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You've Got Mail: Draft Is In The Books

Topics include Isaiah Simmons and needing help at OL and CB

AZC_CardinalsMailbag

The draft is over, and it seemed like it went pretty well, no? The Cardinals have moved on to their offseason work -- what there is of it -- with the knowledge their roster is in a much better place than it was, now that pieces have been added and injured players have recovered. The Cardinals actually have to play and win games to proclaim themselves officially improved, but at this point, it's a real possibility. We'll keep the mailbags going, so if you want to send a question, you can do that here.

From Andrew Miller via azcardinals.com:

"Hello Darren, I think most of us are excited to see how Isaiah Simmons works out. Two-part question: 1) Simmons seems to share some similarities to Adrian Wilson in physical prowess and performance versatility -- how much do we know about AW's recommendation for this selection? 2) Simmons is very impressive in his sparkling demeanor and brings back memories of No. 11 when he was drafted. Is there any indication from the front office that subject to NFL success he might be 'groomed' to be one of the faces of the franchise? Is this even an intangible that would be considered a little bit for a draft selection?"

OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's probably not fair to be making too many comparisons for Simmons to either Fitz or A-Dub. Anytime you have a potentially good player, you wonder about the "face of the franchise" thing but we are so early in this thing. And if Kyler Murray turns out to be the long-term real deal, I'm thinking that position is spoken for once Fitz hangs it up.

As for similarities to Wilson, I don't know about that. Adrian was a hitter first. One of the knocks on Simmons is his physicality, so we will have to see how that translates. If Simmons becomes the kind of player Wilson was, the Cardinals will be thrilled. As for Wilson's recommendation, given that Steve Keim said Simmons was in the top five on their board, I am guessing it was pretty much a consensus that Simmons was a guy they should grab if he were there.

From Steve Burgess via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, how did the draft picks get the team hats. Thanks."

The NFL set every pick who was "invited" to be on camera -- it was something like 55 or 60 guys -- a set of all 32 team hats. Then, when they were picked, they just had to grab the right one. I'm not sure what Simmons will do, for instance, with his Rams, Seahawks and 49ers hats.

From Robert Malicki via azcardinals.com:

"This very long-time Cardinal fan is ecstatic playmaker Isaiah Simmons dropped to us to eliminate the temptation of trading down. Time will tell, but does he appear to you as a combination of Cardinal greats, Adrian Wilson and Larry Wilson? I say this because he has shown the toughness of both these players in rushing the passer and coverage skills for the middle of the field. Do you think Vance Joseph can develop him into our version of Lawrence Taylor, in the sense of effectively using his versatility, speed, instincts?"

Well, Taylor was a pass rusher, and while I could see scenarios where Simmons will blitz, he is a totally different player. And I hesitate to link him to the two greatest safeties in franchise history at this point. I do think Simmons is a player who is really unlike anyone the Cardinals have ever had.

From Kmore Jmoe via azcardinals.com

"Could you please talk a little about the virtual offseason program. I understand the team will trust players to stay in shape on their own time. But is the biggest takeaway that position coaches get to give their rooms the 2020 playbook to study? I'd assume that's the big thing by far."

Yes, they will get the playbook and "classroom" time to talk about it. It helps a lot to get on the field to actually go through the stuff in real time, but having virtual meetings about it is better than nothing.

No. To begin with, I think Simmons starts out as a linebacker. Chancellor was known as a big hitter, and I'm not sure that will be Simmons' game. Simmons -- in theory -- will be better in coverage. Oh, and Chancellor is a guy who will probably get some Hall of Fame conversation. Simmons has been a Cardinal for less than a week. I don't know if it's fair to say they'll have similar impact. Like I said above with Adrian Wilson, I think Simmons is bringing to the table a different kind of player that I'm not sure has a previous comp.

From Bill Leyland via azcardinals.com:

"I am absolutely thrilled that we got Isaiah Simmons, but what number will he wear for us? I doubt Larry is giving up No. 11."

