Tackle situation shows why you don’t fall in love

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2013 – 11:19 am

One of the clich├ęs that always floats around at draft time is that a team never ever ever should fall in love with a player. I mean, if you’re picking No. 1, fine. But otherwise, there is always a risk that said player or players isn’t going to be there. And you don’t want to be disappointed or let the emotion of losing out on such a crush drive you to do something dumb when you are on the clock.

That crossed my mind this morning when NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock talked about what has become a growing sentiment — that all three high-end offensive tackles available: Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson — will all be off the board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. Let’s make this clear, no one knows for sure the Cards even like all three at that point, although it stands to reason they do. For a while, it was people thinking Fisher would be there and Joeckel wouldn’t. Then it was Fisher being gone and Johnson being the consideration. But there is a strong likelihood that the Chiefs take Joeckel at No. 1 (KC wants to trade Branden Albert) and the Eagles (No. 4) and the Lions (No. 5) both easily could take the other two tackles. Even if one lasts to No. 6, the next scenario could be the Browns trading out of No. 6 to the Chargers or Dolphins, both of whom need a left tackle like Johnson (pictured below).

Now, the Dolphins are talking with the Chiefs about the Albert trade, which would take them out of the mix. But the Chargers, picking 11th, could try to jump up (with Ken Whisenhunt’s new team potentially stealing a tackle out from under his old team.)

What does this all mean? Well, this is operating under the assumption the Cards are focusing on a tackle. That was the thought last year too and they took Michael Floyd over Riley Reiff, so there’s that. I don’t see the Cards trading up and surrendering a pick, although I’m not positive on that. If all the tackles are off the board in the top five, I could definitely see the Cards trying to trade down a little, although other than the tackles, I don’t know who would trade up. And again, if three tackles go off the board that early, someone is sitting there that hadn’t been expected. Will it be someone the Cards want?

— As long as we are talking about potential picks at No. 7, we have our annual mock draft contest ready for play right here. Hope you decide to take a crack at who you think the Cardinals will select.


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Flexibility in constructing the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on April 10, 2013 – 1:20 pm

The Cardinals finally added an offensive lineman in free agency Wednesday, signing veteran guard Chilo Rachal. What does that mean for the line going forward? Something. And nothing.

Adding parts that can help in some way, shape or form — starter or depth — has been one of the mantras for General Manager Steve Keim. Rachal could end up as either. So obviously, his arrival carries that significance. But it isn’t going to impact the draft. If the Cardinals decide, for instance, Chance Warmack is their guy at No. 7, they’ll take him and figure it out from there. If they want to take a tackle like Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson and move Bobby Massie to guard, they will do that too. If their top pick is a pass rusher, maybe we see a line of LT Brown, LG Colledge, C Sendlein, RT Massie and a battle between Snyder and Rachal. Or there could be an offensive lineman chosen in the second round or third round — or maybe even later — who could be part of the mix.

At this point, there are dozens of ways this can go, and the Cardinals have set it up just so they have that flexibility. I could see them letting a veteran go in a June 1 move if they felt they had enough other pieces for their puzzle. Certainly Keim has shown he isn’t afraid to make such moves. I’m not certain there couldn’t be a veteran offensive lineman added later in the offseason either.

(The Cardinals, prior to the Rachal signing I would guess, had $9.496 million in salary cap space as of Wednesday according to the NFLPA.)

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to the Cardinals and the draft. The braintrust has reiterated a few times how deep in offensive line talent this class is, beyond just the top 10. Will it shock me to see them pick a player that isn’t an offensive lineman? Absolutely not. Stop me if you’ve heard this before — Keim believes in a difference-maker at the top. That doesn’t mean a difference-maker can’t be an offensive lineman if his grades are the right ones, but I truly believe the idea of reaching there for need over a guy graded much better makes Keim’s stomach turn.


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Catch-up time for Keim for draft

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2013 – 11:23 am

Last week at the owners meetings, GM Steve Keim was anxious to get them over with. He was going straight to the airport after the meetings closed on Wednesday and flying right to Georgia’s pro day among other destinations. Free agency was the topic still but that was about to morph. Soon. “We will jump into the draft mode because I feel I am significantly behind,” Keim said.

At his core, Keim is about evaluating talent. There are different ways someone rises to the job of general manager, and Keim got there from years of scouting and doing a good job of it. It makes sense he wouldn’t want to turn back on his roots. What will eventually be interesting is whether Keim’s influence on the Top 120 board for the draft changes much than it was when he was VP of player personnel under GM Rod Graves. The point of the Cardinals having draft meetings is for scouts and coaches — and further up the food chain, Keim — to discuss and debate what they think of each player and then come up with a final grade. That’s the number the group will use to set that board and in the end, draft their players.

Mocks will come out constantly in April. The latest Todd McShay version echoes the narrative the Cardinals’ direction has taken overall, which is that the team seems unlikely to take a quarterback first (and in McShay’s picks, Geno Smith — the one guy who seems to make sense as a top 10 pick, is already chosen by No. 7). McShay has Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson going in the first round to the Cards and then the team taking N.C. State QB Mike Glennon in the second round. Good discussion fodder. Beyond that, who knows.

Keim, though, forges ahead in his work. Nothing is set in stone right now. For a guy who built an NFL career through the draft, it makes sense that he’ll want his team built that way too. I still think a QB is going to be taken somewhere, but that comes with a caveat — I truly believe Keim would be willing to pass on a QB if the right one isn’t there. The Drew Stanton-in-2013 thing isn’t a lock — too much can still happen — but it’s not a smokescreen either. In the meantime, the Cards will look carefully at offensive linemen in a draft filled with them, try to get a key cog in the first round regardless of position, and go from there.

And while Keim might have felt behind last week, something tells me he will catch up very quickly.

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