynamic, young pass rusher) and depth is needed inside. You don’t know if/how long Daryl Washington might be suspended, you don’t know if Kevin Minter will be the answer. Alexander, who has played inside earlier in his career in Washington, provides depth and a guy who can spot start.
— I’ve been asked a couple of times whether the signings of LeQuan Lewis and Eddie Whitley means the Cards would be less likely to draft a cornerback. No. I thought that when they signed and that’s just underscored with the news yesterday that both two-year deals the players signed did not include a signing bonus. In other words, they can be released without any cap penalty, and in the offseason and a fluid roster, there are often a player or two signed that don’t even get to training camp. I’m not saying that’s Lewis or Whitley, but the bottom line, they are no locks either.
— Virginia Tech tweeted out photos of Arians working out QB Logan Thomas yesterday. What does it mean? It means the Cards are doing due diligence. Beyond that, please don’t get too riled up. I’d want to see what the kid could do too, especially since he’s about as raw as they come even with his considerable physical tools. The annual workout/pre-draft visit caveat: Just because the team meets/works out a guy, it doesn’t mean they are interested. I know of past connections done specifically when they knew they didn’t like the guy just as a smokescreen. And you never know how the meeting/workout went anyway — the Cards may find out they don’t like the kid for one reason or another.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, draft, Eddie Whitley, Kevin Minter, Kurt Warner, LeQuan Lewis, Logan Thomas, Lorenzo Alexander, Roster
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