Cardinals scout Mike Boni (left) and director of college scouting Dru Grigson (right) chat with director of football administration Mike Disner before a game.
For perspective, Steve Keim threw out the numbers: More than 5,000 college scouting reports, 303 colleges visited across the United State and Canada, and a total of 823 players with draft-worthy grades.
Perhaps it isn't the breadth of the scouting for the Cardinals this year but the depth that will resonate.
"There is always some luck involved (in the draft)," the Cardinals' general manager said. "But through preparation you can get a little luckier."
Keim told the team's scouts to "go deeper" into a potential player's background this year. That meant
reaching out to high school coaches and in some cases, pre-high school coaches. Finding out about a player off the field has always been important – Keim annually talks about missing more often on the person than the player – but more detail was required.
The Cardinals aren't talking about the specific draft misses that pushed them in this direction, only that it came from self-evaluation. While Keim and coach Bruce Arians still believe the roster remains deep, it's clear that this year's draft class may be needed sooner than the last class or two.
The work on who they take, then, became that much more crucial.
"In all of our history, we've never collected more data than we have this year," team president Michael Bidwill said.
It's an effort to get to know the passion that might lie beneath, the part of the equation that is necessary but not measurable. Even a player who excels in college may be able to rely on talent to get the job done. That usually doesn't translate in the NFL.
The Cardinals believe in Robert Nkemdiche, for instance, and still praise him for the effort he was giving
in practice before getting hurt at the outset of training camp as a rookie. But the phrase the first-rounder has to "learn to be a pro in his preparation" follows him.
"Let's not forget Anquan Boldin ran a (slow) 4.72 and there were many like him that just didn't have the height, weight, speed you look for but again, no one had a bigger heart and more passion for the game," Keim said.
It's the kind of formula that has paid off recently with linebacker Markus Golden, who was short on some measurable but has turned out to be a very good second-round choice. The hope is that more information can only help find more of those type of players – even if they don't turn out to be great, they'll at least contribute and not wash out.
"I think we do a good job of sorting through it and making sure we can condense it down," Bidwill said. "Missing out on a piece of information, there's more downside to that than collecting too much information that you may not necessarily have needed. I don't think our group has gotten bogged down in too much detail."
Exclusive rights free agents DT Olsen Pierre and OL John Wetzel officially signed their one-year tender offers.
Images from the Cardinals' Celebrity Golf Classic presented by Dignity Healthy on Wednesday at the Whirlwind Golf Course