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Cardinals’ Keim, Arians see ample draft opportunities at QB, CB and safety

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, left, and general manager Steve Keim watch practice at the NFL football team's training camp, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians believe this year’s draft is deeper than usual at three positions: safety, cornerback and quarterback. As coincidence would have it (or something else if you’re cynical), those are three positions of need for the Cardinals.

Of course, NFL teams never draft for need. Nope. Never. That’s what gets you fired, Arians has said. So if the Cardinals fill those positions of need in this year’s NFL Draft, you can also chalk that up to coincidence.

Arizona has other needs. It could use another offensive lineman, and it just might be enticed if Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster is available, but Keim acknowledged the obvious when the first of numerous questions focused on the importance of finding a quarterback of the future.

“I would like to keep my job for a while,” he said at a pre-draft press conference on Tuesday at the Cardinals headquarters. “I do have four small kids. It is certainly going to be beneficial to doing that, but coach can answer it better. If you don’t have a quarterback you are not going anywhere.”

Arians believes there are five or six QBs in this year’s draft who could be developed into starters with just one (likely Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer), ready to start right away.

“It’s probably the best group of arms in the last four or five years,” Arians said. “But arms don’t necessarily translate to quarterbacking.”

Arians has often said that the best place for a young quarterback to develop is on the field. He said the Cardinals could provide a version of that opportunity if a desired player fell to them.

“If we were fortunate to get one, he’s going to have a unique situation in that Carson [Palmer] doesn’t practice on Wednesdays,” Arians said. “So [the rookie QB] is going to get first-team, game reps with the starting offense on Wednesdays. That ain’t a normal rookie. So this is going to be very unique situation if a guy falls to us.”

The Cardinals signed veteran safety Antoine Bethea as a stopgap this spring after losing Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger in free agency, but they’d like another safety to team with injury-plagued Tyrann Mathieu.

“There is a unique set of safeties that not only can play the deep half but can play the nickel, who have natural cover ability in man situations,” Keim said. “That is something we are looking for in our defense.”

Arizona will give second-year corner Brandon Williams and veteran Justin Bethel a chance to man the oft-picked-on cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson, but Keim said there are also talented corners in this year’s draft.

“You have got some longer guys who can fit that mode where they can press and trail and can really run,” Keim said. “There are seven or eight 6-foot plus corners who have long arms and can run 4.4 or sub 4.4 (in the 40-yard dash). It is pretty impressive.”

As for what happens with that No. 13 pick, Keim reiterated a long-held stance.

“We are not going to force it. We are going to take the best player available at 13, or at nine if we trade up, or 18 if we trade back,” he said. “There are 13 guys that we like that we know can make us better. We are going to be happy either way. Again, when you get into a situation where you panic and force the pick, it will set us back from an organizational standpoint four or five years.”

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