Arizona Cardinals GM Keim: DL Rodney Gunter ‘has tremendous upside’

May 3, 2015, 12:57 AM | Updated: 1:49 am

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals did some maneuvering to move up in the fourth round of the NFL Draft Saturday, sacrificing a pair of later picks in order to climb seven spots to select defensive lineman Rodney Gunter from Delaware State.

“In this business enough people talk that occasionally you get enough intel that tells you where a guy is going to potentially go, and I had a little birdy tell me where he was going to go if we didn’t take him,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said of trading up. “And I got a call that confirmed that from the GM afterwards. I won’t name any names, but I was glad that we did what we did.

“The kid has tremendous upside. A lot of fans are probably going to say, ‘Who is Rodney Gunter?’ I have a pretty strong conviction, Coach (Bruce Arians) has pretty strong conviction, that in the next couple years fans are going to know real well who Rodney Gunter is.”

It’s not quite Cotton Fitzsimmons admonishing Phoenix Suns fans for booing the selection of Dan Majerle, but it’s not far off, either.

Gunter played just one year of high school football before going to Delaware State, the only school to offer him a scholarship. Last season, as a senior, he tallied seven sacks along with 13 tackles for a loss. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, he has good size for the defensive line, and given where he is coming from, motivation shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Arians said he can play all three defensive line positions, and that they’ll find a spot for him because of his explosiveness.

Sounds good, and if he’s as capable as both he and the Cardinals think he is and can be, then the team will have itself one of the draft’s biggest steals.

Of course, that then begs the question of how a guy who is that good falls to pick number 116. Sure, he went to a small school, but teams pay good money to find talent wherever they can.

“Our area scout Zac Canty started off and said that he found this physical specimen at Delaware State that nobody’s talking about,” Keim said, before adding that scouts who work for the National Football Scouting graded Gunter fairly poorly. “The guy had a low combine grade and our scouts went out and felt like there was something special about this guy.”

So, the legend of Gunter, so to speak, moves up the chain until it gets to the coaching staff, in this case defensive line coach Brentson Buckner.

“My man got off the plane and he came back foaming at the mouth,” Keim said. “He said he hasn’t seen that many guys with that type of size, length and movement skills, and that’s exactly what you look for in day three of the draft — guys who have that kind of potential who may have been overlooked in the process.”

Arians pointed out that Buckner worked out nearly two-dozen players and was “just raving” about Gunter’s athleticism when he got back to the Valley.

So, by the time the fourth round began Saturday morning, the Cardinals knew Gunter was not only the player they wanted, but also a guy who was worth trading up to get.

“At the end of the day you have to trust your eyes, and if you believe in what you see and if you believe in the process and in your scouts and in your coaches and all the work that’s put into it, you have no problem making a decision,” Keim said. “Whether anybody has heard of Rodney Gunter or not, I’m not concerned at all. I trust our people and I trust my own eyes. I trust Coach Arians’ eyes. We felt extremely good about the pick.”

Remember, the Cardinals were not the only ones who were interested in the player, which is why the felt an urgency to ensure they landed him.

“Eleven teams worked him out,” Arians said. “Two teams were getting ready to draft him, alright, we had to work to get above them because we liked him that much.”

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