NFL Draft roundtable: Dust settles after another step in Cardinals’ makeover
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the Arizona Cardinals were trying to do this week.
Their NFL Draft was a crucial step in an offensive makeover. General manager Steve Keim set out to not only make a franchise-altering move at quarterback by drafting Kyler Murray and trading Josh Rosen, but remix a wide receiver room in dire need of improvements. Beyond that, Arizona also added along both lines and took a top defensive back talent, corner Byron Murphy, adding another body to arguably the team’s best position group.
The draft was yet another step in washing away a 3-13 season and ushering in a new era under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Was it a success? On paper, at least, it graded out well.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo
It’s hard to say an entire draft depends on one player but the reality is that, ultimately, the Cardinals’ 2019 NFL draft will depend largely on how good Kyler Murray is. The Cardinals focused in on Murray once they began evaluating him and believe he is a once-in-a-generation type of player, a quarterback unlike anything they have ever seen or evaluated. So if Murray is what they think he is and they have a quarterback capable of leading this team to a Super Bowl, then nothing else really matters. What they got for Josh Rosen is what it is. They didn’t win the trade nor did they lose the trade. They got a second- and fifth-round pick back and on paper, yes, they they did not get equal value. But the game isn’t played on paper.
If Rosen never turns out to be a good quarterback and Andy Isabella ends up being a top 2-3 wide receiver, then down the road people will say Arizona won the trade. So this is difficult to judge right now unless you go with on-paper, and Miami got tremendous value for a player chosen with a top-10 pick just a year ago. The Cardinals’ drafted three wide receivers they had rated very highly in Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. I expect all three to make the roster as the Cardinals likely keep seven wideouts. Chad Williams is in trouble.
The pick of Byron Murphy was a home run no matter how you look at it — Arizona had him rated as one of their top 10 players on the board so getting him in the second round is a steal. He can flat out take the ball away, and coming from the UW, he is ready to play from day one. Arizona will likely carry three tight ends so the final pick in the draft Caleb Wilson I do expect to make the roster — there’s a lot to like about him in this offense. Not a blocker but he can catch the ball.
Defensive end Zach Allen will fit right in as a rotational player in the 3-4 defense and he is a tackle machine. No need for eight defensive lineman anymore because they are not in a 4-2-5; in the 3-4 defense he will get reps. And along the OL, they added in Lamont Gaillard can play guard or center. Depth on the OL as we have seen in the past is necessary.
All in all, this was a very good draft by the Cardinals. They really went hard after fixing the wideout issues and also came away with a long-awaited answer at cornerback as well as depth on both lines.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
If Kyler Murray is the revolutionary quarterback some expect him to be, then it won’t matter what the Cardinals did (or did not) get in exchange for Josh Rosen. If the number one overall pick is that good, the Rosen return is irrelevant and will soon be forgotten. But until we know the true value of Murray in the NFL, it’s pretty easy to see the Cards got nowhere near the value in return for Rosen. If the roles were flipped, and the Cardinals received Rosen for the 62nd pick in the draft on that contract, I think we’d be pretty excited.
But it won’t matter if Murray is the game changer the Cards believe he’ll be. Independent of that trade, it’s hard not to be impressed with the 2019 draft. Heavy on receiver. A variety of types of receiver so they can all play different roles. Murphy at 33 felt like a stroke of pure luck and takes a little of the sting away from watching N’Keal Harry go the pick prior. I was in Iowa this weekend and just about every dad on the Coe College baseball team raved about Hakeem Butler out of Iowa State. He just has to hang on to the ball. If the Cards have their medical team on point, the Deionte Thompson pick could have great value. Ignoring offensive line until the 6th round is probably your nit to pick but if you trust your board and don’t reach, sometimes that’s what it looks like.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta
I always take immediate reaction and national grades with a grain of salt after an NFL Draft, but it’s hard not to get excited in real time about what the Arizona Cardinals accomplished over three days. Of course, it starts with Kyler Murray, easily the most electric prospect the franchise has ever had at quarterback.
If his comfort level in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is as real as everyone says, it should be exciting to watch and more importantly, a major upgrade over what we saw (or didn’t see) in 2018. Getting Washington corner Byron Murphy, a hometown kid, in the second round really helps out the secondary. He was arguably the best corner in this draft.
