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.



Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 36 Comments »

36 Responses to “Actually, 120 is enough for the draft”

  1. By Mike Ellingboe on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    That clarifies any questions I would have had about the importance that is placed on scheme specific players. In theory, a guy like Manziel, otherwise highly rated (at least by the talking heads), may not even be on our list of 120.

    Good article.

  2. By Eric G on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    2004 draft? I don’t recognize any of those names, did they even make the team?

    But seriously, let’s hope for a repeat of that a decade later. Can’t wait to see what they do this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll be happy.

  3. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Really interesting post, well done. Surprising.

  4. By dan on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Thanks Darren!
    It would be an interesting mathematical study to ascertain how it could be that after all the work that goes into the Card’s 120 Board, only maybe 80 or 100 of them actually get drafted. I guess it shows how hugely different the scouts’ and teams’ opinions are regarding the large set of all the players coming out of college.

  5. By AzDesertRat1953 on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Would be nice if all the other teams left our 120 be and picked all the others around them and we end up with 6-8, [if they can get at least two or maybe more extra picks some how], real good players.

    Thanks for this info Darren, I knew there had to be some kind of logic to only 120 players on the board.

    GO CARDS!!!

  6. By Aj on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Great article for sure, was wanting to know how the 120 board came to be. Good to know that maybe someone’s top pick may not even be on our board.

  7. By dan on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    So Darren,
    Do all the players on our Board who don’t get drafted automatically get invited to camp as Undrafted Free Agents?

  8. By Darren Urban on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Dan —

    RE: UDFAs

    Got woo ’em first. And there are only so many roster spots.

  9. By Eric G on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    I see a lot of mocks now having Bortles falling to us. Oh man wouldn’t that be a surprise, and miracle because I don’t see it happening. Wonder if he is on the list, and if so, what #?

  10. By Rich on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    finally, the draft is here! Cards are in good shape. They can almost take any position and make sense with it. After seeing Sherman’s contract, maybe a CB is the way to go.

  11. By louis on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    if we don/t draft a quarterback we are in trouble and why we did not keep dansby.

  12. By Darren Urban on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Louis —

    RE: Dansby

    If you don’t understand why Dansby left, you need to put more effort into understanding Keim’s plan.

  13. By BirdGang on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    Louis —

    Yes definitely in trouble since Palmer had over 4000 yards last year and started rolling towards the end of the season. We offered Dansby the most we were willing to give him, he said no and we held the door open as we waved him goodbye.

  14. By infitzwetrust on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    kind of off topic but what do you think about the Sherman extension in terms of the Patrick Peterson extension?

    Will Peterson push to be the highest paid CB?

    Will Peterson be content with making less?

    Just curious how the ripple effect will play-out….

  15. By Darren Urban on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    infitz —

    RE: Peterson

    I definitely think PP will make a push to be the highest paid CB.

  16. By Andy Kw on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    I am glad we addressed the ILB depth with the signing of Former Pittsburgh Steeler ILB Larry Foote.
    -But what about depth at the Safety position:
    We missed out on guys such as SS Chris Clemons (signed a cheap contract with the Houston Texans) and FS Ryan Clark (Signed with Washington Redskins). YEREMIAH BELL PLEASE COME BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    -FS Rashad Johnson can play both FS and SS but he will start the season as FS until the return of our star Tyrann Mathieu.
    -SS Tony Jefferson has star potential but he needs to show that he stepped up from the 2013 NFL Season going into the 2014 NFL Season. I think the Arizona Cardinals want more height at the SS position but as long as Jefferson can cover TE, that would be great. But veteran depth such as Bell, former Card SS Adrian Wilson, SS Quintin Mikell, SS Reed Doughty. Any of these guys would provide some nice depth and they can teach T. Jefferson and whatever rookie we draft a few things.

  17. By Aj on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Honestly guys I think its good that dansby left, despite his production. Let me explain before you think I went crazy. Between him and Andre Roberts Contract salary, we were able to bring in Veldheer, Cromartie, Ted Larsen, Jonathan Dwyer the list goes on and on. Yes Dansby was a very productive player but he can be replaced and look at what we gained from it. For just two guys (mostly dansby’s contract salary) we got basically all of our free agents. This allowed us to be more aggressive ( its been forever since I heard aggressive and cardinals in the same sentence) thus allowing the cardinals to basically win this offseason. Now all that is left is the draft, which I am convinced that Keim will go BPA. He did last year and we found some gems. My only question is what gem will he find this year?

  18. By John The Draft Guy on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Interesting read;

    One scout even went so far as to suggest that Ealy is nothing more than a ‘con man’.

    “He thinks he’s already an Aldon Smith-type player,” a third scout said. “Classic con man. I don’t trust this kid. He will be just a big pain in the (expletive). He’s one of those ‘let somebody else draft him’ guys” … Added a fourth scout: “There’s no outstanding traits about him other than he gives you some versatility in a bad (defensive-line) draft. He’s a mess. Somebody’s going to draft him because they need a defensive end and overdraft him.”

