First-round pick Robert Nkemdiche highlights the Cardinals' list of six draft choices.
In a pre-draft press conference, coach Bruce Arians said choosing a positional need over a more talented player will get you "broke and fired."
But as the draft unfolded the past three days, General Manager Steve Keim said a best-of-both-worlds scenario developed: the Cardinals' highest-graded players aligned with their biggest roster weaknesses.
With their six picks from Thursday through Saturday, the Cardinals chose defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (first round), cornerback Brandon Williams (third), center Evan Boehm (fourth), safety Marqui Christian (fifth), guard Cole Toner (fifth) and cornerback Harlan Miller (sixth).
Boehm will compete with A.Q. Shipley for the starting center position, Nkemdiche is expected to find a spot in the defensive line rotation, and there is playing time available at cornerback if Williams or Miller can make an impression in the offseason.
"This is not always the goal because we said we were going to trust our board, but we filled needs with players we are excited about," Keim said. "Sometimes that's not always the case when you walk away from the draft. Sometimes you're a little concerned that maybe this guy will have a hard time making your team, or you had him too high on your board. In this case, we're extremely excited about all of these players."
One position the Cardinals didn't address was quarterback.
Three of them – Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch – were gone before the Cardinals made their first-round selection, and while there were others available later, Keim deemed the opportunity cost too high.
"There were some guys that we liked, but at the end of the day, nobody that overshadowed the players we drafted at those particular selections," Keim said.
For the first time since taking over as general manager, Keim didn't make a draft-day trade, but he was tempted.
"Every opportunity we had to pick, there were trade options," Keim said.
"I think there always are. But you have to weigh that versus the player and the grade that you have on the board. Really, the compensation wasn't worth it at the time."
The Cardinals' final three choices were small-school picks. Christian went to Midwestern State, Toner came from Harvard and Miller was at Southeastern Louisiana. The Cardinals have found great success drafting players like wide receiver John Brown and running back David Johnson from outside the power conferences.
"I think it speaks volumes of our staff when you take back-to-back guys from Midwestern State and Harvard," Arians said. "They cover everything, everybody. Our staff does such a great job – all our scouts — of finding every single guy that's out there."
The Cardinals aren't done. They will now recruit undrafted free agents to fill out the 90-man roster, with the belief that some of them can compete for a roster spot. It's not impossible, as safety Tony Jefferson, kicker Chandler Catanzaro and wide receiver Jaron Brown have become valuable pieces after initially joining the team after going undrafted.
"We're excited about it, because we still have a number of guys that we like, that we think have the ability to make this football team," Keim said.
First-round pick Robert Nkemdiche comes to Arizona as a member of the Cardinals