Coach Ken Whisenhunt works the draft room during last year's selection process.
A year ago, picking fifth overall, the Cardinals had a pretty good idea of who they would be taking with their first-round draft choice.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson was intriguing and indeed, available. And he was the choice.
The Cardinals aren't drafting nearly as high in Thursday night's first round. At No. 13, so many combinations can occur before the Cards even get on the clock, especially in a year where there seems to be such a wide range of opinions of players past the top five or six.
The guessing game that accompanies every draft has only intensified, with rumors flaring at every turn and even one ESPN report that almost every team holding a pick from three to 16 is willing to trade down. That would likely include the Cardinals.
"I don't give a lot of attention to the misinformation that's out there, but there certainly is," Cardinals general manager Rod Graves said. "We expect that's all part of keeping the game and the draft interesting."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged it'd be too hard to zero in on just one scenario picking where the Cards will pick. The Cards' need for a tackle is well documented, so that would steer in the direction of Iowa's Riley Reiff – if he were to be on the board. Or maybe a wide receiver like Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, who could help take pressure off Larry Fitzgerald, makes sense. In both cases, both players are generally considered the second-best players at their positions in the draft, with USC tackle Matt Kalil and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon figuring to be drafted before the Cards have a crack at either.
The Cards could also go pass-rushing linebacker, taking a guy like South Carolina's Melvin Ingram to supplement youngsters Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield.
There are teams right in front of the Cards, however, that could be spying similar players. Buffalo, drafting 10th, is in need of both a tackle and a wide receiver, and could end up determining what the Cards will have available for them. Needs factor in enough that it doesn't make a lot of sense to see the Cards taking Stanford guard David DeCastro, not after signing Adam Snyder to play there.
Then there is the possibility that the Cards – who are without a second-round pick after dealing it last year in the trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb – try to move down to replenish an extra draft choice. A move down would again adjust what players would still be on the board.
The wild card in the equation – at least from the outside -- is the draft grades the Cards have placed on all the players, valuable information locked away in the draft room. If player A has a grade of 89 and player B has a grade of 81, even if player B is playing a position of greater need it makes sense to stick to the board. The grades are what the scouts and later, the coaches, have worked so hard to reach over the past 11 months. It makes little sense not to trust them now.
"I think you try to continue to grow, learn from your mistakes," director of player personnel Steve Keim said. "Rod had his traditional views on how to run the draft and scouting department, and he and I have worked really hard to develop a philosophy you want to stick with.
"If you are humble enough to take a step back outside the box and say, 'You know what, this is why we made the mistake and we are smart enough to learn from mistakes,' that will pay dividends in the end."
Picking enough of the right players is crucial. It's impossible to be perfect – "It's an inexact science and you never know whether injury or transition to the NFL could be something that would cause a player not to reach the potential you have for them," Whisenhunt noted – but augmenting the roster with productive pieces is a must.
"If you're not drafting well," Graves said, "eventually it's going to catch up with you."