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Cardinals Expect Immediate Impact From Zaven Collins, Rondale Moore 

Keim, Kingsbury entered draft with goal of finding early contributors

GM Steve Keim discusses the Cardinals' draft picks.
GM Steve Keim discusses the Cardinals' draft picks.

During Steve Keim's tenure as general manager, the Cardinals have not always counted on early-round draft picks to make an immediate impact.

But with quarterback Kyler Murray still on his rookie deal – and after falling a tiebreaker short of the playoffs in 2020 -- time is of the essence.

While linebacker Zaven Collins and wide receiver Rondale Moore are part of the organization's long-term plan, the goal is for them to also contribute heavily in 2021.

"Steve made that crystal clear to the coaching staff and personnel department: those first two picks need to play, and play early, and play a lot," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "That was the mission, and I feel good about where it's at."

Collins was the valedictorian of his high school class, and plays a middle linebacker position that is known as the quarterback of the defense. If he is on the field instead of Jordan Hicks in certain instances as a rookie, Collins will be the one lining up his teammates.

"When you watched Zaven, not only is he impressive athletically, but you watch him before the snap and his pre-snap stuff with directing traffic and communicating was excellent," Keim said.

Moore, who earned his business degree from Purdue in two-and-a-half years, will have multiple ways to make an impact as a rookie. He can return kicks, get quick passing game touches and secure a slot receiver role in three- or four-wide sets.

Kingsbury said the Cardinals are expected to have a rookie minicamp this year, which would give this year's draft class a leg up on a 2020 group which learned everything virtually due to COVID-19.

While Collins and Moore are the headliners, the Cardinals would love to get contributions from the five players added on Saturday: cornerback Marco Wilson (fourth round), outside linebacker Victor Dimukeje (sixth round), cornerback Tay Gowan (sixth round), safety James Wiggins (seventh round) and center Michal Menet (seventh round).

After an aggressive free agent period which resulted in the additions of defensive end J.J. Watt, wide receiver A.J. Green, cornerback Malcolm Butler, center Rodney Hudson and others, the draft helped fortify some of the remaining holes on the roster.

It wasn't an easy year, as the pandemic led to a mass of player opt-outs and eliminated normal events like the NFL Scouting combine and standard medical evaluations. By the end of it, Keim was impressed with the information that was compiled.

"None of our coaches or any of our scouts left any stone unturned," Keim said. "These guys worked their tails off, even with the obstacles."

The Cardinals wrapped up the draft by giving out their first inaugural Rod Graves College Scouting award, which recognized the team's top scout based on grade accuracy over the past three years. John Mancini, an area scout in St. Louis, received the award named for Graves, the Cardinals' former general manager.

Now the Cardinals are hoping the 2021 evaluations have a Mancini-type hit rate to them so their playoff chances increase.

"None of us were pleased with how that thing ended last year," Kingsbury said. "We knew we had to get better."

Images of the Cardinals' first-round draft pick on his flight from Tulsa, Okla. to Arizona.

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