TEMPE, Ariz. – For 27 minutes on Tuesday, the Arizona Cardinals’ decision-makers answered questions from the assembled media in advance of the 2017 NFL Draft.
And, of course, “answer” being a loose definition of the word.
Because, really, there were no answers given. More suggestion, and perhaps even some deception.
OK, a lot of deception.
Neither GM Steve Keim nor head coach Bruce Arians were going to tip their hands or offer any hints at whom the Cardinals may select with the 13th overall draft pick, or subsequent seven picks spread out over the three-day, seven-round event April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
“I always tell the truth,” Arians joked.
This year, Keim said he challenged the scouts “to go deeper; to get more detail and more background information” on potential draft prospects. And as a result, there were more than 5,000 college scouting reports written and visits to more than 300 colleges across the U.S. and Canada; all of which has added up to 823 grades on players “who are considered legitimate NFL prospects.”
The Cardinals will now rank players 1-to-120 to create the top-120 board that will be used on draft day, beginning first with No. 13.
“We’re going to have a good player available, I know that,” Keim said. “Coach and I have looked at enough guys and we’ve talked through a bunch of different scenarios and if we stick at 13, there’s 13 guys we like, that I know can make us better. We’re going to be happy either way. Again, I think, when you get into a situation where you panic and you force the pick, it’ll set us back from an organizational standpoint four or five years.”
The 2017 draft class is deep at the cornerback and safety positions, according to Keim.
The secondary is certainly a position of need with the losses of Marcus Cooper (Bears), Tony Jefferson (Ravens) and D.J. Swearinger (Redskins) in free agency.
Quarterback, while not an immediate need, will be considered as well.
Though under contract for two more seasons, Carson Palmer contemplated retirement at the end of 2016 and backup Drew Stanton hits unrestricted free agency next offseason.
“This is probably the best group of arms in the last four of five years, a number of arms,” Arians said, referring to the quarterback class as a whole. He did not name names.
Neither did Keim.
“If you have one you fall in love with, you take him,” he said.
Since the team moved to Arizona in 1988, the Cardinals have spent a first-round draft pick on a quarterback just once. It was Matt Leinart out of USC in 2006, when then-coach Dennis Green called him “a gift from heaven” after Leinart, the Heisman Trophy winner the year before, fell to the Cardinals at No. 10.
“I think we would all agree that the NFL Draft is the lifeblood of every NFL organization,” Keim said.
This year’s draft will mark the eighth time in 10 years the Cardinals are selecting outside the top-10. By comparison, in the previous 20 drafts (1988-07), they selected outside the top-10 just three times.
The Cardinals have had the 13th overall pick five times previously in team history, the most recent being in 2012 when they chose Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd.
Recent notable picks at the 13th spot include tackle Laremy Tunsil (Dolphins, 2016), defensive tackle Aaron Donald (Rams, 2014), linebacker Brandon Graham (Eagles, 2010), linebacker Brian Orakpo (Redskins, 2009) and running back Jonathan Stewart (Panthers, 2008).
Here is the complete list of where the Cardinals are picking, eight choices in all:
First round, 13th overall
Second round, 45th overall
Third round, 77th overall
Fourth round, 120th overall
Fifth round, 157th overall
Fifth round, *179th overall
Sixth round, 197th overall
Seventh round, 231st overall
Barring a trade, the eight draft picks will be the most made by the Cardinals since 2013, when nine players were selected in Keim’s first year as general manager.
“It’s exciting that you get to wake up everyday and be a part of something like this. It’s really a dream come true,” Keim said. “People ask me all the time if it’s like the movie, ‘Draft Day,’ and obviously there was some stuff that was sensationalized, but there are some aspects to it that are pretty accurate.”
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