PHOENIX — Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was a lot like most people who were watching the NFL Draft unfold without Scooby Wright’s name being called.
Arguably the best collegiate linebacker in the country in 2014, he was projected to go anywhere between the third and fifth rounds, yet remained on the board until the Cleveland Browns chose him in the seventh round with the 250th overall selection.
Now, unlike most of the people who were watching the draft on TV, Arians could have in theory actually done something to stop Wright’s slide, especially given that the Cardinals had a pair of draft picks in the fifth round and then another one in the sixth.
For a player who, in his last full season, led the country with 163 tackles and notched 29 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and six forced fumbles en route to winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as well as the Rotary Lombardi and Bhuck Bednarik Awards, using one of those choices on Wright may have seemed like robbery.
The Cardinals did not choose Wright, though a report came out saying the linebacker was set to join the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent until the Browns got involved.
Taking some time to promote the 2nd annual Arians Family Foundation Fundraiser at Steak 44 in Phoenix Monday, Arians confirmed they were this close to landing Wright while offering thoughts as to why he lasted so long.
“A couple announcers kept talking about Mike linebackers and nose guards having lost their (value),” he said. “Five, six years ago they would have been first-round picks. The nose tackle from Baylor (Andrew Billings), great nose guard.
“The running game isn’t as important as the passing game, and if you’re not a three-down player — Scooby’s a great blitzer and I actually had Scooby on the phone, begging him to come with us as a free agent because I think he has something special about him, and the Browns drafted him.”
The Cardinals ended up agreeing to contracts with 16 undrafted rookie free agents, with probably the biggest name of the bunch being Alabama QB Jake Coker. But had Arians and the Cardinals had their way, Wright’s name would have been on the list.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I had just gotten off the phone and I looked up, the Browns picked Scooby Wright.”
Arians chuckled while saying that, which is probably all he can do now. Wright may go on to have a great career, at which point the Cardinals would not be the only team regretting not spending an earlier pick on him. It’s also possible Wright will not be able to have the same kind of success he had in the pros as he did in college, in which case his actual draft standing is about right.
Only time will tell.
In any event, Arians and the Cardinals may feel good about the linebacker’s chances, just not good enough to spend one of their six draft picks on him. They gambled they could get him as a free agent, and they lost.
Such is the way of the NFL draft.