Potential NFL draftees stand on the roof of New York's Radio City Music Hall before Thursday's NFL draft is held inside.
Stretching the NFL draft over three days didn't change how the Cardinals prepared.
It could change how their draft evolves.
The draft begins Thursday (4:30 p.m. Arizona time) but only for the first round. Rounds two and three take place Friday (starting at 3 p.m. Arizona time). The remainder of the picks will be made starting Saturday morning.
But considering the perceived depth of this draft and the new bridge of some 18 hours between the end of the first round and the start of the second, wheeling and dealing may come to the forefront.
"You only had a short time before the second round started," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Now you have essentially a whole day. There is a lot more strategy, potentially. There will be more time for teams to reassess their boards."
Cleaning up draft boards after 32 picks makes for an interesting dynamic, but most of what faces the Cardinals isn't going to change. Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves have made it clear defense will drive this draft, even if an offensive player or two gets selected along the way. Just as running back and pass rusher were the nagging needs going into the 2009 draft – and the Cards took running back Beanie Wells and linebacker Cody Brown in the first two rounds – the positions this season seem to be inside linebacker and nose tackle.
It's harder to get a sense of who might be available at No. 26. The search would be a lot easier 10 or 15 spots earlier, when the Cards could get their hands on Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain or Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams.
Instead, the search must be expanded. The depth at linebacker later in the first round makes more sense – think TCU's Daryl Washington or Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon – than nose tackle. Later in the second round, interior defenders like Terrence Cody of Alabama or Linval Joseph of East Carolina may be available.
The Cards can't ignore a great talent at another position sitting at 26th if he comes along, but "there is a line you walk between both of them, where you draft the best available player for your need," Whisenhunt said.
There are other needs, of course. The Cardinals could use a wide receiver with the departures of Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban. They need another quarterback (although if the right one isn't there in a shallower draft pool, the Cards could take an undrafted rookie). They are always on the lookout for offensive linemen and cornerbacks.
Trading up or down is a possibility, general manager Rod Graves said, but that's a usual tact this time of year. The Cardinals have generally stayed put. The last time they moved up was in 2007, dealing a fourth-round pick to get defensive tackle Alan Branch, a pick that has not worked out as well as they had hoped.
Armed with an extra third-round pick (thanks to the Boldin trade with Baltimore), the Cards have the ability to move up, but it seems unlikely unless guys like McClain or Williams slide significantly.
Trading back is a different story, especially picking so close to the end of the first round. Either way, the Cards – and every other team – will have significant time to think about how the first round went down.
"It's just a different format in terms of execution," Graves said. "We are actually looking forward to it."
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