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You've Got Mail: 12 Picks, Boost For The Future

Topics include no trades up, post-draft needs, and prepping draft jerseys in 2 minutes

Mailbag Robinson and Harrison 0430

Hey, did you hear the Cardinals drafted Marvin Harrison Jr.? They did. Let's talk about it in a mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag with at least a first name and last initial.

From Jason B:

"Congratulations on a stellar draft, the future looks very bright. My question is with the draft being over is there any position you feel we have a major need to address either for depth or as a starter? The teams that go far always have key contributors, but more so they have guys who can come in and play 3, 4, 5 games when starters get hurt. What are your thoughts and do you feel we have everything we need to take the next step?"

Major need? Probably not. I thought at one point they might want a veteran cornerback, but that make sense after drafting three, along with all the guys they had already taken. I'm not going to rule out a vet at some place or another, but I do not see a screaming need at any spot.

From Joria Villegas:

"An ESPN guy was saying that all players gain weight in the NFL from the NFL diets and lifting programs. Does that tend to be true in your experience? I know I asked last year if Paris Johnson Jr. would gain weight. He certainly has the frame for it. And Darius Robinson too, he's 6-foot-5 and a lean 280. He looks like he could be a svelte 300-plus. The reason I ask is one of the few knocks on Marvin is that he is skinny for his height. Some bulk would protect him from the rigors of the NFL, as well as fighting off bigger, stronger NFL CBs."

I would say generally, yes, especially for younger guys, because you are naturally filling out in addition to getting the full-time training and nutrition staffs that the NFL has. But it isn't across the board. Fitz was actually asked to shed a few pounds early in his career. For Robinson, for instance, what do they want him to do on the field and how comfortable is he at that weight. Yes, bulk might help Harrison take hits, but if it slows him down or hurts his breaks, then you have to weigh (no pun intended) the pros and cons.

From Myles McMillan:

"With such a large influx of rookies and free agents, do you expect a larger than usual exodus of prior-year players?"

I would say that when a new regime comes it, the first two years often have a big overhaul. There is no guarantee all the draftees or even all the free agents (especially if they signed a lesser one-year deal) will be on the roster. But yes, Monti and Gannon are in the process of getting their roster to where they need it. There was a pretty big change last year already. Plus, when you win only four games, change is inevitable.

From Patrick Regan:

"Thanks for doing the mailbag Darren, it's always an enjoyable read. Hard-hitting question that requires a lot of investigative journalism on your part: During the NFL Draft, do you have any idea how they get the drafted players name's on their team's jerseys so quickly? From selection to the public announcement is a very short amount of time, yet the names on the jerseys look impeccable during the photo opp with the commissioner. Since most selects are far from predetermined, this seems to rule out jersey's being prepared in advance, so is someone just ironing-on letters quickly behind the scenes?"

Actually, that's exactly what is happening. In the end, there were only 13 players on site for the NFL this year; they make a nameplate for every player in every team's font and colors. Then they have to get it pressed on in two minutes.

From Percy C:

"Hi Darren. Got some questions.

  1. Does the pick of DTD mean anything about Budda's future? I'm thrilled to get DTD since he's a true center fielding ballhawk whereas Budda is more of a small LB.
  2. Will Christian Jones get a real opportunity to be the starting RT, or is Jonah Williams entrenched there?
  3. Is Trey Benson Conner's compliment or replacement? IMO, there is no more important AZ Cardinal than Conner. Offensive MVP. Heart and soul. Yes he's aging, but his run style isn't athleticism dependent. i want to see him as our lead back for the next 2 years at least.
  4. I was happy to see the first draft in years where we didn't take a linebacker. Does that imply our LB corps is locked in? Zaven, White, Wilson, Ojulari, yes?
  5. Unfair but who do you project as our full WR corps this year?
  6. Is Roy Lopez safe? Please say yes, he was so good last year. But seeing our DL room grow, someone needs to go.
  7. Would the TE room be McBride, Reiman, Vokolek and Higgins? Two receivers, two blockers?
  8. Do you think our giant CB room is it? We will carve out the corps from here? I was wondering if we would bring in a vet."

Got some answers. Best I can.

