Tempe, Ariz. — Most people felt the Arizona Cardinals went into the 2016 NFL Draft in need of a center.
They found one in Missouri’s Evan Boehm, whom they chose in the fourth round with the 128th overall selection.
“A guy that one of probably four or five natural centers we identified in the draft process, having the ability to be a starter in the National Football League,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said of Boehm. “Intangibles are excellent — we’ve talked to you guys about our personal character and our football character grades; he was one of the five or six players that warranted a double-A, so his intangibles are off the charts.”
Keim referred to Boehm as a “true lunchpail and hardhat kind of guy,” which makes sense given he started 52 games for the Tigers and was a team captain. He fills a position of need, and could be ready to start this season.
“You know what? I can’t wait to go and compete and try and earn a spot,” Boehm said. “It’s going to be tough, but I’ve got to get in there and learn this offense and be able to compete for a spot, and I’m very excited to do that.”
Boehm believes the experience he comes to the Cardinals with both as a long-time starter in college, as well as the son of a high school football coach, will help in his quest, though he knows nothing is going to be given to him.
That’s simply not the way the Cardinals do things.
“He’ll come in and compete,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “There’s no jobs handed out. A.Q. Shipley is a good player and he’ll have to fight it out with him. But it’s going to be a nice battle.”
However, Boehm is well aware of the kind of team he is joining, noting that at center he would be playing in between a pair of experienced, top-tier guards in Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis, which would help his learning curve.
He considers himself to be “football intelligent,” and carries a level of intensity with him on the field because he absolutely hates losing. Because of that, joining a team that won 13 games and reached the NFC Championship Game last season is something he is pretty pumped about.
“It’s awesome; knowing (Cardinals linebacker) Markus Golden, I talked to him quite a bit, and he has nothing but great things to say about Arizona and he loves it,” he said. “So hearing him talk about it and getting that phone call, it’s unbelievable. It’s a dream come true.
“The expectations are there and you know what, I want to be there with those expectations and I want to live through that.”
As of now, the only other experienced center on the Cardinals’ roster is veteran A.Q. Shipley. Boehm will be expected to compete for the starting job, and if he shows the kind of toughness and ability he did at Missouri, he may very well win it.
Projected to be a fourth or fifth-round draft choice, Boehm said he played all of last season with a high ankle sprain, which is an injury that generally leads to players missing games.
“It happened the fifth play of the season and it just went on and on and on about the whole season,” he said. “I don’t think I was ever 100 percent, but when I went out there I gave 100 percent of what I could and I think I was starting to get better toward the end. But every once in a while there was a little bother to it.”
How much the injury slowed him is unknown, but it’s possible it led to draft evaluations that kncoked him for “physical limitations” and “marginal overall athleticism.” At the same time, while there may be some knocks against him, Boehm has plenty going for him.
“He’s powerful, tough, smart — was a great wrestler, a state champ wrestler — captain, dad’s a coach; everything you’re looking for in leader of your offensive line,” Arians said.
In totality, the 6-foot-2, 309-pound player appears to have the build and mentality to succeed at the position.
“I’m a guy that will stick his nose into the opponent and dominate him,” he said. “I don’t like to lose and I’m going to go out there and I’m going to win every rep that I can.
“People say I’m this scheme or I’m that scheme. Honestly, I feel like I’m both schemes. I’m athletic enough to move around in space; I’m athletic enough to play in that zone scheme. Any type of scheme you put me in, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to dominate it.”
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