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Cardinals' Draft Question: QB Or Not QB?

First round of the draft shines spotlight on quest for most important position

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Steve Wilks will take part in his first draft as a head coach starting Thursday.


The last time the Cardinals drafted a quarterback in the first round, Matt Leinart surprisingly fell in 2006 to 10th overall, Dennis Green called the drop "a gift from heaven" and the team didn't need to surrender any draft capital in trade.

To pick any of the top four quarterbacks in Thursday's draft, the Cardinals – set to select 15th, the first of eight total draft picks for now – would likely have to trade up.

That's what everyone will be watching for once the picks creep to No. 4 or 5 and beyond, depending on what combination of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield might still be on the board.

"Are you willing to put the franchise in a position to be set back for years if it's not right?" General Manager

Steve Keim asked about a potential trade up. "It can be crippling for us if we traded the next couple of drafts to go get a player that's never taken a snap and doesn't have success.

"There's a lot of moving parts to it, but at the end of the day, we've got to do the best thing for the organization."

The Cardinals have various ways to go, if the price is too steep or if all the quarterbacks are taken. They could try and find a permanent player for the second cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson, something Peterson has never had since he was drafted in 2011. They could bolster either the offensive or defensive line, or add a wide receiver to aid Larry Fitzgerald.

In any of those cases, it wouldn't be surprising to see someone play right away – something that wasn't frequent with top draft picks under coach Bruce Arians.

"We want to make sure we get the right fit," coach Steve Wilks said. "I've been in a situation in the past when we've taken fifth-, sixth-round guys, (undrafted) free-agent guys, and they came in and performed for us and performed well (as rookies).

"This staff … has done a tremendous job in trying to find some of those down-the-line guys that we've identified already that we feel like can come in and really contribute."

Keim said the Cardinals continue to "tweak the system" they have for choosing players, in an effort to try and improve the success level of each class. The Cards' recent history of first-round picks in particular has been uneven, with linebacker Deone Bucannon doing well, tackle D.J. Humphries and linebacker Haason Reddick seemingly moving in the right direction and struggles from departed guard Jonathan Cooper and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

Going after a quarterback would up the grading scale exponentially, although Keim emphasized the need to find a partner for a trade in the first place.

"It's not as easy as you think," he said.

The Cardinals should select a quarterback at some point in the draft, even if it's not the first round. But the spotlight falls on that initial pick.

Back in 2006, another top quarterback was also on the board when Leinart was selected. Jay Cutler was chosen 11th by Denver, and would have likely been the Cards' pick had Leinart not been available.

At 15, it just doesn't seem likely – in this particular quarterback-hungry draft – that history will repeat itself, which is why Keim was asked at some point a team must take a risk to draft a QB.

"If you believe in the player," Keim said, "yeah."

Images from Wednesday's Phase Two work on Draft eve



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