  1. With DTD -- who we will call Rabbit at times because that's what he likes -- is a different player than Budda. But when it comes to anyone and "the future," all I know is that this is a year-to-year league. Could I see a secondary with Budda, JT and Rabbit all together? Yep.
  2. I would guess Christian Jones is likely depth, at least as a rookie.
  3. Again, year to year. This year he is going to pair with Conner. You need multiple running backs. That's just a fact, given how they get beat up (and how much the Cardinals have shown they want to run.)
  4. Technically we did take a linebacker; Xavier Thomas is being listed as an OLB. He will be in that mix.
  5. Way too early. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Michael Wilson will be part of it. I think Greg Dortch will be too. But in the end, there is a lot of evaluating to see what happens with that group, and the rookies coming in.
  6. Same as receiver. The only defensive linemen I'd say are "safe" are the two high-dollar free agents (Nichols and Jones) and Darius Robinson. From there, serious competition -- which is exactly what Gannon prefers.
  7. Makes sense, but guys are going to have to prove themselves -- beyond McBride.
  8. As I noted higher in the mailbag, adding a vet CB would seem overkill after bringing in so many young guys. If they did, it'd be later, I'd think, if they figure out multiple young guys aren't doing it for them.

From Kyle Fehr:

"Hey Darren. Not complaining. I refuse to complain after such a great first night of the draft. I was curious though why Monti didn't trade up from No. 27. The 'best' cornerbacks and guards were within reach. We had lots of ammo to move around. The fact we stood pat at No. 27 was a little disappointing. But I was surprised more than anything."

Monti wasn't saying specifically, but it's very possible he was trying to move up and the price being extracted was too rich for his blood. As I have noted multiple times on social as well, this idea that everyone had the same players ranked in the same order as the "pundits" just isn't a fact. If the price is too high, it's too high.

From Brad Lawson:

"I was looking at and was thinking about our 2025 must-re-signs. There aren't many. I think a lot of vets are going to be let go at that time. But does anyone stand out to you as a must re-sign? To me, James Conner and the old man himself Matt Prater are those guys. Anyone jump out to you?"

I haven't looked at the list, but again, this is a year-to-year thing. Budda Baker is another guy who will be up. When you say must re-sign, that's someone who you want to extend now (or before the season). I think many of the 2025 choices will end up coming after the season is over.

From Michael T:

"Hello Darren. We got through the draft and by all accounts it was a success, but as Monti stated, 'Can you ask me in two years?' Taken together, free agency plus the draft picks added to the current roster, my question to you is in your opinion (injuries aside) will we make the playoffs this year?"

Will the Cardinals make the playoffs? Man, can we get to training camp first? I'd like to see some of these new guys on the field. I do think things can take a jump, especially with Kyler on the field for a whole offseason. And this league is built for jumps. But Year Two can be a big success and still, going from four wins to, say, 10 or 11, wouldn't have to be the result. (Quick aside, one of the reasons Monti brought up asking about Year Two is the giant leap players can take after their rookie season. That's a lot of players we are talking about here.)

From P Walker:

"Darren, do you know why Garrett Williams did not play at the end of the year? Was he injured?"

Yes. He was dealing with a knee injury.

From Randy Doom:

"Why didn't we stay at 43 for Cooper DeJean or Kool-Aid McKinstry?"

From Jayson W:

"Thank you for your weekly show Cardinals Underground with Dani Sureck and Paul Calvisi. I look forward to it weekly and it's the pulse of the Cardinals. Question: Were you surprised of the Round 2 trade with Indianapolis with both DB Cooper DeJean and CB Kool-Aid McKinstry available? And do you think after run on CBs before pick No. 43, the Cards missed out?"

I packaged these together because they are the same question, although I am guessing Randy meant No. 35, because the Cardinals did indeed stay at 43. But, without knowing specifics because the Cardinals aren't going to give that up, I a) wasn't surprised about the trade because Monti in some ways telegraphed a move the night before and b) I don't think they missed out because if they thought they might, they wouldn't have made the trade. There were eight spots they moved; they couldn't have known (except for maybe the Colts themselves) who the picks would be. As Monti says, over eight picks, if they have five they like in that area, odds are strong one will be there. I would guess Melton definitely fit that.

I'd guess DeJean wasn't what they were looking for. That's a guess. Then, let's say -- for argument's sake -- the Cardinals had an 80 grade on Kool-Aid, 78 on Lassiter, 79 on Melton. Basically even. (And maybe Melton held their highest grade, too.) Then it's probably worth gaining an extra pick down the line knowing they are all about the same for you.

From Daryl Haney:

"Hi Darren. My worry with drafting 12 rookies is that they all won't make the team, and therefore are 'wasted' picks. Last year we only took nine. But all nine made the roster. I can't possibly imagine we keep all 12 this year, and that's why I was shocked that we took 12. I thought for sure we'd consolidate and move up for targeted guys. Has Monti commented on this yet?"

