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You've Got Mail: Trades? Stick And Pick? It's Draft Season

Topics include the philosophy at 4, best Cardinals draft classes, and under-pressure trade talks

draft cards cowboy mailbag 040924

I think everyone -- except maybe Monti Ossenfort and his crew, because there is always room for more prep -- is ready for the draft to happen, already. We've got some time, though, so how about another 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 Michael Travers:

"Hello Darren. Why wouldn't the general manager and head coach give their quarterback the best possible option to succeed? If MHJ is the best WR to come along since HOF Calvin Johnson wouldn't it be a no-brainer to draft him?"

How do you know that's the "best possible option," more than, say, having a much better defense, for example? Also, what if they don't think he is the "best wideout since Calvin Johnson?" Lot of people putting this situation in black and white terms in a world where very few things are.

From Dylan L:

"Darren. Thanks for your time and insight. I have a few questions. First, do you think there has ever been a more intriguing draft for the Cardinals? Second, if Monti knocks this draft out of the park again will teams start opening their pocketbooks for him? Third, there is so much talk about winning on a rookie QB contact and we aren't in that convo. But we could create a new model, pay your QB and potentially have the other more expensive positions on their rookie contracts: tackle, cornerback, wide receiver. Fourth, I remember when we drafted Anquan Boldin. He was our second receiver drafted behind Bryant Johnson. Do you believe if we trade down we could see this happen again?"

  1. I don't know; last year ended up being pretty intriguing too, for all the same reasons. Whenever you are near the top of the draft, it gets interesting because everyone knows all the players involved. I am guessing fans would rather have boring drafts in this regard, given what it means.
  2. The Cards never officially announced the length of Monti's contract, but I am guessing it was four or five years. He isn't -- and can't -- go anywhere. (And with all due respect, his teams will have to win some before that usually happens.)
  3. In the end, that naturally kind of happens when the QB is expensive. It's not really a model as much as a necessity. 
  4. Correct, Johnson in the first in 2003, Anquan in the second. Do I see potentially two receivers picked by the Cardinals? Yes. Trade down or not, I wouldn't be shocked if there were two in the first three rounds. Depends on how the board might fall. 

From Tye G:

"Darren if you were a GM in Monti's position, what would it take for you to be willing to trade out of the 4th pick to, let's say, out of the top 10? What kind of offer would be worth the risk? I see mocks having two first-rounders offered by Minnesota and to me that still doesn't seem like enough. With six picks in the first 90 and 11 overall would you agree or disagree that Monti really doesn't need to trade out of 4 at all? I understand a lot has to do with how he feels about the players on the board but if I was a GM I would want to see a haul similar to the one SF gave up for Trey Lance in order to pass up some of the serious WR talent."

Again, you don't know all the aspects. Does he need to trade? No one ever needs to trade. You trade if you can benefit. I would say that 11 and 23 for 4 wouldn't be enough for me, but I am not the GM. What is fair? Also, when you say risk, this is why not being the GM -- and knowing all the moving parts -- makes a huge difference. If, for example, the Cards move to 11 from 4 but then trade back up to 7 or 8, gaining a first and losing, perhaps, a third, how would people feel about that? 

From Joe Cardea:

"Darren, I know you keep your opinions to yourself. But l have to think if the cards draft an edge in the first round they are giving up on Zaven Collins. What is your opinion of Collins? Is he in the future of this team or no? I could see Cards passing on edge early in draft this year to give him a chance."

I like Zaven on a personal level a ton and I think he did a lot of things on the field last year that won't be measured on what a "regular" edge rusher would do. I think this is a big season for him. But do I think an early edge pick means they are done with Collins? I do not. Now, with the amount of edge guys they have now, if you take one in the first round somebody (or two) won't be around. But last I checked you still want at least two good edge guys (and the way Nick Rallis rotates guys, you need more than that.)

From John Tharp:

"There has been a lot of trade talk surrounding the Cards and Monti. We know most of the trades in the first round have the framework built before the draft begins. Those conversations of 'If my guy is available at your pick, what would it take to move up?' happen before the draft begins. What about later trades? Say a team called the Cards and wanted their second-round pick. Obviously, they look at the board, who is available, how many spots do they drop back and who do they think will be available, and the compensation. But what about the conversations? In that time-crunched moment, how would it play out from a phone call to a trade?"

The second round might be a little different because you would've had all day Friday after the first round to potentially poke around with trade partners? But third round and fourth and beyond? The stakes aren't quite as high there as the earlier picks; usually that's a lot closer to the trade "calculator" that teams use and trades with lower picks can often come together quickly. In those cases, almost every time, you are coming up to get a particular player, and if the team you are trading with isn't in love with one guy at that point, you can get it done pretty quickly.

From Jason W:

"Good day sir. It has been driving me nuts when Paulie goes off on his tangents about trading back and collecting more picks, especially when he and other pundits like to throw out the idea that we are 'getting' three first-round draft picks when we are actually getting one extra pick because we already have two and the one for next year is valued as a round down from this years draft. In what world is one more pick for a player that by the spot they would be taken, you have valued less than what seems to be universally perceived to be as close as you can get as sure of a thing at a position of need? Also, I have a truly un-important question but just more of a curiosity about why our red uniforms are just not a red version of the white and black options we wear, was that ever explained during the new roll-out of the uniforms. Thank you for your time, have a great day!"

Nothing is unimportant here in the mailbag, Jason, although we do need to work on your sentence efficiency. You spent a lot of words to say "Paul Calvisi thinks trading back for one extra pick is good and that isn't as good as taking Harrison." Which is really what you are saying here, right? Now, I know there is a "round down" theory out there for the next year but to me, that has everything to do with where the pick is. If the Texans' pick had ended up in the top 5, get outta here with the idea it was a Round 2 value because it was acquired the year before. Like I have said many times, I understand the fans who want Harrison, and yes, he's should be an excellent player. But Monti has an idea what he needs to do to build this team, and we'll see what that entails for the No. 4 pick.

As far as the uniforms, everything you could want to know about the uniforms can not only be found in my story, but this page as well. 

From Jason Mulsom:

"Can we take the announcement of the draft party as confirmation we are taking Marvin? All I'm saying is if they trade out, they'll be able to hear those boos in Timbuktu."

All I can think of is this moment. (IYKYK)

If you are making choices about your sports teams based on if you'll get booed by fans, you're doing it wrong. But I'm excited to hear you'll be attending the draft party, Jason.

From Robert Williams:

"Thanks for the mailbag, Darren. Long-time reader, first time to submit a question. Many years ago, the Cardinals drafted a punter in the first round. Steve Little, I believe. Do you know if that decision was a coach's decision, or was it an owner's decision? Thank you!"

I thank you for reading the 'bag and happy you have sent in a question. While I have been around a while, the Steve Little pick -- back in 1978 when the team was still in St. Louis -- was well before my time (I was in Arizona sure, but in second grade). It was a poor choice anyway, and a disaster in the first round. The Cardinals were seeking a new kicker for the aging Jim Bakken, but to do it then and with who it was (Little wasn't a great college kicker, he was a better punter) was odd. 

From Juan de la Peña:

"Hi Darren, with the draft upcoming, what is your top five Cardinals draft classes of all-time, and what are your top five Cardinals picks of all-time? Thank you, greetings!"