Simmons has already picked out his number, and he will wear No. 48. Also, he never could've worn 11. That's reserved for kickers, punters, quarterbacks and wide receivers. While Simmons is tremendously versatile, he wouldn't have qualified.

It's your call whether you choose to be concerned about something or not. But they have addressed interior OL -- in the 2018 draft, when they took Mason Cole, in the 2019 draft when they took Lamont Gaillard, and even potentially on waivers last season because the coaches believe Justin Murray, last year's right tackle, can kick inside to guard. They also still have Max Garcia, who was coming back from a 2018 knee injury much of last year but who remains as a potential reserve candidate.

From Joe Cards Fan via azcardinals.com:

"Hello Darren. I'm excited about Simmons but also a little nervous. Hes essentially a souped-up version of both Bucannon and Reddick. Don't get me wrong, he's far more talented in every way. But a big problem with both Buc and Reddick was utilization. Many analysts have mentioned the fact Simmons success may be wholly dependent on his usage. I think I envision him as a box safety, if we are applying titles. Sort of a Tony Jefferson-type. I'm just really scared they will make Simmons a ILB. Which is NOT his position. The Cards were lauded for building their offense around Kyler from the ground up. Do you think we do the same with the defense? We'll still be a 3-4 base package of course, but is Simmons now the center of the universe?"

Obviously, I don't know how this is going to play out. It would've been nice to watch some offseason on-field work to get a glimpse. I hope you can handle this OK, but Steve Keim already said Simmons likely starts out as an inside linebacker -- the place Reddick was at going into last season. Will he move around? Yes. How much? Don't know. I know this -- you don't draft this guy in the top 10 without having a billion pre-draft discussions about what you would do with him if you got him. I have no doubt Vance Joseph already has a well thought-out plan. I agree with one thing -- making him the wild card/center of the universe makes a lot of sense.

From Lori Cedar via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. This probably isn't a fair question consider you aren't his biographer or anything, but Steve Keim said something interesting in his post-draft press conference. He was talking about his pride of Arizona and being a resident and he mentioned hes been living out here now for '9-10 years.' I then jumped over to his Wikipedia. Hes been with the Cards since 1999 as a scout. And he became Director of College scouting in 2006. For some reason I assumed Keim has lived in Arizona the majority of his Cardinals career, but did he in fact live elsewhere for much of his pre-GM tenure? Now I'm thrown for a loop. I thought the top front office guys came to work here everyday. Is our salary guy in Kansas and college scouting director in Delaware?"

Lori, why would you go to Wikipedia when you could just go to azcardinals.com? But that aside, prior to Keim's entering the front office -- in his days as a scout -- he was not living in Arizona. Many scouts live out of state, to make it easier to cover the ground to which they are assigned. The top guys in the front office, including director of football administration Matt Harriss (the "salary guy") and director of college scouting Chris Culmer live locally and work in Tempe -- although Culmer, who was recently promoted, had been living in Seattle prior to his promotion.

From D.D. Rothschild via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, what happened to our salary cap guy? I forget his name, but you know who I'm talking about. He was our cap guru for several years, and I think you even did a story about him. He's not here anymore. Where did he go?"

Mike Disner was hired by the Lions to be a vice president a couple years ago. Matt Harriss was hired to replace him when he left.

From Van Pablo via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. Somebody else pointed this out on Twitter, but I thought I would pass it along. Isaiah Simmons number is 48. The relevance of this choice is big. Because 40-to-49 is the only number range that can apply to LBs or DBs. So it is in no way an accident he took the LB/DB number. Very cool huh."

It is a good point, although I'm guessing he could have taken a number in the 50s and no one would've batted an eye, just like Deone Bucannon wore 36 and 20 in his career as a linebacker. Simmons did not mention any dual-position thoughts when he talked about the number. He instead mentioned 1912! (And yes, I knew that off the top of my head. I learned my stuff in first grade.)

