TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s the one downside to a successful NFL season: a late first-round draft pick.
Not that the Arizona Cardinals are complaining or would prefer the alternative; quite the opposite, really.
Both general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians like the view from where they stand, drafting in the lower-third of the opening round for the second straight year.
It means they’re coming off a good season, and at 13-3, the Cardinals enjoyed their best regular season in franchise history.
It also means a long wait on draft night.
The Cardinals must sit and watch 28 other teams turn their pick in and then listen to Commissioner Roger Goodell announce the selection.
“When you’re picking so late it’s so hard to forecast what happens the 28 picks prior,” Keim said. “The thing I will tell you is we will be prepared.”
That includes, according to Keim, possibly moving up or back, the latter of which may leave the Cardinals without a first-round pick on April 28.
Currently, the Cardinals have six picks in the 2016 NFL Draft with one each in the first, third, fourth and sixth rounds and two in the fifth round, including No. 170 that the team received as a compensatory selection.
Remember, the Cardinals do not have a second-round or seventh-round pick. Those were traded to New England and Philadelphia for linebacker Chandler Jones and quarterback Matt Barkley, respectively.
The lack of a second-round selection (61st overall) is just fine by Arians.
“Just write Chandler Jones’ name on a tag. You’ll be happy as hell,” he said, laughing.
Keim has been known to covet picks — he’s been involved in at least one draft-day trade each of the three years since he’s been GM — but this year he may go against the norm.
“In four years together, we feel like we’ve gotten significantly better as a roster,” Keim said, referring to Arians, “so acquiring more picks gives you the obvious, which is to hit on more players, yet at the same time because of our roster and the depth that we currently have, it’s harder to make our football team.”
In other words, Keim may be less inclined to part with either their first- or third-round (92nd overall) selection in favor of being busier on the draft’s third day, even though the Cardinals have had great success recently in the later rounds, i.e. Andre Ellington and Justin Bethel, who were each sixth-round picks.
While meeting with the media on Tuesday, Keim said they had completed their top-120 board, which ranks draft-eligible players taking into account their talent, medical history and character, both on and off the field.
Keim said they expect to draft an impact player at No. 29 again, should they keep the pick.
As far as which direction they may go, Keim provided no hints, though he liked the defensive line depth and Arians pointed to a handful of quarterbacks with great potential.
Of course, no names were spoken.
The Cardinals also have needs — center and cornerback are considered the most pressing — and should be addressed accordingly in the draft.
“When you have a roster to the point that where we feel pretty good about it, like we that could play tomorrow,” Keim said, “it makes it a lot easier to be honest with the system where you don’t feel like you have to reach for a need.”
Added Arians, “Take the talented player. You will miss on the needs. The needs will get you broke and fired.”
It’s been seven years since the Cardinals drafted this late in the first round, and this year marks the fifth time in the last eight years that the Cardinals’ first-round pick is 20th or later.
“Quite frankly, there’s talent throughout the whole draft,” Keim said. “It’s just making sure we get it right.”
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