Some quick wrap-up notes after the draft, before I take my neglected sons to dinner:
– The Cardinals, obviously, did not take a quarterback. Keim admitted he had talked long about about subscribing to the theory he wanted to draft a QB every year. “I really still believe in that,” Keim said. So what happened?
“The difference is that our two draft choices came through free agency with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton,” Keim said. “So we didn’t feel like that was a necessary move that we needed to make. Quite frankly, the way the board shook out, the quarterback at no point was the top player on our board. So it made the decision quite easy.”
That means Brian Hoyer and his potential $2 million salary is safe for now. I’d think a trade might still be possible for the Cards, but post-draft, it’d be tough. Of course, if the Cards were to sign an interesting undrafted rookie QB, that could change.
– Speaking of the undrafted rookies, that list will grow into the evening and names will leak. (I won’t be keeping constant watch; the official list will likely be released Monday.) Already, Oklahoma safeties Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson have tweeted out they are coming to the Cardinals. San Jose State cornerback Ronnie Yell tweeted the same as did Florida A&M defensive lineman Padric Scott. Tony Pauline reports the Cards also got Arizona receiver Dan Buckner. Keim said he expected to sign 15 undrafted rookies.
– The Cardinals want to get another nose tackle/defensive tackle. That didn’t present itself in the draft, so Keim said the Cards will not only look at it among the undrafted rookies but also with veteran free agents and possible cap casualties as we head toward training camp.
– The weekend gave the Cards some options at return men. They have Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Andre Ellington and maybe Stepfan Taylor.
– As for the overall haul Saturday? It’s always wait-and-see for me. I can’t get very emotional because it’s impossible to know. On the surface, I like getting the speed receiver Ryan Swope assuming he can stay healthy. I like adding fresh bodies to the running back room. I definitely like the possibilities of interviewing tight end D.C. Jefferson, assuming he can prove he can play. I hope Okafor can do some things as a pass rusher because that’s still a segment of the Cards’ defense that leaves some question marks. But that’s enough for now. We have a whole offseason to analyze.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, D.C. Jefferson, Dan Buckner, draft, Javon Harris, Padric Scott, quarterbacks, Ronnie Yell, Ryan Swope, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson
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Well OK then.
So I was thinking it would have been interesting — very — had the Cardinals taken Manti Te’o in the second round. Instead, they traded out of the pick because they were looking at another inside linebacker in Kevin Minter, could get him later and get an extra pick, and it turned out they weren’t as close to seeking Te’o as I might’ve thought. But hey, the Cardinals made up for it by going with the NFL Draft’s other co-winner of the “huge story leading into the draft” player — Tyrann Mathieu.
There is little question Mathieu is a risk. And that’s probably an understatement. But the Cardinals know that. They have Mathieu’s mentor, Patrick Peterson, in the same locker room (and I would bet their lockers will be adjoining when all is said and done). Certainly, Mathieu can help. Bruce Arians talked about the ability for Mathieu to essentially be a secondary swingman, a free safety/nickel corner/cornerback that could stay on the field in all situations. It just feels like an all-or-nothing choice: He’s either going to be a dynamic star, or he’ll wash out because of his personal problems.
– It was fitting, I suppose, on the day LaRod Stephens-Howling officially found a new home with the Steelers, that his famous emotional conference call after he was drafted was surpassed by the tears flowing in Mathieu’s call. I mean, the Hyphen only got choked up for an answer or two. Mathieu was so emotional I wasn’t sure at first we were going to be able to understand him. I can’t blame him.
– The addition of Mathieu, with his skill set, may seal the end of the Josh Cribbs possibility. Arians at the owners meetings even talked about adding Cribbs and how great it would be to put him and Peterson back together on punt returns to mess with the opposition. Friday, Arians talked about Mathieu and Peterson doing it. I asked GM Steve Keim if Cribbs was now off the radar. “That’s something we have already explored,” Keim said. “At this point, I really can’t get any further into it, so I will leave it at that.” Watching Keim say it, it sure didn’t sound like Cribbs was coming.
– Kind of feel bad for Minter. His arrival got overshadowed quickly.
– Oh, we still have another day of the draft? Yes we do. And the Cards still have five players to take. Those first two picks in the fourth round are interesting. Now with two choices, I could see the Cards taking a flyer on one of the quarterbacks. Could they pull the trigger on Matt Barkley? I could see it. That extra pick is gravy; They were going to take Minter in the second anyway. So maybe Barkley or Ryan Nassib or Tyler Bray are in play. People loved matching Barkley and the Cardinals at No. 7 way back at the Scouting combine (which was foolish) but a fourth-round pick — one of two — could be palatable.
– The Cards likely will take a running back at some point. Johnathan Franklin is available. I know people bring up Marcus Lattimore and it is a great and inspirational story. But I know I wouldn’t touch a guy who already has blown out two ACLs, especially a running back.
– I still expect the Cards to at least think about adding a pass rusher project tomorrow, and a pure speed deep threat receiver.