From Alex Tramdon via azcardinals.com

"Hi Darren. Like most Valley fans I love Eno Benjamin. Very excited to draft him. With that said, I'm somewhat worried his arrival will take touches from Chase Edmonds. I really think Drake/Chase need a 60/40 split. Chase was amazing in his one start. No other way to say it. And I'm becoming worried he's getting buried a little bit. He's becoming an afterthought. If we hadn't resigned Drake, I was perfectly happy with Chase as our No. 1 RB. so I just wanted to get your thoughts on the situation."

So much to hit on here, not the least of which that, yes, there are many Sun Devils here in the Valley who love Eno. But there are a significant amount of UArizona graduates (yep, I used it) that live here in the Valley that do not love Eno. That's fair. Anyway, back to the Cardinals. Eno is a seventh-round pick so let's hold off on him walking in day one and taking a bunch of reps right away -- especially if there is not an offseason.

Edmonds did not start that amazing game, if you remember. David Johnson played the first few plays with a carry before it was determined his ankle wasn't going to hold up. Chase's one start was against the Saints, and that didn't go nearly as well. As for playing time, it's not going to be 60/40. There wasn't a game last year where Kliff Kingsbury didn't lean heavily on one back, whether the starter was Johnson, Edmonds or Drake. I don't see him suddenly changing this year (but we'll see.) I fully expect the depth chart to be Drake/Chase/Eno. I think Benjamin could be a great value pick in the seventh, but we still need to see him on the NFL level.

From Geraldt Lefluer via azcardinals.com:

"We seem to still be a thin at CB. Do you think we go after any veteran CBs in free agency with our remaining money? Is Kevin Peterson still here? I thought he did well. Also, we are eighth on the waiver wire this year right?"

I would doubt they'd chase a veteran corner. They have their top three cornerbacks -- Patrick Peterson, Robert Alford, Byron Murphy -- and they still have Chris Jones. There is still a chance they could bring back Kevin Peterson, possibly, if they don't like the undrafted rookies they signed. They are eighth on the waiver wire until we get a month into the season, whenever that might be.

From Ari Sanchez via azcardinals.com:

"Thank for the mailbag, Darren. Steve mentioned 'Now (DC) Vance (Joseph) doesn't have an excuse' sort of tongue-in-cheek. However, do you think this draft turns up the heat on Vance? Looking at this roster on paper, there's really no reason why we shouldn't have a fairly dominant defense. Is this a blessing and curse for Vance?"

One, yes, it was tongue-in-cheek. Are expectations higher for the defense? Yes. But I think the whole team has higher expectations. A dominant defense, we'll see. There are a lot of pieces that have to prove themselves. When I saw how the defense was personnel-wise last year, especially after injuries/releases/suspensions, I don't know how everyone saw the blame entirely on Joseph. They need to be better. But the idea that they should automatically change coordinators unless the are, say, a top 5 defense? I don't understand that thinking.

From Charlie Buckets via azcardinals.com:

"Steve Keim mentioned on his radio interview last week that Mason Cole was slated to be the starting center. Do you think that comes with the stipulation that if he doesn't perform up to par that we go bring A.Q. Shipley back? And if tha'ts the case, do you think Shipley is aware? Because Shipley needs to be ready for that phone call. Otherwise we are sink or swim with just Mason, and that's a risky expedition."

Could I see a scenario where Shipley is brought back? Well, the Cardinals have done it before. But they drafted Cole to be the long-term center, and they had an entire season to see what he can do when he started all in 2018. Is Shipley aware? If I am A.Q. I'm not exactly giddy that I am a backup plan who wouldn't be signed unless it's an emergency situation, just like Lyle Sendlein wasn't. That doesn't mean Shipley wouldn't return, but if he gets a chance to sign elsewhere before then, he's not going to turn it down just because the Cards might call.

