Skip to main content

Arizona Cardinals Home: The official source of the latest Cardinals headlines, news, videos, photos, tickets, rosters and game day information

You've Got Mail: Here At The Scouting Combine

Topics include mock picks, best prove-it players, and if there can be 'too many' draft picks

Combine mailbag 022724

We're here in Indianapolis, where the draft speculation begins in earnest. How about a mailbag? Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag.

From Javier Santana:

"I am beyond flabbergasted no mocks had the Cardinals taking Joe Alt at No. 4. If Marvin Harrison is gone, that means a QB remains, and we may be in prime tradeback position. So I would expect Monti to trade back. However, if we stay put, I honestly feel it would be a travesty to take Nabers or Odunze. Joe Alt is every bit the generational OT that Marvin is as a WR. And OT is a need."

Mocks are what they are. The people doing them are guessing, because they don't have all the information, and as I have mentioned before -- I doubt the Cardinals know what they will do right now, and it can always change draft night when all the variables are factored in. All that said, Alt could be possible. You aren't wrong. But I have seen draft analysts that say those receivers you mentioned are better prospects at their spot than even the top tackles. It'll be a fascinating Thursday in late April.

From Fred Williams:

"Hi Darren, I was reading a bunch of your positional need articles and was interested in the sections you listed past Cardinal FA signees. It was quite the walk down memory lane. Not only seeing guys I'd forgotten about, but also being stunned that guys like Chandler Cantanzaro was 10 years ago. A name that caught my eye was tackle Eric Winston. Who to my memory, and a quick PFF confirmation, was pretty darn good. Why did we not re-sign Eric Winston? He only went on to sign a fairly small one-year deal with Seattle, we certainly could have matched it. And who, in your opinion, was the greatest one-year FA wonder in Cards history? Got him on a prove it deal, he proved the heck out of it, and then got big money elsewhere?"

With Winston, it was simple -- the Cardinals had Bobby Massie going into his third season and they felt he was ready to take a starting job on the right side. Winston was at the end of his career. As for the one-year prove-its, the two that come to mind are Karlos Dansby in 2013 in his second stint in Arizona and Antonio Cromartie in 2014. Both had gigantic years, and got huge deals with the Browns and Jets, respectively. 

From John Buskirk:

"Hey Darren, long-time reader, first-time asker. Do you think there's such a thing as too many draft picks? If so how many is too many? Would your answer change if there were no salary cap?"

Good questions. Yes, I do think there is an element of a law of diminishing returns for draft picks. You do want as many bites at the apple as you can get when it comes to draft picks/rookies, but in reality, how many rookies do you really want on a roster in any given year? That's a tough way to win. How many is too many ... that I don't know. If you have 15 picks but 10 are in the first three rounds, that's way different than say, 15 picks with 10 in rounds 5-7. If there were no cap, then you could in theory pay a ton of veterans, and one of the benefits of rookie contracts is that they help you on the cap. Then again, players age, and you need to replenish the roster with youth, cap or not. 

From Ted Beck:

"First, thanks for all your work and for the mailbag. Always look forward to reading it. It seems like every time a team hires a new coach, the coach will often say something like, 'We have to change the culture here.' I can't image that the culture at New England has changed much the past few years under Belichick, but they just weren't very good last year. And I'm not sure that anyone would say the culture is great in Philadelphia right now, even with the success they have had the past two years. So my questions is, does culture beget winning, or does winning beget culture?

Another excellent question. It's funny. I've always seen culture a little like chemistry. Chemistry tends to be better when you win, and get worse when you lose. I'm not sure it is the chemistry in the first place that drives wins. So to the subject of culture. To me, it's less about culture than accountability. Whenever a team talks about culture, it seems to me it's about making sure everyone involved is being held accountable. Without that? CHAOS. Seriously, though, the most important thing is players. You mentioned the Patriots. You are right. Belichick didn't change. But the players weren't good enough. 

From Mike Edge:

"Since BJ Ojulari has No. 18, and it's a special number to him due to LSU, it's highly unlikely he deals it away. Do you think it's possible No. 88 can come out of retirement so Marvin Harrison can rock the same number as his Dad?"

I think we are getting way ahead of things here. But I will say this: 88 isn't going to be available. J.V. Cain literally gave his life playing football for this team. It's going to stay retired. 

From John Turilli:

"Did you think Monti was right with his team-building remarks on his 98.7 newsmakers appearance? The draft is key as we witnessed last season with the Texans. Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones were MVPs of the Super Bowl. Two of our best players (Kyler and Budda) were draft picks. Free agency has to be a home run as it eats up salary cap space. I'm not too sure of many Super Bowl-winning teams that have won with key free agent acquisitions?"

Let's start with the reality that teams that win the Super Bowl are a lot closer and signing a key free agent or two might put them over the top, whereas the Cardinals are still building things out. It only makes sense on many levels -- which Ossenfort explained -- to get the bulk of that roster from the draft. Again, my biggest pause with free agency is that the player's current team is letting them walk away. Why? That's the question every potential landing spot team must ask.

From Sander Propitius:

"I've heard you talk about the upcoming draft on Cardinals Underground about some teams that may be picking a QB this year, because the QBs in this draft class look better than the ones in next year's draft class. My question is, how many years in the future do teams scout? Is it only this and next year's draft classes or do they scout players that may be potentially in draft classes after that?"

Generally, they are only scouting the players that are expected to come out for this coming draft. When they are watching video they may notice another player who is a year or two away from the draft and take note, but they aren't doing any deep dives. There are too many draft prospects yearly to do work on to delve into other years. That said, quarterback is a different animal because it is usually easier to spot the top guys -- and how many there might be.

