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Blogs

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.

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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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The chances of trading down

Posted by Darren Urban on May 4, 2014 – 10:56 am

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.”


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Only the truth(?): Highlights from a draft presser

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2014 – 12:20 pm

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.”

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An option for Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on April 21, 2014 – 1:58 pm

It came as little surprise, given the circumstances and previous reports that it was going to happen, but the Cardinals officially executed the fifth-year team option on the rookie contract of Patrick Peterson today. The option is for the 2015 season, and will pay Peterson a little more than $10 million. More importantly, it gives the Cards some breathing room as they move toward a long-term contract extension. Peterson was at the facility today (although I didn’t get a chance to talk to him.) Without the option, Peterson would have been an unrestricted free agent after the season.

What the timeline will be for a Peterson extension is unknown. This isn’t a new subject. The option year means the Cards aren’t really under any pressure to get a new deal done yet — this could be complicated, since Peterson is going to want a hefty new contract — but General Manager Steve Keim has left little interpretation about Peterson’s future. Peterson isn’t going anywhere. He has joined Larry Fitzgerald as one of the faces of the franchise, and that isn’t going to change.

The contract is part of the reason a guy like Antonio Cromartie gets only a one-year deal. There are other factors, of course, but in part it’s because the Cards will have a significant investment in the other starting cornerback. Given needs across the depth chart, having to pay both starting CBs big money probably isn’t feasible in this salary-capped world. Given who is involved, with Keim and Peterson, I still expect this to come out with relatively few issues. It might not happen right away, but it’s going to happen.

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Finding that future quarterback

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2014 – 4:00 pm

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.

QB3usethis

 


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Live, from the Great Lawn, it’s the Cardinals!

Posted by Darren Urban on April 14, 2014 – 3:57 pm

The draft, in a “normal” year, would have begun April 24. It instead has been pushed back two weeks, to May 8. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t have some significant draft discussion the night of April 24 — and the fans will have a chance to be part of it.

That Thursday night, which has usually wed the draft party with the opening of the Big Red Rib & Music Festival on the Great Lawn outside University of Phoenix Stadium, there will be a live TV special shot during the Cards’ “Spring Tailgate” event. Admission is free. Gates open at 5 p.m., and at 7 p.m., a draft preview shown on Fox Sports Arizona will take place with fans as the studio audience. The show, hosted by Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley, will feature team president Michael Bidwill, GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians, along with safety Tyrann Mathieu and new left tackle Jared Veldheer.

Part of the show will be questions from the fans, including some sought through social media. So, using hashtag #CardsTailgate, you can send questions over social (via Twitter, for instance) and some of those will be used in the broadcast. It’ll be two weeks before the draft, so I’m not sure anyone is going to be giving away any trade secrets, but it will be entertaining and a chance to get up close and fairly personal with key Cardinals’ personnel.

UPDATE: Using hashtag #CardsTailgate on Twitter, you can tweet questions for the Spring Tailgate panel. If your question is used, you could win an autographed Cardinals mini-helmet.

TailgateBlog


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As of now, six picks in draft

Posted by Darren Urban on March 31, 2014 – 11:17 am

The Cards have made a couple of trades in the past year that included draft picks and possible draft picks, but as of right now, the team’s selections are pretty straightforward: The 20th pick in each of the first six rounds, with no seventh round choice after it was dealt to Oakland in the Carson Palmer trade.

– First round (20th overall)

– Second round (52nd)

– Third round (84th)

– Fourth (120th)

– Fifth (160th)

– Sixth (196th)

As GM Steve Keim has proven, he will make trades. Given the six choices, any Cardinals trade is probably going to be to move down instead of up, in order to gain an extra choice or two. Last year, wheeling and dealing gained the Cardinals eight total picks, dealing down (and still picking up LB Kevin Minter in the second round) and ending up with bonus fourth- and sixth-round picks. Those netted them Earl Watford and Andre Ellington, and if Watford ends up starting this year, that could be some very sound trading. (Ellington alone might make this true.)

DraftForBlog


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Pro Football Talk goes one-on-one with GM Steve Keim

Posted by since1898 on March 28, 2014 – 12:14 pm

BACK TO #since1898


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“Throw gas” on a potentially dominant defense

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2014 – 12:09 pm

The Cardinals’ initial foray into free agency was offense-heavy. Not a big shock, since that side of the ball need the most work. As the draft approaches, however, the focus may just shift. Because even though Bruce Arians is an offensive guy, GM Steve Keim has a belief that the good teams in this salary cap work have a dominant side of the ball. And the Cardinals — with the No. 1 rush defense and the sixth-ranked defense overall — aren’t in that realm on the offensive side of the ball.

“Seattle was a dominant defense with a solid offense,” Keim said. “Denver was a dominant offense with an OK defense. In our situation, we are closer to having a dominant defense. So I think you have to continue to throw gas on the fire. Continue to build the strength.”

That’s why cornerback Antonio Cromartie shot to the top of the to-do list after he was cut by the Jets. The move surprised the Cards — they did not think New York would let him go — but rallied to understand the situation and aggressively court him. It was only a one-year contract, but the team proved last year with linebacker Karlos Dansby that could be a golden type of situation. There are still spots defensively that need shoring up (like the need for a safety or inside linebacker depth), and there is also Keim’s quest to get longer and more athletic with his 3-4 defensive ends and the pass rushers outside. The draft could very well provide those things. But when you start looking at the top end talent on the roster, it is the defense that claims many of the spots, whether it is Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell or Daryl Washington. (Or even, as Ron Wolfley points out, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who fortunately for the Cards did not get a head coaching job.)

The offense isn’t going to be ignored — “We know we have areas we need to fix and it certainly needs to catch up with the defense,” Keim said — but a defensive juggernaut is the first goal. It’s what has put the Seahawks and 49ers into the stratosphere they are in, and why the Cards returned to relevance last season.

DefenseGasBLOG

 


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