General manager Rod Graves (left) and coach Ken Whisenhunt meet the media Thursday during their annual pre-draft press conference. The Cards pick 13th in the first round.
With most of their draft preparation done, the Cardinals embarked Thursday on building their "120" board, which lines up the top players for the Cards as they enter next week's draft.
The board is supposed to take most, if not all of the decision-making out of the equation when the team is on the clock. But as with most things, that's not always an absolute.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt brought up the case of running back Ryan Williams Thursday, when Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves held their annual pre-draft press conference. Williams was the team's second-round selection, but with Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling already in place, the last thing the Cards needed was a running back.
"There was a lot of conviction about Ryan Williams," Whisenhunt said. "When (the pick) came up, there was a lot of discussion. Should you take him? Should you take another position where you had need? You put all that work in (pre-draft) to make a decision and you go with that decision.
"It's hard to say that was a great pick because obviously Ryan got injured, but what we saw of him in that short time really was like, 'Wow, this is why you do it.' That is why you have these discussions."
The later a team gets in the draft, the more draft-day discussions come up, Graves said. Need factors in as the picks get later, as do the positions the team has already addressed in the draft.
Ultimately, though, that's what the three weeks of draft meetings are for: To avoid agonizing choices when the team is on the clock.
There's no way to know exactly how many man hours, from scouting to writing reports to breaking down those reports goes into it. "That would be a good intern project," Graves quipped. And there's no way to know at this point exactly where the Cardinals stand with specific players.
When asked about particular positions the Cards want to address, Graves just smiled. "You know we're going to say all of them."
The Cardinals' greatest need remains offensive tackle, but as with the Williams pick a year ago, the Cards have been careful not to lock themselves into needs. Early in the draft, when difference-makers can be found more often than not, chasing need can hamstring a team.
There has been plenty of speculation whether a tackle like Iowa's Riley Reiff will be there at 13, but for all the middle-of-the-road comments made Thursday, Whisenhunt made clear the Cards weren't going to held hostage to an offensive line vacancy.
"What we don't want to do is draft a lineman just to draft a lineman because that's what you think you have to do," Whisenhunt said. "You've got to trust the process."
The process could take the Cardinals in a lot of different directions. They could end up with a pass rusher instead in round one, or a wide receiver. Or a trade – Graves said the Cards have already fielded some preliminary phone calls about potential deals.
Graves talked frequently about all the "opportunities" the Cardinals will have and consider beginning a week from Thursday.
In theory, they've already been discussed.
"That's what this period, what we've been doing up there (in the draft room), is all about," Whisenhunt said. "Preparing yourself, so that when it comes down or when it gets close, you know where you stand with the guys and what you're looking for."
The Cardinals will have their annual Fan Fest during minicamp again this offseason, but because minicamp has moved -- because of the new CBA rules -- to June, so too has Fan Fest. This year's Fan Fest will be the evening of June 13, the second day of the Cards' minicamp, around a practice held at University of Phoenix Stadium. Further details will come later this offseason.