From Art Pozza:

"There has been some talk about teams desperate to trade up to 4 with the Cardinals for a QB. Why would they not just trade up with the Chargers at 5? They don't need a QB either. Also, if the Cardinals were to draft Penn State edge Chop Robinson, whose roster spot would he be competing for?"

Well, I suppose the QB-needy team could indeed trade up with the Chargers. But if they want QB X, the fear would be another team who wants QB X would trade in front of them with the Cardinals and then they are outta luck. That's why you rarely make the trade until the pick/player you want is on the clock. As for Chop Robinson, that's not how this works. A high pick is going to be on the roster. The other guys would all be battling for the roster spots left. Almost every single player is fighting every single year to get a roster spot. The NFL is always about looking to replace current players with someone better. Harsh, but truth. 

From Dan Graham:

"Hey, Darren. In your opinion, is Hollywood Brown a good candidate for the franchise tag?"

He is not. The tag would cost $21.8 million for Brown. No one is going to pay that for him currently.

From David B:

"Hi Darren. I read that D.J. Humphries has a $23 million cap hit this year. If the Cardinals decide to cut him before free agency, how much of a cap hit would we take for him?"

If Humphries were to be released they would save about $9 million on the cap this season, or $16M this season if he were designated a June 1 release.

From John Ingram:

"Hi Darren. I recently saw you on YouTube in a Cardinals Underground podcast and really enjoyed the chemistry you have with Paul and Dani. Keep up the good work. My question is regarding Steve Keim. Sometimes I have seen it written that he was fired along with Kliff Kingsbury, and at other times it is said that he left the team for health reasons. If the latter is true, then would the team still be on the hook for the five-year extension he gave himself?"

Let's be clear that a GM isn't giving himself a contract. Owner Michael Bidwill is the one deciding those things for the Cardinals, just like an owner would do such things on any other team. And I have no idea how the financial situation was resolved.

From Benjamin Budhu:

"Last we heard from Coach Gannon on Humphries was that his ACL surgery was delayed because of an MCL sprain. Any word if D.J. has had his surgery to repair his ACL?"

I have not heard officially but I would be surprised if he had not had that surgery yet. I will effort an answer.

From Tom Cowley:

"Hi Darren. How do you rate the probability of the return of the players whom we selected as free agents this time last year, and who very quickly went onto the IR after we had high hopes for them?"

I assume you refer to DL Carlos Watkins and L.J. Collier. It was an incredibly small sample size for both, but I could see both being asked to return. They need bodies on the defensive line for depth. But it would have to be small prove-it deals again.

From Greg Painter:

"WHY PICK HARRISON AT 4? This team has so many needs and I wouldn't consider that a massive one. Why not trade back to accumulate multiple future draft picks as well as extra second- and third-round picks this year? To eventually picking up multiple picks at DL, CB, DE, & OG to protect our franchise QB? Is this team one WR away from contending for a Super Bowl? I don't think so. A lot of good, could be great WRs later in the draft. C'mon Monti, do the right thing for the future of the franchise or we can swing for a home run and possibly be back in a worse situation in a couple with no multiple draft picks or QB."

Every draft pick has a chance to bust. I'm not sure that's a good reason to pass on one guy for another. You make many salient points, and that very well could be what happens. I won't be surprised if Ossenfort chooses to trade down. He did it last year. I will say this however: I think to maximize your investment in your QB, you do need a playmaker at wide receiver. It may or may not be in the first round, it may or may not be Harrison.

From T in 801 Goodman:

"What do you think about Tee Higgins as a potential free agent pick up if the Bengals end up not keeping him?"

Higgins has been franchise-tagged so this is a moot point, but I will say given the deep talent pool at receiver this season, I have always preferred to find a good rookie at the position rather than spend a lot on a free agent wideout.

From Clark Dale:

"As a first-year GM (and first-time GM), I can understand that maybe in 2023 Monti didn't have all his own people in place yet. That being scouts, executives, the chain of command, etc. Is Quentin Harris leaving a sign that Monti has been backfilling his staff throughout the season, and now in 2024, we will see Monti's complete vision for scouting and free agency?"

I think there is something to that. It's naive to think a new GM isn't going to make a significant change as he arrives. There is a certain fluidity to how Monti has done things, to get the job accomplished at the highest level possible while making some of those changes. 

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren, thank you for the mailbag. Just got done watching Cardinals Underground. Love that it's on YouTube. As a fan I did notice big difference in the team this year over past years. I know we didn't win a lot of games but the team were in games and played hard. We need to focus on O-line and D-line. Do you think my idea would be terrible and the Arizona Cardinals would suck next year if what I said happens?"

I mean, the Cardinals still have a lot of things to improve upon. Ossenfort has acknowledged such. They need to help the defensive line. They need an offensive lineman or two. But they also could use a big wide receiver. They have enough draft picks to address all those things. Would I be surprised if Ossenfort used his best draft capital on the lines? I would not. I don't think the Cardinals will "suck" next season, regardless. They will improve their win total. The question is by how much. 

From Michael Travers:

"Darren, thank you for this forum to ask a question. It's the time of year when we get our first look of our future Cardinals. When you're at the combine what is your focus as to which player group you'll be watching the most?"

So you know how the coach and GM always say the most important part of the Scouting combine is the player interviews and the medical -- not the on-field work? I have the same kind of approach. The on-field stuff doesn't mean anything to me. I'm here for (my own) player interviews, as well as the interview sessions with Gannon and Ossenfort, interactions with the many, many people from around the league that I've known over the years. But I am curious to see what people are saying about the defensive linemen and the cornerbacks.

Combine No. 22, btw.

Related Content