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In 2017 draft, trades up or down could be in the cards for Arizona

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — There is a school of thought among many that while the Arizona Cardinals could certainly benefit from landing a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, taking one at pick No. 13 overall would be a reach.

While no pick is too high to take a franchise quarterback, the concern over spending this year’s first-round pick on one of the passers from this draft is understandable. There may be five or six starting-caliber quarterbacks available, as Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has said, but when it comes to the players widely believed to be the best of the class, there is not much in the way of a sure thing.

So, if the goal is to pick a quarterback but not at 13, the most desirable scenario would be to trade down in the first round.

Draft deals are nothing new to Cardinals GM Steve Keim, who before last year had swung at least one trade in each of the first three drafts he was in charge. Of the five trades the team swung, just one was about moving up in the draft, with the others — including a 2014 deal involving first-round picks — all saw the Cardinals move down.

If Keim and the Cardinals see value in a deal, like when they moved down from 20 to 27 in 2014 while adding a third-round pick, they are not afraid to pull the trigger.

It very well could happen again, quarterback or not.

“It starts with a trade chart,” Keim said of how trades come about. “Almost every NFL team has an understanding of what that value is. It is all relatively close, although generally the trade charts are different. But we all have an idea in mind, and more than anything you have to find a partner that wants to move.

“Whether that is up or down, it is easier said than done. You can sit here today and say we would love to move back in the draft and acquire more picks, but at the same time you have to find a partner and it usually doesn’t happen until draft day.”

Even if the Cardinals right now know they would like to trade down, there are far too many variables for them to be able to bank on it becoming a reality.

Rarely one to trade up — the one time it did happen saw the Cardinals move a fourth, sixth and seventh-round pick to rise seven spots in the fourth round and take Rodney Gunter — this in theory could prove to be a good year to do it.

Say, for instance, the Cardinals really do want a quarterback but just can’t stand the risk of taking one at 13. Unable to trade down, they go with a different position at that spot, perhaps grabbing Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster or Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis.

Content there but hoping for more, Arizona sees a quarterback they like falling down the board, still available in the 20s. At that point, remembering being burned in the past by other teams nabbing quarterbacks just ahead of them, they get bold and create a package of picks that gets them back into the first round and allows them to take their guy.

Keim has never been fond of giving up picks, but with the team looking like it will receive a handful of compensatory picks in next year’s draft, it might be easier to part with a couple this year in order to land a player they covet.

“Now that the NFL and the new rules allow you to trade comp picks, it is more enticing,” he said of dealing. “It gives you the ability to move around. But I think it is one of those things that if you are moving up you better have a player that you fell in love with and the compensation is worth it. And if you are moving back you better not be leaving a dynamic player on the board.”

In the first round, there would appear to be some obvious teams the Cardinals could potentially deal with if a quarterback is their target. Picks 18, 19 and 20, for instance, belong to the Tennesee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos, and each of them has spent a top pick on a passer in one of the last two drafts.

At 21, the Detroit Lions don’t really need a quarterback, nor do the Miami Dolphins, who hold pick 22. Aside from the Giants at 23, who may be looking for Eli Manning’s successor, and the Houston Texans, who are always searching for a quarterback and hold the 25th overall selection, the later you get in the round the less likely it is a team will grab a passer.

Therefore, in theory, there should be opportunity to move back into the first round. But the price can be steep, and if the Cardinals pass on a quarterback at 13, there is no guarantee the one they want will be available later in the evening.

Evaluating other teams’ needs is all part of the strategy, according to Keim.

“You can be in a situation where every quarterback in the draft is still there at 13 or there could be three or four gone. You really can’t tell,” he said. “You just have to be prepared and trust your board, which is one thing that we have done and I think we have done a good job of it.”

Approaching the draft with an even-keeled temperament is the way to go, Keim added.

“Again, I think that it goes back to staying with the process because on draft day the emotions get running, you get excited and you can make some poor decisions which is why we have built that board the way we built it,” the GM said. “We already had those tough conversations. We have talked about the difference between the ninth and the tenth player and why we would take the ninth player. Again, it takes the emotions out of it and it really creates an easy and calm feeling in the draft room.”

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