The amount of work – 5,000 written reports on between 400 and 450 players, in addition to multiple meetings breaking each guy down – the Cardinals put into preparing for the draft is immense.
Yet this spring, it doesn’t seem as immense as the amount of attention that has been spotlighted on just one of the 10 Cardinals’ draft picks.
The draft is finally here, beginning at 5 p.m. Arizona time Thursday evening, and the Cardinals won’t be waiting much longer beyond that. (Barring a trade down, of course, but more on that later.) The Cardinals have the No. 1 overall pick. Will it be quarterback Kyler Murray? Edge rusher Nick Bosa? Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams? When you’re picking No. 1, it’s not just the team’s fan base that wants to know. It draws the attention of the entire NFL, and those who talk about it for a living.
As recently as Tuesday, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said the team was still working on its final draft prep. General Manager Steve Keim said last week the final decision had yet to be made, because there was still time.
But by now, the Cards – again, barring a trade – know what the selection will be. Speculation was once overwhelming that they would take Murray, and look to trade incumbent quarterback Josh Rosen. But that speculation has softened of late, and if the Cardinals build their Kingsbury offense around Rosen and add a defensive difference-maker like Bosa or Williams, that too makes sense.
When it comes to Murray, it’ll be about the evaluation. The Cardinals have consistently said they like Rosen’s game and believe in him. Choosing Murray would be about the belief that he would be a transcendent player. That’s the decision Keim must weigh.
“We, as an organization, will take the best player that makes the biggest impact,” Keim said last week.
The draft is about more than just the first pick, of course. With nine more selections scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the Cardinals have a real chance to significantly bolster the roster for the next few years. Even a 50 percent hit rate would make a major difference.
Keim also has the chance to make some deals, something he has done regularly during the draft in his time as GM. That could include the No. 1 pick if some team were willing to deal, a chance to get more early picks. But like the Cardinals, most of the teams immediately behind the Cardinals in the draft order are staying quiet, and someone willing to move up -- ostensibly to get Murray -- sounds like less and less of a possibility. But trading doesn't end after the first round. Keim could also end up spending some of his surplus late picks to move up in a certain round to get a player.
The first pick is about impact, but beyond that, there are needs. The Cardinals have to address wide receiver and the offensive line. Help at cornerback and/or safety, inside linebacker and tight end wouldn’t hurt. If they don’t take Bosa or Williams, getting younger at outside linebacker and defensive line couldn’t hurt.
But it’ll start with that first pick, the one that begins everything for the NFL this year and the first time the Cardinals are picking first since 1958. That year, they took a quarterback in King Hill. The world waits to see if they go quarterback again, or if it might be someone else.
“It’s an inexact science, so it’s a tough business,” Keim said. “If anybody says that they’re 100 percent, that’s certainly not the case. We have to do what’s best for this organization.
“The good news, again, on draft day if we don’t trade that pick, is we’re going to have a player we fell in love with.”
Images from the second day of the voluntary veterans minicamp under coach Kliff Kingsbury.