But what I really like is Steve Keim hammering the wide receiver position by nabbing Andy Isabella (second round), Hakeem Butler (fourth round) and KeeSean Johnson (sixth round). All three of them can play and all three were among the nation’s top 10 in receiving yards last season. They’ll help immediately. I also like the Deionte Thompson pick in the fifth round. The last time the Cardinals took a safety out of Alabama (Rashad Johnson in 2009), things worked out pretty well.
I know Keim is getting heat locally from some for the Murray pick and the handling of the Josh Rosen situation, but all in all, this was a very positive draft at first blush.
Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski and reporter
We won’t ever forget this draft. Not only did the Cardinals have the No. 1 overall pick, they decided to dramatically shift the entire direction of their franchise. They’re either geniuses, and the addition of Kyler Murray to a Kliff Kingsbury offense was the sort of move that blends ambition with foresight and will make this one of the NFL’s most exciting teams in the next few years, or they got impatient and gave up way too early on the quarterback they just drafted 12 months ago.
A guy they were touting as the future of their franchise at that position for many years to come. A guy that suddenly seems to be taking a lot more blame for what happened last season than he was taking when the games were actually being played.
Either way, the Cardinals are all-in now. And I can’t help but respect that mentality on some level. If it were me, I would’ve traded the top pick, filled a few more of the many holes this team needs to fill outside of QB and stuck with Josh Rosen. After all, that’s why Kingsbury was hired in the first place. Rosen may or may not end up being a successful NFL quarterback, but there’s no way to know anything definitive about him yet. Last year’s team was a poorly-coached mess — and then everyone got injured too. Few, if any, quarterbacks could’ve navigated their way through that to find success. And no rookie could’ve done it.
That said, once we reached the point where the Cardinals weren’t trading the pick, I understand going with Murray. To me, Rosen plus a few first- and second-rounders sounds more valuable, even if it’s less splashy on draft night, than just Kyler Murray. But when it comes down to simply Murray vs. Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams, I get it. Go for the guy that could potentially be magic with your new offense. If he breaks out, the sky’s the limit. And if he doesn’t, a lot of people are probably getting fired anyway.
Of course, if you’re going to do that, why not do everything you possibly can to try to trade Rosen a few days before the draft? Waiting until the last second throws everyone off the trail of who you want to take … except you’re picking first anyway, so who cares? And waiting until the last second also puts you in a spot where you can’t start a bidding war and you end up dealing a guy you just took No. 10 overall for a late second-round pick. Over the last two drafts, Arizona essentially traded a first-rounder and a third-rounder to take Andy Isabella with the 62nd pick. Those aren’t the kind of moves you get to make too many times.
In the end though, they probably needed to salvage whatever they could get for Rosen and move on. In a vacuum, the idea of letting him and Murray compete for the job has its merits. One of them wins, and you have a legit QB after all this. And the other should be a capable backup. But football isn’t played in a vacuum. Moving Rosen now allows Murray to develop without looking over his shoulder. And on some level it was probably the right thing to do for Rosen, too.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter
From a temperature reading of social media during and after the NFL Draft, it’s clear there’s a sizable group of fans who have lost belief in Cardinals general manager Steve Keim. To many degrees, that’s fair. Arizona hasn’t drafted well in recent years, Josh Rosen didn’t work out — at least here — and replacing Rosen with Kyler Murray puts Keim’s neck out there.
At least the GM is sending a clear message about what he’s trying to do. What he did was admitting the hiring of Steve Wilks was a mistake. His selection of Murray and a handful of different receiver weapons looked planned out in that Keim made sure to plug other holes (cornerback, offensive line and backup quarterback) prior to the draft. The draft was about helping empower Kingsbury’s offense.
By most accounts, the Cardinals got a lot of talent. Keim seemed proud that Arizona stuck to its big board.
As of now, Keim won the draft, but that’s only a small part of what will win him more years on the job. He used up several of his chances with poor drafting prior to 2018, the lost year of Wilks and his DUI arrest last summer.
In any case, the draftees will have to produce and soon, none more than Murray, whose career will be forever tied to Rosen’s. It’s not about value lost or giving up on a guy too soon at this point. The only right or wrong that matters is: Will Murray be better than Rosen in this offense?
To that point, how Kingsbury readies Murray matters. What Larry Fitzgerald can impart on his position group in what should be a fascinating competition at wide receiver this training camp will be key. And how the defensive staff hired by Keim succeeds or fails with only a few injections of young talent in Byron Murphy, Zach Allen (fifth round) and Michael Dogbe (seventh round) will be under the microscope.