What the experts are saying about the Arizona Cardinals’ draft picks
In need of depth at various positions ahead of the upcoming season, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim and first-year head coach Steve Wilks had their work cut out for them during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Keim had promised to be aggressive during the offseason, and he stood by his word early in the draft when the Cardinals traded the Oakland Raiders to move up from 15th to 10th.
The trade was thought highly of by experts, as the Cardinals only gave up a third- and fifth-round pick to do it. It netted them the player who many believed to be the best quarterback in the draft, Josh Rosen.
The following rounds saw Arizona pick up a slew of offensive talent, starting with Texas A&M wideout and Valley native Christian Kirk in the second-round.
Of the Cardinals’ six picks over the course of the three-day event, five offensive players were drafted, with the only defensive player coming in the sixth-round with Penn State cornerback Christ Campbell.
Keim told reporters Saturday that the team’s focus was on the value and talent of the players left on their board, electing to not focus as much on positional needs.
“In a perfect world, coach and I would have been thrilled to have balance and to fill some positions defensively if those guys warranted those picks,” he said. “We had such high grades on those offensive players, we didn’t want to stray away from the board, which was important to us.”
Whatever the strategy, the Cardinals’ draft is earning praise from experts around the league.
I was incredulous about the Cardinals’ move from 15 to 10 in the first round. Arizona gave third- and fifth-round picks to move from 15 to 10. To move from 12 to seven for Josh Allen, Buffalo gave up two second-round picks.
Interesting disparity, to say the least. To me, Arizona GM Steve Keim made the trade of the draft. To give up the 79th and 152nd overall pick to move up for your quarterback—UCLA’s Josh Rosen—was stunning to me. Last year Kansas City moved up 17 spots in round one, and Houston moved up 13, both for quarterbacks, and the price tag in each case was a first-round pick in 2018. To move up five spots in the first half of the first round and not pay a first or second-round pick is a great deal.
But like all trades, there’s much we don’t know. And there’s a possible significant upside for Oakland. The Raiders, likely, didn’t have a sure thing they wanted at 10 after the Niners plucked tackle Mike McGlinchey one pick ahead of them. So they took the consensus second tackle in the class, Kolton Miller, at 15. They traded the third-round pick to Pittsburgh for a talented man-child of a receiver, Martavis Bryant, who likely will be the Raiders’ second or third receiver—and, being in the last year of his contract, Oakland is likely to get his best as he angles for a second NFL deal. Then Oakland used the fifth-rounder as part of a package to take another tackle, Brandon Parker.
We won’t know who wins this, of course, until we know if Rosen can be a long-term quarterback answer for Arizona, and we see if Miller’s good enough to be the heir to aging Donald Penn at left tackle, and we see if the Raiders can get more than one good year out of Bryant. But on the surface, I like the Arizona side of it a lot.
Steve Keim has the most difficult task possible for a general manager: construct a second era of franchise success with a brand new coach (Steve Wilks) and quarterback (with Carson Palmer retiring). He’s off to a great start after landing Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall pick Thursday without mortgaging the future. Rosen’s presence provides clarity for a franchise that looked adrift just a few months ago. The roster still boasts plenty of Keim-picked defensive talent, but the offense is nearly starting over from scratch.
Christian Kirk (Round 2, No. 47) is the type of tough, heady receiver who can line up in the slot and outside and excel quicker than most rookie wideouts. He has a perfect mentor in Larry Fitzgerald, and Kirk has the opportunity to be Arizona’s No. 2 receiver before Rosen hits the field. Third-round offensive lineman Mason Cole (No. 97) is expected to play on the interior after lining up at tackle and center at Michigan. That versatility should come in handy for an offensive line constantly plagued by injuries. Fourth-round running back Chase Edmonds (No. 134) profiles as a passing-down back who can give David Johnson a breather.
With the drama at the top of the draft, one of the big four quarterback prospects began to slip down the draft, and the Cardinals made a move up to the No. 10 overall spot to snag their quarterback or the future in UCLA’s Josh Rosen. With Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon already in that quarterback room, the Cardinals shouldn’t need Rosen to start right away, and that gives them an opportunity to see if they can remove some of the volatility in his game before he steps on the field. The second-round pick for the Cardinals saw them secure an insurance plan for the day Larry Fitzgerald eventually hangs up his cleats. Christian Kirk was an excellent slot receiver at Texas A&M, averaging 2.5 yards per route run inside, but will likely have to move around the formation with Fitzgerald the primary slot receiver in the desert.
Overall grade: Above average
Rosen is the best pure pocket passer in the draft. The Cardinals need to protect him, but if they do, he’ll be a Pro Bowler. Giving up third- and fifth-round picks was more than reasonable for a player with his potential. Kirk is an excellent fit, not only because of his skills but the impending retirement of Larry Fitzgerald. Cole brings versatility to the Cardinals, as he started at center and tackle for Michigan. He was picked a little early for my taste, but he’ll be a consistent contributor on Sundays. Edmonds was a worthy fourth-round pick, sort of a smaller version of all-around offensive weapon David Johnson. Campbell is a versatile athlete able to play outside corner or free safety, two areas of need for the team.
Overall grade: A
Rosen has pocket awareness, touch, timing and will occasionally make a throw that will have you hitting rewind in appreciation. He also has missed time over each of the past two seasons with concussions and a shoulder injury — his throwing shoulder. I think there’s a decent possibility that he’s the first rookie starter out of this group. How he holds up (the Arizona O-line would make me hesitate) is the question early on. Christian Kirk (pick 42) is a smooth route-runner, but more likely a useful slot fit than the eventual replacement for Larry Fitzgerald. Mason Cole (97) could be a starter at center as soon as Week 1. Chase Edmonds (134) has talent and jumps into a scattershot mix behind David Johnson. Ultimately, it’s all about Rosen, who has a high-end ceiling if he stays healthy.
Overall Grade: C+
Arizona’s defense is a No. 2 corner away from being among the league’s top six, but GM Steve Keim didn’t truly address that in the draft, only because the offense is several players away from being competitive—especially if you take the long view. However Keim landed potential long-term cogs at three of the most critical positions, including QB Josh Rosen—a player who Keim, who traded up from the No. 15 spot, thought would not be there at No. 10. Rosen—far-and-away the most polished, “ready now” QB in this draft—is a timing-and-rhythm passer, which usually translates well to the NFL.
The Cardinals fixed a big quarterback problem by taking Josh Rosen, considered by some the best QB in the class, and didn’t overpay to trade up for him. Hard to knock that. Receiver Christian Kirk in the second round was a fantastic pick given how the Cards need to restock the position. Center Mason Cole helps a line that needs it, though the Cardinals could’ve done more to address the tackle or guard spots. The Cardinals also ignored much needed cornerback help until the sixth round.