Tags: draft, Josh Cribbs, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Manti Te'o, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals spent their second-round pick on LSU inside linebacker Kevin Minter, after trading down seven spots (38 to 45) with San Diego in exchange for the Chargers’ fourth-round pick, 110th overall. The Chargers took Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, and that easily could have been the Cards’ pick if they had chosen to stay put. That definitely would have been interesting. But Minter was a guy the Cards were already eying, and to pick up an extra fourth-rounder and still get the guy they wanted makes a lot of sense. Now, Minter and Te’o will be linked — along with whomever the Cards take with that second fourth-rounder — in the minds of Cards’ fans. We’ll see how it develops.
Minter’s reputation is of a two-down thumper inside guy. He’s not real big — 6-foot — but he can hit, and frankly, in nickel situations, it will be Daryl Washington as the linebacker staying on the field inside and not a guy like Minter or Jasper Brinkley, the guy who is currently penciled in to start now that Paris Lenon is gone. Minter was an first team All-American this season, getting 130 tackles and four sacks for the Tigers.
“(The Cardinals) said I could be a great fit for the team,” Minter said. “They asked me if was ready to come down to Arizona and bust some heads. I said ‘Yeah.’ “
– A side note: free agent running back LaRod Stephens-Howling agreed to a one-year contract with the Steelers Friday. Good for Hyphen. He’ll be missed, but he wasn’t going to return, and now he’s headed back to the city where he played in college.
Tags: draft, Kevin Minter, Manti Te'o
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The Cardinals did indeed use their first-round pick to address the offensive line, grabbing physical and athletic guard Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina. The top three tackles were all off the board by the time the Cards picked, and Cooper — given his athletic nature — is probably a better fit to Bruce Arians’ offense than Chance Warmack (and it might not have helped that Warmack has some concerns with the health of his shoulder.)
It makes sense that Cooper will go right into the starting lineup. I’d guess that would likely be in place of right guard Adam Snyder, who could in theory be an all-everything backup to every position. Or the could move on from Snyder, who is due $4 million in salary this season. We’ll have much more on azcardinals.com over the next hour or so, including quotes from Cooper, Arians and GM Steve Keim.
Tags: Adam Snyder, Chance Warmack, draft, Jonathan Cooper, offensive line
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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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So, let’s say the top three offensive tackles are off the board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. If the team were to go offensive line still, it would have to be a guard, someone like Chance Warmack (below) or Jonathan Cooper. Some say that can’t happen, it shouldn’t happen. A guard in the top 10? Nonsense. Guard is one of those positions you can fill later. Guard is one of those positions where you can get a Pro Bowler in the fourth round, or turn a tackle who couldn’t pan out into a top-notch guard.
Or, is it something where if you think he’s going to be a Pro Bowler for many years, you grab him when you can. That’s the philosophy of Cards GM Steve Keim, at least when he has talked about taking a guard high. Now all you have to do is figure out if that is indeed how Keim and his braintrust in the draft room see a Warmack or a Cooper.
Watching the ESPN blogger mock play out this morning, Mike Sando — with the tackles off the board, as well as pass rusher Dion Jordan — took Warmack for the Cardinals (page 89 in the blog). ESPN in-house scout Matt Williamson loved the pick, noting that he thinks the Cards need a guard more than a tackle. Williamson called Cooper and Warmack the best two players, period, in this draft, so maybe the “no-guard-early” talk shouldn’t matter as much this year. And maybe it underscores the overall talent level at the top part of the draft. There’s no question you could probably plug Warmack in right away, likely taking Adam Snyder’s spot (and letting Snyder be a backup for all five positions).
I understand both sides of the argument. I get why people would say don’t take a guard that early, especially when someone at a position of greater impact can be had. But I also understand why you would grab one if he can be a Steve Hutchinson-type. It again comes down to the draft board, the grades and who is still available. This is certainly a scenario the Cards could be faced with Thursday. Personally, I don’t see why, if you believe in a player, you’d let the position make you hesitate to take him.
(And all that said, I could see the Cards trying to trade down if possible faced with this scenario.)
Tags: Chance Warmack, draft, Jonathan Cooper, Steve Keim
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There are plenty of realistic scenarios where none of the top three rated offensive tackles are left on the draft board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. It’s been suggested by some that the Cards could think about trading up in that situation. I just don’t see it. I didn’t before, and I don’t now after GM Steve Keim said “I’m not in the business of giving away picks.”
Smartly, Keim isn’t going to rule anything out. But moving up from 7 is going to be too expensive, even if it was just a spot or two. And frankly, the Cards can’t afford to give up a second or a third right now when those guys have a chance to turn into starters on a team that needs to fill holes. (Mike Jurecki reported the Cards have discussed the possibility of trading for disgruntled franchised Chiefs tackle Branden Albert, but I don’t see that either. If the money he wants on a long-term deal is scaring the Dolphins away, I don’t see how it makes more sense here.)
So maybe the Cards don’t trade up, or trade for Albert. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade. One thing I can definitely see is Keim willing to trade down, especially in this draft. He may not want to give away picks, but stockpiling them I’m sure is of interest, especially for a draft guy like him. Of course, there has to be someone on the board at 7 someone feels the need to come up and get, which could be a long shot. And who, exactly are the Cards going to seek? Offensive line and pass rusher remain the most obvious choices, and there are a handful that have been discussed not only top 10 but into the 11-15 range that make sense.