    Wow. That is some interesting info. Smoke or truth ?

  19. By Coach K on May 7, 2014 | Reply


    I think we are a pass rusher, corner, safety and offensive tackle away from having the depth for a run at the Superbowl. Do you think this draft can deliver us to being the first home team to host it’s own Superbowl?

  20. By Coach K on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Deep down, I would love to see Blake Bortles fall to us. It might take an act of God, but if it happens, I care not who the other 5 picks are! This guy has the “IT FACTOR” I do not see in any of the other prospects, including johnny overhyped manziel.

  21. By br on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    I too have much man love for BB but it is a wasted pick if we grab him in first round. CP has two or most likely three more yrs left in him and we dont want pick #20 riding the pine for three yrs, at least use the time on the clock and get a bidding war going btwn teams that NEED a QB and take the highest bidders package and move down or even out of first round get OL with your first pick SS then RB giving CP more time and more weapons says MVP type year and we host the SB. Bortles sitting on the bench doesnt give Palmer more time in the pocket or a btwn the tackles RB that will prevent defenses from keying on Ellington. Of course that is my humble ( offensive biased) opinion)!!! On a side note i see the draft brings out alot of new posters, thought you and JTDG and any kw easy e and the other veteran posters had left the board, nice to see i was wrong just not looking in the right posts! I have been absent for awhile but im back for a little while anyway…looks like I will miss the season though, 5 trips to god forsaken s$%&holes in the middle east apparently isnt enough, not retired anymore got recalled to go train there so called new army(cant trust half of them the other half are not fit to be street sweepers let alone soldiers!) So im back on active duty waiting for the Marine Corps to ship me over, hopefully I will be able to get some news on my Cardinals ( in btwn dodging bullets! lol) a buddy of mine used to mail me the Monday edition of USA TODAY and i would read that over and over until the next copy would arrive, he is all set up to do it again, hopefully the mail is a lot faster than it used to be…guess its takes awhile to get mail when your in hell.

  22. By br on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    Coach K —

    Crap, almost forgot…you know im 100% a Bortles fan just like youits just we dont need a QB for a few yrs and hate to see him waste on the bench. Now we should draft Shane Carden/ECU next yr and let him sit and learn for a couple yrs behind CP (yes a little East Carolina bias but take a look at hime, you will be amazed! As well Hardy, his WR is an absolute future NFL star in the making, was a walk-on to now a record breaking probable all american wideout! Take a gander at both think you will be impressed.)

  23. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Darren: Been thinking about that 120 each year. Wonder if you could ask the braintrust if they have back-tested that list each year against the sucess of the players identified? Each year’s list could be run annually for say a 7 year period to see how many made a roster, started, achieved positon specific metrics (like Fumble recoveries, sacks etc) made all pro etc. And could be done by position. With the data banks they have the software so easy/fast to do.

    Most stock trading platforms have exaclty this knd of software to back test every stock in the Index universe. The same kind of data base exits for players now, these days of “money ball”. It could show weaknesses in analsyis and judgemtns, probalby exposing certain scouts as briliiant others as not so much 😉 Just trying to advance the cause here Darren! Thx, DTL>

  24. By Darren Urban on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    DTL —

    RE: 120 analytics

    I’m sure some of that gets factored in. But my guess is scouting is still scouting. And as Keim said, you can’t measure want-to.

  25. By Mike Ellingboe on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Andy KW,

    Relax about the strong safety. Todd Bowles referenced our issues with TE’s last year, and noted that in most cases the breakdown wasn’t there, it was with the rest of the defensive unit. If Shazier is available, he’ll go a long ways to fixing it. There really isn’t a Safety (outside of Chancellor) who has the combo of size and speed to cover Vernon Davis, but with Washington and Shazier together, if schemed correctly, would make it very difficult to find anything open. If he (Shazier) is picked before us, a guy like Hageman, lined up at DE, would put a pretty good shot on him before he could release. If all that fails, Pryor could still slide to #20. Arians isn’t blowing smoke when he says we’re ready to go right now, they’re just loading the deck tomorrow.

  26. By John The Draft Guy on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    Coach K

    I think of all the players that could help us at #20, but deep down, I agree with you. If Bortles did fall, that would be amazing to see the cards take their QB for the next 10-15 years for several reasons.

    With PP and Fitz having potential monster cap issues, having a QB under the rookie salary as an option could be smart. It sure worked for SF and Seattle.

    Dont get me wrong, I am a huge Palmer fan. But Bortles could be that insurance if we needed to make a change next year and he would be that long term answer.

  27. By ak24 on May 7, 2014 | Reply

    The last two mocks I’ve seen (including Mayocks) have us getting lucky as Barr falling to us. These are some targets I’m hoping we aim for:

    1st- Anthony Barr, OLB.
    – needs a year or two before he taps his potential, but he’s going to be a beast.

