Arizona Cardinals provide no hints as NFL Draft approaches
TEMPE, Ariz. – A lot was said, but at the same time, nothing was said.
Eight days ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals’ decision-makers met the media. It’s an annual occurrence, and just like in previous years no one was willing to tip their hand.
“It’s that time of year, and the misinformation is flowing. I don’t expect the next 20 minutes to be any different,” general manager Steve Keim joked.
Keim and head coach Steve Wilks fielded 36 questions during what was a 23-and-a-half minute press conference.
The consensus: The draft is deep at several positions and there is good talent available in the middle-to-late rounds. The trick, of course, is landing that talent.
To that end, the Cardinals have done their homework.
“Right now, there’s a little under 5,000 reports in total that have been written between our coaching and our scouting staff, just a shade under 2,000 players have been written (about),” Keim said. “So, we’ve left no stone unturned from big schools to small schools, and we’ve certainly searched high and low.”
For Keim, this is his sixth draft as general manager but the first with Wilks and his staff.
Both talked about how well the pre-draft process has gone, with neither able to come up with a player evaluation they’ve disagreed about.
“And if we did, I wouldn’t tell you,” Keim said, smiling.
The Cardinals go into next week’s draft with eight picks, four among the first 100 selections. Armed with that many picks gives the Cardinals options, including making trades.
Under Keim, the Cardinals have been involved in eight draft-day trades, including three last year.
“No. 1, to trade up, you have to find a partner. No. 2, what player’s on the board when that team is willing to trade? If it’s a dynamic player at that position that is a game-changer, they’re not going to take anything short of the mortgage for the house, the farm and everything to come,” Keim said. “It’s an inexact science, and really, at the end of the day, you can throw the trade chart off your desk, because you have to be willing to be able to give up what you’re comfortable with.”
No question the Cardinals have needs to fill — “We’re looking to improve across the board,” Wilks said — with much of the outside focus centered on the quarterback. It’s a position the team has overlooked in recent years, at least in terms of the draft.
The Cardinals haven’t drafted a quarterback in any of the first three rounds since selecting Matt Leinart with the 10th overall pick in 2006.
Now whether there is a quarterback available, and more importantly one ranked high enough, for the Cardinals to choose in either the first or second round — where they have the 15th and 47th overall picks, respectively — remains to be seen.
Keim has always been steadfast in his draft-day approach: Take the best player.
“If a guy is graded an 88 on our scale, which is a very high grade, and we have a need at a position where the highest graded player at that point is a 78, we’re taking the highest graded player,” he said. “Again, I say it all the time, our needs in April and May are never the game as they are in October. Needs are always changing, and you can never have enough good players.”
— This week the Cardinals visited with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, one of the many players the team has had at their facility in the days since the NFL Combine.
“What do I like about Baker?” Keim said, repeating the question just asked. “Competitiveness. Passion.”
— It’s been three years since a former Arizona high school football player was selected in the first round of the draft. That may change here in 2018 with tight end Mark Andrews (Scottsdale Desert Mountain), wide receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale Saguaro) and cornerback Isaiah Oliver (Phoenix Brophy Prep) drawing strong consideration among teams.
“The one thing that really jumps out to me is how much high school football here has improved, and it’s something for us to all be proud of, certainly in the community,” Keim said. “Not only that, but the character that some of these guys have and getting to spend with Kirk and Mark Andrews. Those guys are phenomenal kids, great character, and they’re really talented football players.”
— Though the draft is the Cardinals’ immediate focus, the team is keeping tabs on a number of free agents, including injured safety Tyvon Branch.
“We certainly haven’t shut the door,” Keim said. “Right now, he’s rehabbing (a torn ACL). I believe he’s back in Florida, and we’re just monitoring the situation and staying in touch with Tyvon.”