I do see Keim being aggressive in such draft moves, willing to move up and back if necessary. That second round pick, in fact, could be interesting in that regard. In the first round, though, I’m thinking back and not forward — if the Cards move at all.
Tags: Branden Albert, Chiefs, Dolphins, draft, Steve Keim
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It’s draft week, it’s voluntary minicamp week and it’s a busy time. A few quick things I wanted to note this morning:
– The annual draft party will take place Thursday afternoon out at the Great Lawn at University of Phoenix Stadium. All the information can be found here. Gates open at 4 p.m. The draft starts at 5, and the Cardinals should be choosing around the 6-6:15 p.m. range. Assuming of course they don’t trade the pick. It’s going to be an interesting one.
– For those who missed the TV show “Flight Plan” over the weekend, all five segments will be posted to the azcardinals.com video page later this afternoon.
– Calais Campbell is hosting a charity golf tournament May 10, and he’s looking for players. The CRC Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic presented by the Diamond League is already scheduled to have former NFLers Donovan McNabb, Jake Plummer and Kordell Stewart, former Phoenix Sun Cedric Ceballos and many of Campbell’s current teammates. It’ll be held at the Raven Golf Course. For more information or to take part, e-mail Ian Grutman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– I doubt I will do a full first-round mock. I am leaning toward doing the top 10 sometime Wednesday afternoon, but even then, I don’t even know if it makes sense. I think this possibly could be the most confusing of the first rounds since I’ve been doing this. So many different ways it can go. So many trade possibilities. The sure things aren’t so sure. And it will make Thursday riveting television.
Tags: Calais Campbell, draft, draft party
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General Manager Steve Keim mentioned yesterday about the fine line evaluating players and, more specifically, not wanting to overevaluate them. With so much time between the end of the season and the draft, that is a concern.
But both he and coach Bruce Arians agree it is the play on the college football field above all else that should be driving these player grades.
“I don’t grade anybody down at the (Scouting) combine,” Arians said. “The tape doesn’t lie. If a guy plays football fast and doesn’t run fast at the combine, that means he carries his pads pretty well. … I don’t believe in working out in shorts because the game is not played in shorts.”
Keim, not surprisingly, referred back to Anquan Boldin — he of the relatively slow 40 time when he was at the combine in 2003 (the 4.7 range) — and yet became a Pro Bowl receiver from his first game in the NFL.
“As much as combine numbers mean to you, and sometimes our guys will get enamored with a guy who ran a (tremendous) 6.55 three-cone, you have to remind them, unfortunately, at 1 o’clock on Sunday, we don’t get to run a three-cone drill,” Keim said, adding that the evaluator has to ask, “What are his compensating abilities” for whatever shortcomings he might have.
That doesn’t mean someone with an impressive combine gets thrown out, even if his stats weren’t great in college. Again, the evaluation is about what the team sees on video. Production counts but it isn’t the whole picture. The player had to have shown something in real games. It sounds simple. But every team doesn’t always adhere to it.
– Really good read from Josh Weinfuss collecting an oral history of various Cardinals players from their time around the draft.
– Safety James Sanders, who wasn’t going to return this year after his one year on the Cardinals, has been suspended the first four games of the NFL season.
– And with that, I am headed to this evening’s Tweetup with SI’s Peter King, Arians, Keim and a host of players downtown at Tom’s Tavern as we raise funds for a Tillman Foundation scholarship. Tomorrow, I’ll be running in Pat’s Run at ASU. Hope to see some of you.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, James Sanders, Pat's Run, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals held their pre-draft press conference today. Safe to say the schedule release in a couple of hours will hold bigger news. That’s natural. There isn’t anything that is going to be said of major consequence ahead of time. That was crystallized when GM Steve Keim was asked how many offensive linemen he had graded as first-round picks.
Keim paused before finally answering.
“Well, I could tell you, but it probably wouldn’t be the truth,” Keim said, eliciting laughs. “So I’d prefer not to answer that one.”
There were no major tells in the 17 minutes Keim and Head Coach Bruce Arians spoke. They reiterated they didn’t want to be forcing any picks, especially in the first round. The Top 120 board isn’t quite finished but “the hay is almost in the barn,” Keim said. They don’t bother paying much attention to all the draft stuff floating out there because they know it doesn’t mean much. Smokescreens. “It’s fun to watch all the prognosticators change their mock drafts every two hours,” Arians said.
The larger scouting staff generated 3,100 scouting reports and the Cards’ coaching staff added another 287, Keim said. That’s a lot of paperwork to shift through. Keim said the draft is deep for safeties, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and pass rushers. That works well for a team that could use safeties, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and pass rushers like the Cardinals. Arians repeated his thoughts from last month that he thinks “four or five” of the quarterbacks, while they might not have the “Wow” factor, will have long careers of some sort in the NFL. Those guys are hurt because they are following the 2012 draft class of QBs, Arians said.
Mostly though, it’ll be a waiting game until next Thursday to see what the Cards are going to do. There weren’t any real hints today.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, Steve Keim
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