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The Truth Of The (Draft) Matter

Smokescreens from teams are just part of this time of year


Cardinals coach Bruce Arians (left) and GM Steve Keim are remarkably open during the draft process -- unless they aren't.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Steve Keim spoke with the local media about the NFL draft for 27 minutes on Wednesday.

Afterward, other NFL teams surely mined their answers for any useful morsels of information, and with this duo, it wasn't hard to find.

Arians called the quarterback class 'average at best' after the consensus top two of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, and didn't foresee the Cardinals drafting a signal-caller. Keim, unprompted, said Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones had been in for a pre-draft visit, and also said his preference is to trade down in the draft rather than trade up.

Right there, on a platter, several nuggets which other teams can catalogue for the future -- except it's not that simple. This is

smokescreen season, after all, a time when no one around the league can take answers at face value.

"You tell the truth," Arians said, "and everybody thinks you're lying."

Arians and Keim have a track record of being forthright with their opinions, even when some would consider the information sensitive. Keim stood on the podium at the NFL Scouting combine in February and told reporters his biggest free agency needs were linebacker and the interior of the offensive line. A month later, he went out and signed four players for those spots.

But even Arians couldn't avoid the urge to misinform at this time last year. After the first two days of the draft, he stated clearly the Cardinals didn't need to add a quarterback to the stable of Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley.

The next day, the team grabbed Logan Thomas in the fourth round. Arians downplayed the need so other teams wouldn't trade up to get Thomas.

"I lie pretty good," Arians quipped.

Keim and Arians didn't sidestep any questions during this week's media session, but others still must decipher how much truth resided in their answers. It's not the most common approach, as many general managers and coaches prefer to be more tight-lipped, lest others find a pattern to their comments. Packers GM Ted Thompson relayed as much to Green Bay-area reporters earlier this week.

 "I'll take questions and hopefully be able to give you some answers," Thompson said. "I won't really, but you can give it a shot."

To Thompson, there is no upside in sharing any intelligence.

"We don't necessarily think it's pertinent or a whole lot of anybody's business," Thompson said. "If I can keep something from Team B, just a little bit, then that helps the Packers, in my opinion."

As the draft approaches, there are daily reports about a player's stock rising or falling precipitously. Scouts, coaches and GMs feed information to reporters using the cloak of anonymity, free to spew truths, lies or both.  Keim said a player's value doesn't change that dramatically.

"I think it's just people making stuff up, because we haven't played a football game so how can it change?" Keim said. "Other than the fact that he jumped 10-2 instead of 9-8 (at a workout). I don't know how that can improve a guy's stock."

As teams try hard to disguise their intentions, it can be a hectic time for the draftees. When the Cardinals chose cornerback Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, they barely spoke to him beforehand, which made him believe they weren't interested.

"I saw the '602' number and I didn't even know who it was," Peterson said. "It was rumored that Houston was going to try to trade up and Detroit was going to try to trade up to get me, so I didn't know what the area code was because I had never spoken with them before. As soon as A.J. Green got picked up, I got the '602' call and (then-coach Ken Whisenhunt) said, 'We're coming to get you.' I said, 'Alright, Coach. I'm ready to play some football.'"

The Cardinals have a plan for the draft, just like the 31 other teams, but between now and Thursday, the rumors will hit a fevered pitch. Peterson said the prospects have to be patient and wait for the smoke to clear.

"As far as going in and trying to figure out what team is going to pick you, it's going to be difficult," Peterson said. "What I can tell the draftees is just don't have your hopes up high of, 'I'm going to play for this team or this team.' Just go in there with no expectations and ready to play for whoever picks you."

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