CARDINALS CORNER

‘Opinions are like Gucci belts’: Max Melton determined to prove why Cardinals drafted him

May 13, 2024, 11:49 AM | Updated: May 14, 2024, 5:25 pm

TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals had their eye on Rutgers cornerback Max Melton well before they traded down eight spots to No. 43 in the second round to nab him this past April.

The stars aligned for Melton and the franchise, but that didn’t stop the outside noise from creeping in.

While Melton checked a big box as a starting-caliber corner, there were names still on the draft board at Arizona’s original second-round pick at No. 35 overall — Cooper DeJean and Kool-Aid McKinstry among them — that were graded higher and got a lot more publicity this draft cycle.

The former Big Ten cornerback, who recorded eight interceptions and 22 passes defensed in four seasons of work, isn’t paying any mind to the chatter, knowing how outside opinions come with the territory of being a ballplayer.

“Opinions are like Gucci belts, everyone has one,” Melton said Thursday. “Everybody’s going to have an opinion. Nobody’s going to be 100% on the same page, especially when we’re talking about millions of fans.

“I know come the season and once we get a couple weeks in, I think they’ll be happy with the pick.”

Melton, who primarily played along the outside at Rutgers, marked the first of three cornerbacks taken this past draft. Elijah Jones (No. 90) and Jaden Davis (No. 226) were the other two.

And as we saw last year with Arizona’s last batch of young cornerbacks in Garrett Williams, Kei’Trel Clark and Starling Thomas V — though some of that was due to necessity given the roster makeup — the Cardinals like to get their rookies involved from the get-go.

There is at least one starting spot up for grabs, too, with many envisioning Melton as a candidate for one of the premier roles defensively.

Melton isn’t oblivious to those facts, understanding the more he can digest through rookie minicamp, the rest of Arizona’s offseason workouts and any down time in between, the better.

As he put it, his “day-by-day goal is to take it day-by-day, literally.”

For Melton, being where his feet are includes properly diving into the defense and making sure concepts and scheme are not only gone over, they’re properly understood.

Just because you went cover-to-cover in the playbook, doesn’t mean you’ve got it all down pat.

“(Cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith) does a great job of breaking it up and really explaining it to you, because you don’t want to go fast and go, ‘I got it, I got it, I got it,'” Melton said. “That’s how you’re going to forget things. You just want to write stuff down, make sure you actually got it before you hit the game field or the practice field.

“I feel comfortable with it so far,” the young CB added of the defense. “A lot of it is kind of the same as my college so that’s why I feel so comfortable with it right away. But I just feel comfortable all around. Even new stuff like I’m picking up on it quick. I’m ready to hit the field with it.”

What aspect of the NFL has Max Melton the most curious?

There’s a lot for rookies to take in when joining an NFL franchise.

On top of the multitude of new faces across the locker room, coaching staff and front office, there’s also a new city and surroundings to traverse.

Melton, however, is most curious about who he’ll be playing in front of on game days.

“I want to see what the fanbase is like on game day,” he said. “I heard they call it the Red Sea here so I can’t wait to see what that’s like.”

No pressure, Cards fans.

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‘Opinions are like Gucci belts’: Max Melton determined to prove why Cardinals drafted him