First round of NFL Draft promises to deliver pure drama
NASHVILLE — The best drama flows from a powerful brew, the intoxicating blend of anticipation and uncertainty.
Barring any leaks or pre-draft trades, the NFL will deliver on Thursday night. The payoff will last 10 minutes, the time allotted for the Cardinals to make the No. 1 pick in the draft.
It won’t rival the feeling when Larry Fitzgerald outraced Pittsburgh defenders to the end zone, giving the Cardinals the lead in the Super Bowl. Or when Mark Grace singled off Mariano Rivera to start the ninth inning of Game 7.
But it will be something to behold. It will be something to feel.
Until Monday, the Cardinals have done a marvelous job at controlling the narrative. That changed when Patrick Peterson’s recurring unhappiness emerged on social media, raising all sorts of questions. Is it possible the team is fielding trade requests for three players entering a historic night in Nashville: Peterson, Josh Rosen and the rights to Kyler Murray?
The suspense trumps all.
Murray raised the stakes on Wednesday morning when he failed to show at a scheduled appearance benefitting a Nashville food bank. Twenty-one other draft candidates showed up for the charitable event, assembling 8,000 food kits. Murray was the only one missing.
Maybe he had good reasons for arriving in Nashville unfashionably late. Or maybe it’s the nonchalant actions of a young athlete who already knows he’s the first pick in the draft with no one left to impress. But it’s a bad look, either way. Especially if Murray had committed his presence. Especially if he just wanted to avoid the 45-minute media session that followed the event.
Would that be enough for the Cardinals to move away from Murray?
If I’m the owner of the team, I’m demanding some answers.
Meanwhile, drafting Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is another interesting proposition. His political leanings are his own and no reason to avoid employing him on a football field. But Bosa reportedly deleted a Tweet that called Colin Kaepernick “a clown.” And while that’s nothing he needs to discuss with me, it’s something he’d have to explain inside the locker room, to the players who feel passion for Kaepernick, who believe he should be honored for his courage.
The Cardinals are about to learn what the Suns discovered in 2018. The No. 1 pick in any draft is a blessing and a curse. It generally means your team is in really bad shape, too much for any one single player to overcome. And it leaves you open to armchair critics in the likely event that somebody other than the No. 1 selection has a better rookie season.
Which brings us to Josh Rosen.
During the lengthy Murray debate in Arizona, Rosen has become a sympathetic figure. Plenty of fans don’t understand the logic, how the Cardinals could trade up to draft Rosen, surround him with a garbage offense, effectively throw him to the wolves, marvel at the mental and physical toughness he displayed in 2018 … and then give up on him for a quarterback who is 5-10 1/8.
Either way, the NFL careers of Rosen and Murray will be linked together for eternity. Because the Cardinals can choose either. And because General Manager Steve Keim will be forever tarnished if he makes the wrong choice at the sport’s most important position. Remember, the two greatest quarterbacks in Arizona history effectively came off the scrap heap.
That’s why Thursday is a career-defining night. For a lot of people in the organization.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of people milled around the NFL’s enormous stage on fabled Broadway Street. Near sunset, organizers conducted something of a dress rehearsal. They flashed the Cardinals’ logo. They announced the pick was in. And my heart started racing, with anticipation and uncertainty, elements that make for the purest drama.
Just imagine what it will feel like Thursday night when the Cardinals are officially on the clock with 10 minutes to declare their starting quarterback of choice.
Ten minutes that might make or break their next decade of professional football in Arizona.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.