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Steve Keim, Cardinals Ready For Draft - Virtual As It May Be

Technology aided prep, with few practical changes in decision-making

GM Steve Keim is confident the Cardinals are ready to conduct their draft virtually.
GM Steve Keim is confident the Cardinals are ready to conduct their draft virtually.

The setup in Steve Keim's home, courtesy of the Cardinals' IT department, is like a miniature version of the team's draft room at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center.

Enough of the bells and whistles are there, information at a single touch, that the Cardinals' GM feels ready for virtually conducting next week's draft from his house, with every other person involved at their respective homes. But there are also backup versions of such information, hand-written cards and magnets that echo a Cardinals draft room of 10 or 15 years ago to give Keim an old-school feeling.

"It kind of takes me back to my young scouting days," Keim said Wednesday during his pre-draft press conference via Zoom. "In some ways, it's like learning as a child, as you are writing out these names on draft cards, in a way makes you a little more familiar with the player. That part of the process has been fun for me."

If Keim has any concerns about the very different kind of draft that awaits the Cardinals and the NFL April 23, he wasn't showing it. Like Kliff Kingsbury before him, Keim's confidence in the Cardinals' setup – and their preparation in building their draft board – is clear.

And while he joked he was just going to "mute everybody out" when it came time to make a pick, Keim emphasized the choices will have organization input like every other year.

"At the end of the day it falls on my shoulders and I'm fine with that," Keim said. "But Kliff, (owner) Michael (Bidwill) and I will talk on draft night and have quite a few conversations. It's not going to be a whole lot different, because of the technology."

The technology has been eye-opening enough that Keim said he plans on incorporating some aspects of the coronavirus-hindered draft process going forward, even after players can again visit teams and scouts can attend pro days in the future.

Those things will still happen. But Keim raved about the FaceTime aspect spent with potential draftees, especially aiding the amount of time positional coaches could spend with players.

"In some cases you really have developed better relationships, a better understanding of what the player might be," Keim said.

That doesn't mean there are not parts of the equation where the Cardinals – and other teams – have lost out.

Allowed up to 30 players for facility visits post-Scouting combine, many of the Cards' visits are normally spent on players who were not at the combine, players who had not yet undergone any medical check. Those are lost. While a challenge, Keim said the team has tried to be resourceful, talking carefully to the schools to get background and medical information, and also reaching into the organization's own institutional knowledge when it comes to a player's durability, surgical history and missed time to try and develop a proper medical grade.

(Keim acknowledged if a drafted player later had medical issues, there was probably no recourse, but he added he was not concerned that would happen.)

Keim also was confident in the process for the "speed dating" world of signing undrafted rookies in the aftermath of the final round of the draft – something that in normal times featured scouts and other front-office workers all calling agents and players frequently to get them to sign.

If anything, Keim said, the necessary paring down of the draft evaluation process might even give the Cardinals less chance to overthink a player analysis, "to go out and be on the road and question yourself just because a guy ran a faster three-cone, or because he jumped higher."

"I have been able to watch more tape than any other year I have been a general manager," Keim added.

The GM wasn't tipping his hand with a pick, noting that he feels like there are "8 to 10" blue-chip players – convenient for a team choosing eighth overall, but perhaps also a sign if there is consideration of trading down. But his confidence in the process wasn't different than any year not impacted by COVID-19.

"Really, we have no excuses," Keim said. "I feel we will come away with several good players in this draft."

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