TEMPE, Ariz. — It might be unwise to enter a game of poker with Steve Keim or Bruce Arians. Sure, they’d probably be fun to play with, but it would be impossible to get a read on them.
Friday night, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked what he would tell fans who wanted the team to select a quarterback in the first three rounds of the draft.
“Why,” he responded. “I mean, we’ve got three pretty good ones, and you don’t take quarterbacks if they’re not going to beat the guys out that you have. I know people rate quarterbacks; I’ve been doing this for a long time, rating quarterback. I like ours better.”
Less than 12 hours later, they took a Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas in the fourth round, 120th overall.
“Tremendous athlete; probably one of the strongest arms in the last 10 years to go along with good athleticism and good size,” Arians said last week when asked about Thomas, long before the Cardinals selected him.
That same day, Arians noted how rare it is to find a starting quarterback late in the draft, intimating that if a passer wasn’t picked early, chances are one wasn’t getting picked at all.
“When you start talking about taking a quarterback in the third, fourth, fifth round, is he really going to beat out your second and third guy,” Arians said. “Why is he in the third, fourth or fifth round? It historically doesn’t happen in this league where quarterbacks in that — there are a few — there’s only one or two Tom Bradys that beat out Drew Bledsoe, but that doesn’t happen very often.
“Because the guys are on your roster for a reason: they’re pretty damn good, so to think that you’ll just draft one in the third round and he’s going to beat out Ryan Lindley, that’s tough to do.”
Thomas will get the chance.
He comes in measuring 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, posted a 35.5-inch vertical jump and a 118-inch broad jump. He’s got a cannon for a right arm, and looks every bit the franchise signal caller.
And though he was very inconsistent in college, he did throw for 9,003 yards and 53 touchdowns and run for 1,359 yards and 24 scores during his four-year career, three of which were spent as the team’s starter.
He was also picked off 39 times, though, and completed just 55.6 percent of his passes, though some of his struggles can likely be attributed to going through multiple offensive coordinators and working with a less-than-stellar supporting cast.
Having played both receiver and defensive back before college, there have been some questions to whether or not Thomas’ NFL future might involve a switch from quarterback.
When asked, Thomas said the Cardinals view him as a passer.
“We’ve been in contact, obviously we’ve talked about it,” he said. “Yeah, it’s 100 percent at quarterback.”
That’s not to say there weren’t teams that considered Thomas at a different position. Perhaps one of the reasons why such a great athlete was available this late in the draft, he said there were teams who asked him about possibly moving to tight end, but he has no interest in being anything other than a QB.
“That’s what I want to be, that’s what I’m going to be,” he said he told the teams. “I understand if you want a package or two where I play two or three plays a game where I’m backing someone up and learning, if that’s what you want, but I really want to be a quarterback solely, and Coach Arians and the staff agreed with me on that.”
Given that, it appears Thomas will be the developmental passer the team has lacked. Carson Palmer is the starter, but at 34-years-old is not exactly what you would call a long-term answer at the position.
So enter Thomas, a player with unlimited potential but still a ways to go before he can reach it. Saying he’s refined much of his game this offseason alone, he is confident his game will continue to improve in all facets of the game.
“Just being a quarterback, being able to throw the ball in the pocket, being able to throw the ball outside the pocket, being able to command a team, being that leader,” he said when asked what he needs to work on. “There’s always room for improvement in every area, and that’s what I need to do.”
One of the reasons the team could afford to take a player like Thomas, who is probably nowhere near ready to see the field, is because they don’t need him to this year. With Palmer on board and Drew Stanton backing him up, the team will be able to let the rookie sit, watch and learn for at least a season, maybe more.
“Some guys get thrown into the fire right at the start where they’ve got to go in there and they’re demanded everything, they’re the ones everybody looks at,” he said. “I have the opportunity to sit back, watch, learn, and learn from a guy who’s been in the league for a good amount of time and has had a lot of success in the league as well.
“I really have the opportunity to learn, and learning at this age is something that anybody needs, and once I get my shot is when you start moving forward.”
And, Thomas knows, it also doesn’t hurt that he’ll be working with Arians, who has a reputation for working with elite passers such as Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.
“He’s willing to work with a guy and build him up and create him into pretty much a monster in the way they play football,” he said. “For me, I couldn’t have gone into a better situation. I’m very blessed.”