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What Cardinals Do In Draft Remains Hard To Forecast

Lot of options, lot of unknown before team gets to pick at No. 16

GM Steve Keim (left) and coach Kliff Kingsbury have a discussion during draft meetings in 2019.
GM Steve Keim (left) and coach Kliff Kingsbury have a discussion during draft meetings in 2019.

The Kliff House is no longer part of the Cardinals' draft weekend.

This year, after the residence of the Cardinals' head coach went viral a year ago in a draft gone virtual, the Cardinals (and Kliff Kingsbury) will be back at the Dignity Health Training Center, in the same third-floor draft room where the choices were always made pre-pandemic.

The draft, however, will be far from "normal."

There are still protocols in place for those who are in the draft room. As for the decisions that will be made within – including the first-round pick, which sits at 16th overall – those too will be through a different prism than most years. There was no Scouting combine, which had a trickle-down effect of far fewer in-person interviews (but lots of Zoom calls) and most importantly, far fewer medical checks by team doctors that can many times soothe concerns before committing to million-dollar contracts.

"There's no question that the obstacles have put us in a position where there's a lot of forecasting (about prospects)," Cardinals GM Steve Keim said.

That only seems fair to an extent, because at 16, there is a lot of forecasting over who the Cards might select with their first pick. It's easy to need a cornerback like Jaycee Horn or Caleb Farley or Greg Newsome, or dream about a wide receiver like DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, or go basic football building block with an offensive lineman like Alijah Vera-Tucker. Maybe a latecomer, like linebacker Zaven Collins.

And perhaps this doesn't come at No. 16, when the Cardinals trade down for additional draft capital. (A trade up just seems so unlikely given the lack of third- and fourth-round picks.)

"It's no different than a lottery ticket," Keim said. "The more you have the better you have a chance to hit. We know it's an inexact business and to be able to accumulate more picks would be a real coup for us."

The Cardinals have six picks total as of now: one each in the first, second, fifth and sixth rounds, along with two in the seventh.

Here's one twist with this year's draft, however – with the NCAA allowing players an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, far fewer players entered this year's draft (Keim said the Cardinals had 1,800 individual reports on players who were supposed to be draft eligible and instead are staying in school.)

The Cards, in fact, stand to be at 85 players already (of a 90-man roster) once six draft picks are added, meaning far fewer undrafted rookies than usual. That's a direct result of the lack of talent that will be available post-draft.

It means the talent out there in the late rounds will not be as good as most seasons.

"You'll see teams, I think, be aggressive in rounds two and three (trading up) and they'll be parting with these Day Three picks like nothing," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.

The first round, of course, will be dictated in large part by the quarterbacks, as it usually is. Kingsbury said in a perfect world, the first five picks would all be QBs, pushing better players down toward the Cards' pick.

Even if the Cardinals don't see their top choices there when they pick – and can't find a partner with which to trade down – they will have someone there who can help.

"You get carried away in the first round trying to hit home runs and swing for the fences," Jeremiah said. "There's nothing wrong with a double."

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray holds up a jersey on stage after being selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 1st pick of the first round during the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Perry Knotts via AP)

2021 NFL Draft Notes

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