    1st- Kyle Fuller, CB
    – I think he’s the best cb in the draft. Great feel for the game.

    3rd- Terrence Brooks, FS/SS
    – love this kid, probably the best cover safety in the draft. Needs to bulk up a little, but has the frame to do it. Can play both safety positions.

    3rd- Marcus Roberson, CB

    3rd- Zach Mettenberger-
    – some red flags. but the talent is there, and he fits the system perfectly imo.

    4th- Telvin Smith, ILB
    – perfect replacement to Dansby. Needs to add bulk, but he’s got great anticipation, instincts, eyes and he’s extremely fast breaking on the ball. Excellent cover skills.

    4th- Antone Exum, CB
    – potential to move to ss

    5th- Aaron Colvin, CB
    – would be a 2nd rd pick if he didn’t tear his ACL. Works great for us, he gets a red shirt year with Cro here. Great instincts and technician. Hard worker.

  28. By br on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    Ak24, not another defensive depth draft guy…please when will y’all see the light we dont need to build defensive depth for the future we need offense impact players now, our defense is stout and highly ranked, offense, not so much we need high picks for right side of OL as well as a speed WR (one that can catch and hold onto the ball) I could live with Barr in rd 1 ( but only if Martin ND is gone, which now all the scouts are seeing the light and have shot him up into top 12 in most drafts, i have been preaching Z. Martin for moths now, he is going to be an anchor at RT for yrs for some lucky team out there just to bad it wont be Cardinals. Also a couple of those guys you mention are known to mess with the devils lettuce, we dont need them in our locker room we already have to deal with off field problems and suspensions…dont think we need anymore youngsters who arent mature enough or smart enough to lay off the devils lettuce for a little while knowing they were going to get tested and allegedly (and i throw that word in just to be politicaly correct) smoked and toked not caring about there future at all in my opinion. They basically thumb there noses at authority thinking because they have a god given talent to possibly play in the nfl that they are somehow above the law, and the sad thing is some team out thee will draft all of the players that popped on the drug test instead of passing them up and banding together as a league and no team drafting or signing them for 5yrs then they are free to sign with a team any try and make that team ( if they have not failed any more drug test in that 5yr time) We would have a lot less kids failing the drug test if that were the punishment, would hopefully put the kids ego’s back in check, they would realize the world doesnt revolve around them! But sadly nothing will come of it and the will in a sick/sad way be rewarded for breaking the rules!

  29. By Lifetime Fan on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    I hope they take a QB if there is a good one left on the board at 20. Another position would help win this year, but without a QB there will be a huge falloff next year when either palmer or fitz has to leave.

  30. By John The Draft Guy on May 8, 2014 | Reply


    I have seen those mocks too. About a month ago I started hearing Barr sliding . Back then I said Barr would fall to us, Steve brought it up yesterday on another blog. Barr has to be the pick at 20 if he drops. I do like Demarcus Lawrence if Barr isnt there though.

    But are we going to agree on safety? I watched Brooks live and on video and I think this kid is a very good player. I dont know if he gets to round 3.

    If we went Anthony Barr at 20 and Brooks at 52, I would be a happy man.

    Mettenbergers bad back hasn’t scared you off? Me neither. A solid 3rd rounder.

    As for Telvin Smith, if nothing else, he could be in on passing downs and play special teams. Sure wish he was 245. Could be another DWash.

    As for Colvin, back in January, I liked Colvin, but as a safety. I thought he played smart and was a good tackler . But put him on your team and find him a spot.

    So, I think it is the first time (as Dr G pointed out) that I like someones mock.

    #20 – Barr
    #52 – Brooks
    #84 – Mettenberger
    #120 – Telvin Smith
    #160 – Colvin

  31. By Coach K on May 8, 2014 | Reply


  32. By Louisville Card on May 8, 2014 | Reply


    Mettenberger failed his drug test at the combine is that a qb you want leading your team or should in say wasting a 3rd rounder on? I don’t mind it as much for other positions but qb’s that have the history have never panned out…

  33. By John The Draft Guy on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    Louisville Card

    Interesting that Mettenberger is being linked to back problems and now a failed drug test?

    First I heard of the drug test but I might think someone is wanting Mettenberger to drop, so they can take him.

  34. By Dr. G. on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    Clowney, an enigma? Did I just learn that Clowney had only 1, yep ONE, sack in the last 8 games he played. He’s going to need some serious coaching up if he is to play in a 3-4 scheme, maybe even a 4-3.

    But when I looked at his physical prowess, size, and speed, I have been awed just as everyone else… Now, I am thinking if he drops a few spots, it may be justifiable….the GM’s have done their homework…. Later…

  35. By erik on May 8, 2014 | Reply

    I agree with some posters, if Barr is there at 20, that is the pick. No brainer.

  36. By Louisville Card on May 8, 2014 | Reply


    Mettenberger could just be taking pain pills for his back, but would you want to risk it with your qb?

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: