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You've Got Mail: It's Draft Week 2020

Topics include: The draft process, dealing with COVID-19, and a one-trick pony


We have reached draft week. Thursday, it'll start -- virtually -- with the Cardinals holding the eighth overall pick. If you have yet to read it, please check out Kyle Odegard's excellent, months-in-the-making oral history of Kyler Murray's selection as the No. 1 overall pick in 2019. And as always, you can send in a question for the mailbag here.

From Gerald C via

"Hey Darren, I have been listen to the Cards chatter a bit (no pun intended) and lots of people and radio people are talking about the difficulty of teams evaluating players without visits. Am I wrong to think that they should know who their picks are by now? Visits are nice but it's like the college season ended four months ago. Combine was like eight weeks ago. What is there to still discuss?"

When they talk about evaluating players at this point in the process, it's not the on-field stuff. It's about their personality, their medical, how they will fit on your team. It's the stuff you cannot tell by looking at the game video. Yes, there have been brief interviews for the top guys, but you are drafting in a much deeper pool that the top 64 players.

From Halee Kleo via

"Darren! I have a GRIPE. And its bothered me for a while but Steve Keim put me over the moon with his pre-draft presser. Once again, he touted his love of versatility. I disdain the concept. Do you know what I hear what somebody says 'This guy is versatile?' I hear Jack-of-All-Trades-Master-of-None. When it comes to backup players, yes be versatile because that helps you make the roster. But starters should be specialists. What do I care if my right tackle can also play right guard? I don't. I want my right tackle to be the best right tackle on earth, I don't care if that means hes the worst guard on earth. I also went to ASU buddy, I know stuff. The key to business success is being great at one thing, not being OK at many. 'Splain it Darren, 'splain it. I don't understand."

You are much too tortured for such a subject. I understand where you are coming from. I think your logic is not necessarily universal -- yes, some are master-of-none, others can play different spots and still be great at their initial one. Tyrann Mathieu did it. Heck, Larry Fitzgerald did it. If, in this case, you are talking about particular offensive linemen, I'd rather have a guy who could do a couple of things because injuries happen, even to other players. Nevertheless, I don't see versatility as the main reason you draft a guy. But it can be an added bonus.

Have to? No. I do not. There are a lot of tackles being discussed at the top end of the draft. Does that mean it's a good tackle class? That's TBD. In 2013, there were a ton of tackles/offensive linemen considered in the top 10 or so. Lane Johnson has been solid. Maybe you can say Eric Fisher. But none are the studs you'd expect in a top 10 lineman. So this year, it might be more about who is in the class. That doesn't mean all four tackles many discuss won't all make the Hall of Fame. But I have not seen that kind of analysis, that there is a Walter Jones in this group.

From Eric Binson via

"Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey just became the highest-paid RB in NFL history. Do teams not learn? Great player, no question. If anything should be taken from the parable of Bell, Johnson, and Gurley its that you just don't pay RBs. You can't. In terms of Cardinals history, has it ever worked out? No. Smith, no. Edge, no. First-round round Beanie, no. David. As happy as we are to have Drake back this year, one would hope we are all in agreement that this relationship is tag or walk. A year-to-year proposition. We ain't marrying no RBs long-term. Aimirite?"

Was wondering if this was going to be a question or just a rant. I am never going to say never. "Marrying" a running back long term doesn't have to be bad -- you just have to be fiscally responsible if you do it. With Drake, I'd be surprised if he got a long-term deal done at this point, but we'll see. Big picture, I am neither surprised McCaffrey got such a deal nor thinking it's going to lead to more, given recent history with the backs you mentioned.

From Andrew Miller via

"Darren, thank you for your weekly mailbag and your balanced tone during these unprecedented times. I am not asking you to be prescient, but given the increasing discussion by public health officials about longer-term social distancing for many activities (possibly until a vaccine is available) and the fact that football is a sport with blood, sweat and spittle, what discussions are being held by the league and owners about an approach to safety at the player/team level? As an adjunct to this question, what discussions are being conducted about games with fans (or no fans) during the upcoming season?"

The league isn't talking publicly about any of those thoughts plans, but it would be naive to think it isn't having those discussions. I am guessing they are going to take it week by week -- like all of us should -- before making any sweeping announcements. Obviously, there are significant concerns on all those levels.

The Cardinals are on record multiple times they'd like for Peterson to remain a Cardinal for life. That is, of course, assuming they can figure out a contract as you mention. I think the two sides will talk but I am interested to see where it goes. The franchise tag is also an option at some point. This is a big year for Patrick after his strong finish and poor start last year following his suspension. I guess this is a long way of me saying I can see many different outcomes and it's too hard to know what's coming at this point.

From Lyle A via

"A big deal is being made about this at-home draft and how team management can't get together, nor can teams meet players in person for interviews and workouts. At this point, two weeks out from the draft, one would hope at least the top 50 players would be finalized on the board, right? I absolutely think this year's process would hurt back-end guys, and no-names out in the sticks, like Rodney Gunter. The Gunters of this draft will be hurt, no doubt. However, if we are talking rounds 1-3, I would really hope they 'know' at this point."

Yes, I would agree with you. The Scouting combine guys, they know what they need to know. The end of the draft guys, the smaller school guys, those are the guys who can fall through the cracks. I have no doubt there could be more undrafted guys eventually turning into good players than most years.

From Garth Short via

"Most of the experts say that the Cardinals need OL help and point to the right tackle position. But right now we seem to have two decent right tackles. What we don't have is a starting center and have held off on signing Shipley. Cesar Ruiz is ranked as the No. 1 center in the Draft. Can you see the team trading back and selecting Ruiz with a late first-round pick?"

I don't see them using a first-round pick on a center. To begin with, they already have a center from Michigan they are hoping will be their starter. They also have invested picks in the spot the last two drafts, not only with Cole but Lamont Gaillard. There are plenty of other spots where that initial first-round pick -- at 8 or later -- that probably make more sense.

From Tony Lavella via

"Hey Darren, quick question. Is tight end Dan Arnold still around for the 2020 season? If so, what kind of contract does he have as far as term?"

Arnold is on the roster. He is signed through this season, and I do expect him right now as part of the offense -- especially in the red zone.

Well, the Cardinals are assuming Peterson is going to play like the last few games and not how he started. And other than safety, I think they feel good about where they are in the secondary. So in defense, that wouldn't necessarily be the first place I look. You can probably find more cornerbacks overall than safety, but I don't see a lot of standout corners either, not at first.

From Jarrod Foote via

"Just throwing this out there. What do you think about having a clear or tinted face shields that cover the entire face mask as a way to get on-field work going and show that we are being cautious with the virus? This could ensure that we practice enough and are ready to roll in September."

Let's say that works on the field -- which I would have doubt. What happens in the locker room and in the building? You don't wear helmets all day. Heck, you don't even wear helmets the entirety of practice. I would love for football and a "normal" offseason to occur. It's not going to. We need to let this play out on the way-higher-than-sports level, and see where that takes us.

I think they see Dan Arnold as a receiving tight end that is cost-effective. So I don't see them making a big trade for a current guy at this point. They just signed Maxx Williams to an extension as well.

From Hank Dano via

"Darren! This is not a question. This is my Steve Keim-Adrian Wilson 'stand on the table' moment so please please post it for the 1% chance Keim see's it. I got a bunch of draft wishes, but this guy is my unicorn. DT Mike Panasiuk of Michigan State projects as a 6th or 7th rounder. He is the best interior run stopper in this draft. He is a two-gapping wall in a 3-4 scheme and Kyle Williams-esque in terms of taking away the interior run. Thank you! P.S. - I don't know the guy. I'm not some friend lobbying for him. I'm just a draft junkie and Cards fan. And I want to win a Super Bowl in this lifetime."

And this, Hank, is not an answer.

From Leonardo Luiz Faria via

"Would it be a good idea to add Jadeveon Clowney? (I know it's difficult, but Keim could make an effort). Also, with pick No. 8, if Okudah and Simmons are no longer available, wouldn't it be better to choose a future replacement for our dear Larry Fitzgerald? Ceedee Lamb would be our guy. And would it be a good idea to trade to get at least a second-round choice in 2020? Thank you Darren, I am very much your fan!"

I mean, would the Cardinals like to add Clowney? I'm sure. It has no chance to happen, not with his price tag. If a top defender isn't there at No. 8, I'd think they'd look offensive line, because if all the defenders are gone, they probably have their pick of linemen. And I'm sure Steve Keim would love a second-round pick. What it would take to get one is a different story. If DeAndre Hopkins ends up be the "second-round pick," I'm guessing the Cardinals will be more than satisfied.

I'm not drafting anyone because I'm worried about reputation. I've said all along if Brown is there -- and you believe he can be very good -- I'm picking him over a tackle.

From Charlie Clark via

"Hi Darren. I had a nice reflective moment of realization the other day when I watched the Jordan Phillips video conference with the AZ media. I was totally wrong on Jordan. Like many other Cards fans, I looked at his career this far and was incredibly underwhelmed. A second-round bust who washed out of Miami, went to Buffalo, had one good season and secured himself a payday with AZ. Then I watched his presser and saw a incredibly well-rounded guy. Very humble, clearly intelligent and driven. When he said his success last year was the result of finally getting a full time opportunity, I believed it, and now I've done a complete 180. Jordan is my favorite free agent signee of the offseason. In all your years, what player surprised you the most? Maybe from a 'Don't judge a book by its cover' standpoint?"

That's an excellent question, although nothing is popping into my mind along the lines you are saying. I don't really get strong feelings one way or the other around a new guy until I have a chance to interact and see them on the field. I mean, after my first interview with a rookie Adrian Wilson and his (very) brief answers, I never would've predicted he'd become a friend. But I always did think that was a pretty good draft pick.

From John TDG via

"Darren, being around a few regimes in AZ, I was wondering if teams change their draft boards in regards to supply. I think you see this with QBs. For instance , let's say that when you put together your board and see that you have only five draft-able pass-rushers (position not important) on that board. The best on the board is 18th on your board and you really like him. There are 3 more in the range of 18 to 60 and the last one late in the draft. You can't find a partner to trade down, so you are sitting at 8. You really like this player and passing on him means you won't get a player at a position you need. Does a team pass on a player they like and a position in short supply because he is ranked lower on your board?"

This is a situation with nuance. I mean, what you are talking about is reaching, and of course that can happen. It happens with quarterbacks across the league, and there is no question that is the position of greatest scarcity. In the example you give, 8 to 18 isn't great. If you would take him at 18, taking him at 8 isn't a great leap -- unless you are passing on a player at a position you could use that you have ranked top 5, let's say. It's a big reason why you want to mitigate your needs as much as possible (and I do feel the Cards have done that.) The Cards have been in that situation before. In 2009 they took pass rusher Cody Brown in the second round, a big stretch and they knew it -- except they really needed a young edge rusher. We know how that turned out.

My feeling hasn't changed on this -- I do not see the Cardinals taking a wide receiver. As for a trade -- and when you say "draft day" I am assuming you mean in the first round -- I still think this would be Steve Keim's preference, assuming he could get the return he would hope to get.

From Tom Cowley via

Thanks Darren. Do you see us dropping back in the draft to maybe No. 13 or 14 for a second and take Brown then Cleveland or Chaisson? Then with second No. 3 from the trade go for a RB or CB. Or am I too greedy?"

I don't know if I totally understand the scenario but yes, you're being too greedy. You're probably not getting a second to go from 8 to 14, not according to trade value charts. And you got an extra fourth from the trade, not a third. I also don't expect Cleveland or Chaisson to last to the third, if they can't get a second. I really don't expect Brown to fall out of the top 10.

From Jinju Sua via

"I just watched the Cardinals-Eagles NFL championship game again. Amazing. When Todd Haley said that Fitz was a one-trick pony, what was he talking about? I was too young to perceive any nuances in Larry's game back then, but he always seemed like the well-rounded HoF receiver he is today."

When Todd Haley arrived as offensive coordinator with Ken Whisenhunt in 2007, they saw a young (Fitz had played three seasons) great receiver that still had not done everything to reach his potential under the previous staff. Haley never had a problem doing the tough love thing with any player. Fitz was no exception. It was determined Fitz was playing too heavy, so they got him to lose weight.

But most importantly, Haley saw Fitz as a "one-trick pony" in the sense that all Fitz would do was run down the field, beat a defender for a jump ball and go down to the ground. Fitz was fantastic at that, but Haley (and Whisenhunt) sought more. Haley basically told Fitz that at 6-3 and 215 pounds, he was leaving a ton of yards on the field because he wasn't willing to fight through tackles for yards after the catch. Fitzgerald took it to heart, starting getting a lot more yards after catch, and the Cards got to a Super Bowl.

From Jim via

"Hi Darren. I know it's April still and there's an eternity to go until the season -- assuming it starts on time. But we are still without a known plan at center. I haven't heard a peep from A.Q. Shipley. We've pretty much spent all the money we have on free agents. I think we're done shopping. A.Q. is really the last dude we would sign, if in fact we re-sign him. Do you see this as being a Lyle Sendlein-type situation where we will go into camp with the youngsters, lets them battle it out. and if it looks like they cant hang, we break glass and go grab A.Q. off the couch?"

Why yes, that is very possible. That said, Shipley could always end up signing elsewhere. I don't think there is any question the Cards would prefer someone young -- Mason Cole, and if not, Lamont Gaillard -- to step up.

From Young D Myers via

"Hiya Darren, I'm just curious how this Hopkins deal is going to work. Because he wants a raise. We're giving him one. But does that mean this season? So he's going to ride out the $16M for 2020 and then he gets his new money 2021 and beyond? He has three years left on his deal. Do you expect that the 'raise' is gong to be in the form of an extension, meaning we lock him up for the next five (rather than him become a FA in 2022)?"

