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In Draft, Cardinals Take Calculated Risk

Keim says team trusted eyes, took players he believe will blossom

The draft list wasn't necessarily going to match up with what was expected, and Steve Keim understood that.

But as the Cardinals General Manager sat next to coach Bruce Arians for his final words about the just completed selections Saturday afternoon, there was no concern.

"We added a lot of guys who fans don't know a lot about, but (with whom) we see a tremendous amount of upside," Keim said. "Coach says all the time, 'No risk it, no biscuit.' I don't think it's any secret in this room I like biscuits."

The comment drew laughs – and a retort from Arians about stealing his best lines – but it was at the heart of what the Cardinals did over the past three days. The final day began with a stunner, with the Cardinals trading up to get

Delaware State defensive end Rodney Gunter in the fourth round. Two fifth-round picks went to West Virginia pass rusher Shaq Riddick – like Gunter, a player not even invited to the Scouting combine – and Alabama-Birmingham wide receiver/sprinter J.J. Nelson. The final choice of both the Cardinals and the NFL was Louisville tight end Gerald Christian, this year's Mr. Irrelevant.

None of them are irrelevant to Arians and Keim, however. Added in to the first three picks – tackle D.J. Humphries, linebacker Markus Golden and running back David Johnson – Keim believes the risk will be worth the eventual reward.

"When you see guys with potential, they also have to have the mental aptitude to get better," Keim said. "And these guys do."

Everything wasn't addressed. The Cardinals did not draft a cornerback, an inside linebacker or any more interior linemen. Arians said he is not concerned about cornerback, believing that Jerraud Powers can easily start and that Justin Bethel can break out in his fourth season. Inside linebacker might be a little different, Arians said, as the Cards try to add speed at the position with undrafted rookies.

Keim said there were still a handful of undrafted rookies the Cards expect to get that the team had rated as fourth- or fifth-round draft picks.  

Arians spoke glowingly of how Nelson likely will be the fastest player he's ever coached, and how the Cardinals can't wait to work with the underdeveloped Gunter – Arians said he didn't even have a defensive line coach one year in college – to reach his potential.

In the chase for young outside linebackers, Arians thinks Golden and Riddick can eventually prove to be a big addition.

"I can see Markus Golden sitting at 'Sam,' and (Riddick) at 'Will,' coming off the open side and Markus beating the (expletive) out of tight ends off the strong side," Arians said.

The math says they won't all pan out. Keim acknowledged the danger in projecting draftees gets more intense as the team grows stronger, since the new players have to make the team in the first place.

But these are the risks he is willing to take to build a team, even if there is a surprise or two taken along the way.

"It says our guys are willing to turn over every rock and dig deep," Keim said. "At the end of the day we're not scared to make a tough decision." 

Review the 2015 Draft Class of the Arizona Cardinals

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