Keim: Cardinals drafting WR early still in play despite Hopkins trade
The Arizona Cardinals’ first-round pick in next week’s 2020 NFL Draft is widely believed to be reserved for someone other than a wide receiver, but that’s not a foregone conclusion, according to the team’s general manager.
Steve Keim, in speaking with reporters on a video conference call on Wednesday, said his blockbuster trade for DeAndre Hopkins doesn’t eliminate the possibility of taking a wide receiver early on. That’s particularly notable when you consider that the Cardinals don’t have a second-round pick, at least right now.
“I think the one thing you have to look at, not just the DeAndre Hopkins acquisition, but you want to look at the long-term contracts that you have in place, whether guys can play inside or outside at those positions,” Keim said. “So if there’s a player that we covet and it’s at the right spot and somebody that we’re high on, we’ll certainly take advantage of that.
“Again, I say this every year, your needs are always changing. So just because it may look like on the surface that we’re not as needy at wide receiver, that could change pretty quickly.”
One obvious variable is that of Larry Fitzgerald, the 36-year-old, 16th-year veteran who continues to re-up with the team on one-year deals. It’s possible that Fitzgerald is entering his final NFL season, and the need to supply quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury with offensive weapons is a consideration, too.
The team did draft three wide receivers in 2019: Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson, but none of them were able to earn consistent playing time for various reasons (it should be noted Butler was injured).
Damiere Byrd and Pharoh Cooper also left this offseason, so beyond Hopkins and Christian Kirk, the wide receiver outlook for 2021 isn’t as plentiful as one might think.
It’s also an unusually deep wide receiver class this year, with names like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III at the top of draft boards. Second-tier wideouts are available, too, but with no second-round pick, the Cardinals would likely be out of the mix for a player like ASU’s Brandon Aiyuk.
Still, Keim is optimistic about the wideout depth past the first round.
“Excellent,” he called it. “There’s guys that are speed guys, there’s big, physical guys that can go up and get it in a crowd. So it’s kind of pick your poison. What are you looking for? You looking for an X? You looking for a Z? You can get them in every round.
“There are going to be guys that, just like last year’s draft, go in later rounds that have production and are going to turn out to be good players. But there’s four or five of those guys at the top that are really, really exciting to watch.”