Man, you got be doing research, Juan, and there's a lot going on around here. (Not really football as much as the biz side, but I'm busy is what I'm saying.) But in the name of the mailbag, I did the research so I could actually have a decent answer. The top-five picks can be parsed in a lot of ways, I decided to factor in when a guy was picked. It impacts most first-rounders. Also, I need 10. Too many to choose from. For the draft classes, I'm sticking with 1970 on, when the AFL arrived and the draft got naturally longer/harder. (And the draft classes are more difficult, because if the guy was a good pick but had much success elsewhere, does it count?) Anyway, debate away:


  1. 2004 (Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett, Antonio Smith)
  2. 1979 (Ottis Anderson, Roy Green, Joe Bostic)
  3. 2001 (Leonard Davis, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Adrian Wilson, Renaldo Hill)
  4. 1991 (Eric Swann, Aeneas Williams)
  5. 1981 (E.J. Junior, Neil Lomax, Stump Mitchell)


  1. S Larry Wilson 1960 7th round
  2. TE Jackie Smith 1963 10th round
  3. CB Aeneas Williams 1991 3rd round
  4. S Adrian Wilson 2001 3rd round
  5. WR Larry Fitzgerald 2004 1st round
  6. WR Roy Green 1979 4th round
  7. WR Anquan Boldin 2003 2nd round
  8. WR Sonny Randle 1958 19th round
  9. DT Darnell Dockett 2004 3rd round
  10. S Tyrann Mathieu 2013 3rd round

From Tom Cowley:

"Hi Darren. The new season starts now with a full schedule of activities planned. Would you itemize and clarify for us those events upcoming now and who are participating doing what? Is this voluntary for those qualified. Thanks."

Everything in the offseason, save for the rookie minicamp two weeks after the draft and the mandatory minicamp to wrap up the offseason in June, is voluntary, although most players participate. The dates can be found here

From J. Schubert:

"I was wondering where you will be during draft day. Is there any chance you will be in the draft room so you can give us readers a behind-the-scenes view of what goes on during the selection and drafting process. If you won't be there, is there anything we readers can do to persuade management to give you a viewers/reporting seat at the table. I think that would be a fascinating bit of reporting for us fans!"

I think indeed it would be fascinating for the fans and for me. Alas, it isn't going to happen. We will get some peeks from our video content sometime after the draft, as we all saw last year with Monti. As for me, I will be in the same place I have been for every draft since 2001 -- in the media room at the Dignity Health Training Center. 

From Steve Zukowski:

"The Cardinals are NOT one or two players away from fielding a playoff-caliber team, so don't you think that those fans calling for signing a couple of top free agents (WR, edge rusher, etc.) are failing to realize the the 'rookie quarterback team-friendly contract' window has closed. With Kyler's massive quarterback contract, we have no choice but to trust in Monti's long-term plan to build through the draft. It all starts up front, as he and Gannon have reiterated, and don't you think that Monte's measured approach of drafting talented, high-caliber OL and DL rookies, supplemented by seasoned pros who have demonstrated the ability to stay the field, is the most prudent approach we've ever seen from this organization? As a season-ticket holder from the Sun Devil Stadium days, I am finally seeing a team-building process I can get behind."

I'm not sure Ossenfort's philosophy would be any different if he had a QB on a rookie contract. This is what he and JG believe in, period. Obviously Murray's contract has to be factored in, but this team has needed to do better in the draft for a long time, long before Murray arrived and definitely before he got his new deal. I would agree they are not one or two players away. 

From Clary Donalds:

"Hi Darren. You mentioned in the last mailbag that your writing staff has moved buildings and is no longer housed in the Tempe headquarters? Could you elaborate on that please, I had no idea. When and why did they do that? So you don't see the players or coaches or football staff anymore? That's so sad, you worked there for so long. Do you feel separated now?"

I don't know if it's sad. It's a job. Yes, the business side moved buildings in January down the street from the Dignity Health Training Center. The powers-that-be wanted our business people all together in one giant office, and frankly that was not possible at the facility, not with the dozens of business hires that have been made. But players return to work on a voluntary basis on Monday, and myself and the rest of the content staff will be moving back and forth quite a bit to get fans the coverage they have come to expect. I will be spending plenty of time in that building soon enough.

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