DAN BICKLEY

Crazy NFL Draft weekend ends with Cardinals looking coherent

Apr 28, 2019, 3:04 PM
TEMPE, ARIZONA - APRIL 26: Quarterback Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals poses during a press c...
TEMPE, ARIZONA - APRIL 26: Quarterback Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals poses during a press conference at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center on April 26, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. Murray was the first pick overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

You always find AZ in the middle of crazy. Our football team is proof.

A recap of a contentious draft that had critics raving and local fans screaming:

The Cardinals became the first team in nearly 40 years to use a top 10 pick on a franchise quarterback in successive NFL drafts. To those looking forward, the logic was brilliant. Yet too many were stuck in the rearview mirror, obsessing on mistakes that led us to this point.

Kyler Murray arrives with a Heisman Trophy but no hero’s welcome. Josh Rosen won three games as a rookie and leaves with unprecedented popularity, the recipient of a standing ovation at Larry Fitzgerald’s softball game on Saturday.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Rosen displayed great maturity as a rookie, along with great mental and physical toughness. His personality far surpassed expectations, but his quarterbacking ability seriously underwhelmed.

Yes, he was victimized by a terrible offensive line and a lack of elite skill players, making it nearly impossible to evaluate his NFL ceiling. But he rarely did anything to lift a really bad team. Which is what great quarterbacks do on occasion.

In the end, the team upgraded the position, drafting a football player who can count his career losses on two fingers. They aligned him with the perfect coach and a familiar system. And yet some still think the Cardinals saddled up on the wrong horse.

Did they treat Rosen shabbily? That depends.

If the Cardinals truly knew all along that Murray was their guy, their trade strategy was borderline derelict. In that scenario, the desire for suspense and secrecy was vain and stupid, giving away any leverage they had with Rosen.

But if you believe reports that the Cardinals waited until the very end to trade the former UCLA star, then you can easily envision a house divided, with differing opinions on whom to select with the No. 1 overall pick.

It’s very possible that Kliff Kingsbury grew fond of Rosen during voluntary workouts. And it’s possible that he and Keim were prepared to stick with the incumbent, only to get overruled.

Either way, they ended up in the right place, drafting a quarterback with an unprecedented combination of accuracy and athleticism. And they did right by Rosen in the end, practically giving him away to the Dolphins so he wouldn’t have to endure the awkward relegation to backup, so he could get a fresh start elsewhere.

That’s partly why Rosen was so classy in his farewell video. He knows it could’ve been a lot worse. Especially if Murray ends up buying his place in Scottsdale.

Just remember this: You can’t win NFL drafts. Perspective and context won’t be available for years. And you certainly can’t win football games in April. The real proof will begin this September, and in all the months that follow.

But with his neck on the line, General Manager Steve Keim produced a draft class that checks a lot of boxes and is full of high-value picks.

Snagging Byron Murphy with the 33rd pick was an absolute steal. Wide receiver Andy Isabella is actually shorter than Murray, but may turn out to be Julian Edelman with blazing speed and should be a perfect fit in Kingsbury’s system. Hakeem Butler is a big-bodied receiver that somehow slipped to No. 104 and should contribute immediately.

The Cardinals could’ve butchered this draft. Their perceived treatment of Rosen turned the No. 1 pick into a polarizing debate. But when the lights went off in Nashville, the Cardinals seemed to have staged a very coherent, cohesive draft at a pivotal moment in team history.

The organization has been integrating analytics into their methodology, and maybe these are the first results. Keim vowed to go down swinging, and wasn’t swayed by conventional wisdom regarding 5-foot-10 quarterbacks. And, clearly, it’s much easier to dominate a draft when you have the first pick in every round. This much is certain:

It was a thrill-ride to possess the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Let’s not do it again.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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