From Boston Mike via azcardinals.com:

"Heya Urbz, I asked you a few weeks back about how the virtual draft would impact the picks. My thought process was that teams would have to be more reliant on film. which to me is a good thing. I don't have the time and you don't have the character space here for me to rant about my feelings on the validity of the combine. I also think interviews are overrated. Anyone can be on their best behavior for 20 minutes. Game tape is golden. It tells you everything. In looking at our draft class, it appears we just took a lot of really good players that had really good tape. Evan Weaver in particular strikes me as a guy we usually wouldn't draft, but his tape was so good that it got him drafted. I view all of this as a positive. If this draft class turns out good, do you expect the change in philosophy in terms of building the board?"

Steve Keim has already said the Cardinals might take parts of the virtual process and keep it long-term. But for instance, you're mistaken if you think there weren't interviews -- in fact, there might have been more interviews, because you could use Zoom and FaceTime and it was easier to deal with the logistics. I disagree with the idea of Weaver being drafted as an outcome of the coronavirus world -- I think that was a shift by Keim over the last couple of years, when the Cardinals realized athletic potential didn't outweigh actual production. I will agree that game tape should be golden.

From Garth Short:

"In his press conference, Steve Keim said that there were eight to 10 blue-chip players, in his opinion, in this year's draft. Did he say or do you know how many QBs were included in that number? Thanks."

He did not say and even if he were asked, I don't know if he would've said. I would guess, Burrow and Tua were probably in that group. IMO.

Between Simmons, the fall of Josh Jones and Eno, I think you may very well be correct.

From Don Patterson via azcardinals.com:

"Excluding Simmons, Jones and Eno, which of the remaining three picks do you see as having the best odds of making an impact?"

It'll be one of the two defensive linemen, and for me, it'd be Leki Fotu, because they don't really have that guy already and for what he'd need to do, there isn't a lot that goes into it. Just take up space and plug the middle.

From Hartford Englewood via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, thanks for (as always) answering our questions. Any indication of current Cardinals on the trade block (specifically, there were rumors about Christian Kirk being traded)? Also, I know we finalized the big Hopkins/Johnson trade, but do you see the Cardinals trading for anyone else? Thanks!"

Kirk isn't getting traded, and he was never getting traded. That's the scary part of the internet, when one random person in another city suggests another team needs a player *like* Kirk and suddenly it becomes Kirk might be traded. I am not ruling out any trades, but even the other name that's been popular to bring up -- Haason Reddick -- is also a guy who might be needed as a backup pass rusher.

I mean, Alford is under contract two more years, you just drafted Byron Murphy, and if they end up extending Patrick Peterson -- or think about franchising him next year -- how long-term are you thinking?

From Dave Gray via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren! I have to preempt this question with a disclaimer, so you know its controversial. I like Steve Keim. I think he's the best GM we've ever had. Both the Chandler Jones and Hopkins trades were masterful. That said, if Keim strikes out on our first pick this year, do you think that's his last chance? His draft record is bad, there's no way around it. His best pick was Kyler, and the required the #1 overall pick. I think being in a Super Bowl window (with Kyler's rookie contract) magnifies every draft pick now."

You sent this in prior to the Simmons pick, but is the Simmons pick important? Sure. I think any GM's tenure is predicated on his overall success. It was bad in 2018. It was improving in 2019. If this team wins a bunch with Kyler over the next few years and Simmons doesn't pan out, is that reason for change? I mean, what's the goal here? And vice versa, if Simmons is a star, that doesn't help if the Cards still can win enough.

From Paul Haukap via azcardinals.com:

"I was just watching Fox 10 sports and noticed a flat black painted Cardinals helmet in the background. Have never seen that before. Why can't the team wear that paint scheme when they wear their black jerseys? I think that would look great."

The NFL rules state teams can only use one helmet. There has been discussion about relaxing that rule, but as of now, that's the rule.

How the rookies will be prepared for no contact is the big question for every team this offseason. Then again, the rookies had zero offseason or even contact with coaches in 2011 during the lockout, and as rookies, guys like Cam Newton, A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson were just fine, so talent matters. As for Kliff's house, clearly, he won the internet draft weekend. If he went VRBO, it's a big enough place he could probably rent out a couple of rooms and still have plenty of space for himself.

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