Nationally, the Arizona Cardinals’ draft pick gaining the most buzz is first-round choice Robert Nkemdiche.
It makes sense, given that Nkemdiche is regarded as an elite talent who could be an impact player in the NFL, so long as he can stay out of trouble off the field and remain motivated on it.
However, another one of the team’s draft picks — fifth-round pick Marqui Christian — is also coming to town with a considerable amount of hype.
Monday, his coach at Midwestern State, Bill Maskill, said the defensive back is determined, prideful and committed, adding Christian will work hard and do whatever the coaching staff asks of him, which could include playing in the box.
“He doesn’t know any speed, except one speed,” he said. “I know when the scouts were here for pro day, they indicated to him the same thing Marqui indicated to us, that they play a lot of safeties and that they put them in the box and move them around. I think he’s had some experience doing that. He’s a good tackler, he’ll be a good special teams guy and we’re really excited about his opportunity out there in Arizona.”
The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Christian won the Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s top small-college defensive player last year, but fell to pick No. 167 in large part because he did not attend a Power 5 school and face what is considered to be top-tier competition.
The Cardinals, however, have a history of snagging gems who come from similar situations, with John Brown (Pittsburg St. in 2014) and David Johnson (Northern Iowa in 2015) being two of the most notable examples, and there is an early sense that Christian will soon add his name to that group.
A guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning, the hosts were done asking Cardinals VP of Player Personnel Terry McDonough questions before the interviewee decided to keep the conversation going.
“Marqui Christian, Midwestern State,” he said. “Remember that name.”
Why, pray tell?
“Everybody here was on board; Adrian Wilson went to the NFLPA game and really liked him,” McDonough added. “You guys are going to love watching him play. He’s a lot like (Antoine) Bethea when he came out of Howard…same size, same speed, can really get off the spot from a standing position. He loves to hit.”
McDonough talked up Christian much in the same way Cardinals coach Bruce Arians did Saturday, explaining how he can play multiple positions for the defense.
“He’s a bullet — he’s a great kid and he can really run,” McDonough said.
Of all the endorsements a safety can receive, the one Christian has earned from Wilson — a former Cardinals great who is now a scout for the team — would seem to carry some considerable weight. Both GM Steve Keim and McDonough mentioned his report on Christian as part of why they liked him — Keim even said Wilson came back from the NFLPA Game “with his jaw dropping,” and on Bickley and Marotta Tuesday Wilson said he did not want to take too much credit for the pick.
“I was just able to kind of see him at the All-Star game, go back and watch some of his tape from last year and this year, and I met the kid, had dinner with the kid,” Wilson explained. “It’s just one of those things where it felt right; the tape added up to who the person actually is, and I just brought the information back to Steve.”
Wilson credited the Cardinals’ scouts, including John Mancini, for finding Christian.
“John Mancini was really the first guy — [Christian] is in John Mancini’s area,” Wilson said. “So I was a cross-check guy on that, and I just went through my process of seeing if this guy can help the Cardinals or not.”