  • Hopkins doesn't get $16 million this season, he gets $12.5M. The $16M is the average over the contract including signing bonus, which he already received.
  • He'll get some new money whenever a contract happens, so if it were this season, he could still get some in 2020.
  • I would expect a new deal to be more than three years, otherwise all you are doing is increasing the salary cap number this year, which they will want to be careful in doing. How long the deal is would TBD.

From Bryan Ringo via

"Has anyone thought about taking Lamb at 8 and trading Kirk for a second rounder? Then pick an OL in the second round. Can't let a talent like Lamb get away, especially with the Niners having the 13th pick!"

Not sure why the Niners owning the 13th pick would in turn mean the Cardinals must pick CeeDee Lamb. Is there a prophecy that says that? I wouldn't rule anything out, but they think Kirk is pretty talented (and he's also great in the locker room and community.) You're assuming you can get a second-round pick for Kirk in a draft loaded with wide receiver talent.

By Ana Valdez via

"Hey Darren, what was the reasoning behind tagging kicker Zane Gonzalez? Because his cap number is $3.2M. Wouldn't it be cheaper to sign him long-term? Or are they not comfortable yet signing him long-term, and the tag was a means to get one more year to look at him?"

I'm sure they would hope signing him long term would make it cheaper, but that doesn't mean the player will want to do that (see Drake, Kenyan.) From Gonzalez's perspective, he could bet on himself, take the $3 million, have another good year, and try to cash in again as an unrestricted free agent. They want him long term. That's why they tagged him -- because not tagging him would've allowed him to go anywhere.

From Fif-Dawg Jones via

"We've got some major decisions to make in 2021. Patrick Peterson. Budda Baker. Kenyan Drake. Larry Fitzgerald. Budda seems to be the guarantee. He will be extended or tagged. And we can assume Fitz will have a place, if he chooses. Drake is a big question mark given he's an RB and RBs are the enemy of the cap. And then there's PP. He may not be PP of 2013 but he's still the best CB we have, and you don't let guys like that walk until you have a replacement in house. I know I would like to have PP retire a Cardinal. Go up in the Ring of Honor. And I'm sure like Larry he's excited by the current trajectory of team. Now that Brady has left New England, there is no longer that go-to place for older guys to chase a ring. Arizona might be his best place to chase a ring. That's wild."

Well Fif-Dawg, you raise some interesting topics although I'm not sure there is a question there. Clearly there are some big-time names that will be scheduled to become free agents after this season. But obviously the team has considered this.

From Michael Travers via

"Hello Darren, again, our gratitude for being able to comment on our Cardinals as we are quarantined in place waiting for the NFL Draft and for our local society to open up. This has been the first draft in many years were the team does not have a glaring need. For years the offensive line has been a weakness for the team. But you do not get to draft in the top 10 very often, so why not draft CeeDee Lamb as the future Larry replacement and it would also give Kingsbury a real opportunity to use four wideouts to test his offensive theories?"

While I understand the thought process -- and I'm not ruling out a receiver, whether it is Lamb or not -- I just don't see it. I feel the Cards made their big move at wide receiver with the Hopkins trade, and will find a good football player at another spot for the first-round pick.

From Halee Kleo via

Helloooo Darren! I need some help. I've never understood NFL finance. So back before we got our new stadium, Mike Bidwill was going around trying to sell the whatever government people on our new stadium. And he said 'the team could not compete without the revenue streams a new stadium would bring.' I am soo confused by that statement. Aren't teams funded by the NFL? All 32 teams are going to have their full 190 million cap money, right? As far as I know, no team has ever gone bankrupt. I just don't understand what he meant by that."

So yes, you are absolutely confused. Teams are not funded by the NFL. Each team has its own money. Is there money shared? Yes. Does every team get the same amount of TV money? Yes. But in the days of Sun Devil Stadium and crowds of 25,000 and no real suite money, the Cardinals absolutely had a weaker revenue stream than a team that was filling stadiums or with new stadiums with lots of suites. The "cap money" as you call it is a limit for contracts, it is not the amount of money a team gets from the league.

From Steven Stardevant via

"Hey there Darren. I really appreciate your weekly writings and look forward to your words on Cardinals Underground. I think you do a great job on both. I have two quick questions, principally to see if I can get your dander up. One is about Daryl Washington and the other is about uniforms. Do you believe the league office will ultimately award each first round-draft pick their own No. 1 uniform and baseball cap with the logo of their drafting team? And secondly, just joking. I have no D. Wash question. How's your dander holding up? (P.S. I actually don't know what a dander is or if you even have one.)"

It wouldn't be a week without "uniform" being in the mailbag. I'm guessing the first-round picks will be get whatever they might want as a souvenir. My dander, by the way, is just peachy.

From H.H. Lane via

"Who was the Cards beat writer before Darren Urban? You been here for an eternity, my dude."

Well, yes. I never thought I'd become that guy, and yet, here we are. It's not a bad way to earn a living.

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