Not specifically. He did say they ultimately wanted to stay and make the picks. I do think there were a couple of spots the Cardinals looked into trading up and such deals didn't come together. In the end, do I expect all 12 on the 53? No. But you had eight picks in the top 104, and those are the key people in my opinion. It's about having more shots at a guy succeeding. Yes, you can say a "better" player has a higher chance of working out, but the numbers are the numbers and it's more likely with 12 picks that you'll have more players work out. Besides, whether you have late draft picks or sign UDFAs, you're still going to have 15 to 20 rookies on the roster for training camp. It doesn't really matter if they were drafted or not.

From Nathan Palmer:

"Curious your thoughts on the Tip Reiman pick? I have seen a lot of skepticism but I loved it. I love two TE sets and we ran so many last year but Swaim and Higgins had a really hard time producing. I also hold out the hope we use him at fullback. I think that could add a lot of depth to the run game and blocking schemes we saw Petzing use so well last year. I am clearly getting ahead of myself but any word on how he will be used in the offense?"

You are right, you are getting ahead of yourself. You're also getting ahead of the coaches, who haven't even been able to see Reiman (or any rookie) on the field and judge where he would best fit. I won't lie -- I was surprised at a tight end that high. But when you start to look at the landscape of the room, and how they want to deploy tight ends and how -- aside from the raw Travis Vokolek -- they need a blocker ro go with Trey McBride, it makes sense. Especially since Reiman was considered so good at that part of the game (and when you see his athleticism scores, it does give you hope he could grow into more.)

From Chris Pritchett:

"Loving the mailbag, Darren. Thanks so much for your hard work on it. Coming from England, I never fail to be blown away with the festivities around the draft. Premiership soccer has nothing like it! I've been trying to find which cornerback you wrote about who famously pressed/ bumped coach Gannon in his interview. Can you remind me who it was and who drafted him in the end? Also, so many of these young men go on and on about 'just doing whatever I can to help the team win.' I hear it so often it sounds cliche. Is this considered a 'stock phrase' in the US at draft time? Given your time around the league and players, can you spot a genuine team player vs. someone who is clearly out for themselves?"

The cornerback to which you refer is Terrion Arnold, and he ultimately was selected by the Lions at 24 overall. As for "doing what I can to help the team win," it sounds like a cliche because it is a cliche. That doesn't mean everyone who uses it doesn't mean it, but sometimes they say it just to say it. As far as "spotting" a team player, you need to be around a player for a while. It's not always obvious, and the guys in the locker room would be able to tell more than I. But eventually, yes, that stuff tends to reveal itself.

From Robert Malicki:

"Hi, Darren. My question/comment has to do with the number of draftees and how Monti must have visualized his first draft last year and this year's edition. I give the GM a very high grade of hope. He pin-balled his approach last year acquiring extra picks and promising rookies who he knew would be starting. I think Gannon played more rookies in more snaps that any other team. This year Monti changed hats and used more picks, with most of them coming early in each round, to focus on building up the roster with talent and for depth. For me, that's a plan for success because he both knew Kyler would only play the back-half of the schedule and the team's win-loss record would be dismal."

I know that no one went into the season last year expecting or hoping to lose. But the idea was to give yourself the best chance to improve the team going forward, and that hopefully will happen after this large draft class.

From Rob S:

"I'm curious to hear your opinion on draft grades. They always seem funny to me, with a bad grade given because the writer felt another player at the position was better value, or the team had other needs they 'should have addressed' with that pick. Tip Reiman is a good example for the Cardinals, with one writer I read being baffled by the pick because the Cards have McBride and therefore should have done something else with the pick. It all seems incredibly subjective, even more so than mock draft season. Do these draft grades on the day after a pick have any credence or merit whatsoever?"

I see draft grades exactly like mock drafts, to be honest, since they are both based on the exact same thing -- random analysis that doesn't have anything to do with how teams graded those players. It's up to the person if they want to give them credence; there are plenty of people who love what the Cardinals did, and yes, people you can find that are scratching their head. It's for entertainment and clicks, and that's fine. I wouldn't get emotional either way about it, but that's me.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren. The draft is finally over. Are you happy that it's over? I know I am. If you had to guess, how many picks make the 53-man roster? Can you ask Paul Calvisi not to jinx any new players with a nickname because in the past he doesn't have the best track record on the players he decides to give code names? Lol. Maybe you should take a turn and tell us who you think will be the training camp/off season player to watch. How are you at giving people nicknames?"

I'm gonna leave the nicknames to Paul. Too early to know how many make the roster; all I will say is that is unlikely they all do. The math doesn't usually work that way. As for a player to watch, not sure about that either -- although I am fascinated what they might be able to get from fifth-round OLB Xavier Thomas. We'll see. They don't even arrive until next week.

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