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So Many Draft Directions Cardinals Can Go At 8

Trade down remains possible as NFL launches virtual version of selection night

The Cardinals hold the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft.
The Cardinals hold the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft.

For GM Steve Keim, there are "8 to 10" blue-chip players in this year's NFL draft.

Coincidentally – or perhaps not – the Cardinals are scheduled to select eighth in Thursday night's first round.

It won't be a quarterback, not this year, not after the last two years. Beyond that, there are a plethora of possibilities. There are potential game-changers on each level of defense, like Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons or cornerback Jeff Okudah. There are a host of offensive tackles the Cardinals could plug in on the right side, like Alabama's Jedrick Wills or Iowa's Tristan Wirfs.

Then there is the wild card of a wide receiver, even despite the trade for DeAndre Hopkins. Or a trade down, perhaps aiming to recoup a second-round pick after the Cards dealt theirs to Houston in the Hopkins transaction.

"If we are taking a player at No. 8," Keim said, "we expect him to be an immediate impact player."

Keim's deliberate pre-draft offseason plan has put the Cardinals in as good of a spot as possible in terms of draft flexibility. The biggest holes the Cards had going into the offseason were No. 1 wide receiver, a second pass rusher, an inside linebacker who could keep up with tight ends, and a starter on the defensive line. Hopkins arrived in trade, while free agency brought outside linebacker Devon Kennard, inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips.

The Cards also made sure they were OK at right tackle by re-signing both Marcus Gilbert and Justin Murray. It all helps in the reality there are multiple unknowns in the seven picks before the Cards would be on the clock.

"It does set the draft up to where we feel we are free to take the best available pick that comes at the No. 8 spot," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

A trade does make sense, if the Cardinals are as open to their first-round decision as it seems. Moving down a handful of spots to gain a pick is always something that intrigues Keim – the last time the Cards traded down in the first round, they went from 20 to 27 in a swap with the Saints that ultimately became linebacker Deone Bucannon and wide receiver John Brown for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

Keim acknowledged there have been early discussions about potential trades, but it is "really a lot of posturing," he said. "Until a player is on the clock, you really have no clue."

The Cards currently have six draft picks: a first (8th), a third (72nd), two fourths (114th and 131st), a sixth (202nd) and a seventh (222nd).

Beyond round one, all the positions discussed are still in play. Kingsbury said the Cardinals will still be looking for a potential third running back after Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds. An offensive lineman at some point makes sense. And yes, a wide receiver, in such a deep draft for them, is possible.

"There are guys that are speed guys, there are big physical guys that can go up and get it in a crowd," Keim said. "It's kind of pick your poison. What are you looking for? You looking for an X, you looking for a Z? You can get them in every round."

Kingsbury already is happy with an upgraded roster even before the draft – something that could come into play with a truncated or eliminated offseason because of COVID-19. Keim acknowledged there are concerns about getting rookies ready mentally and physically at the start of the regular season.

There will also be the virtual hurdles teams face this week as all the draft personnel for each team is isolated because of the coronavirus.

Once the picks start, however, Keim sees a draft much like any other. The same communication with Kingsbury and owner Michael Bidwill, the same focus on the big picture.

"As I've always said, it's my job that I always see the constant holes in our roster," Keim said. "I don't think there is a position we still can't address in this draft."

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