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You've Got Mail: Where The Pieces Fit As Rookies Arrive

Topics include what the draft class means, Melton's pick, and the RB room

Mailbag chad draft class

The rookies come in this week for their first taste of the NFL. They've already been the subject of a couple of mailbags. 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 John Turilli::

"The draft is over, thank goodness. Do you think that all draft picks from last year and this year (21 in total) can make a roster of a four-win team? Do you think Monti will be judged by the class of 2023? Does Michael Bidwill make another coaching change if they win four or five games? Thank you again for this opportunity to speak out and ask questions. Go Cards!"

No, there is not going to be a coaching change. I feel certain of that. And will Monti be judged on 2023? I think Monti will be judged whether this team wins, and if they win, everything else is mitigated. And again, there were 12 picks this season. If the Cardinals hit big on two or three and get another two or three good contributors, that's a huge hit of a class. Finally, the math says they don't all make the 53-man roster. Maybe they do, but it seems unlikely to me.

From Tim Tekulve:

"I watched the first round of the draft on the field at State Farm stadium. Watched Friday and Saturday on TV as I really enjoy the process. From January through minutes before the draft started, I read everything and everybody's opinion on players, scenarios, combine results, and every mock draft I could get my hands on. I'm very happy the draft is OVER and I can get back to a somewhat normal life. Happy about Marvin Harrison Jr. and most of the picks. Think Darius Robinson could be another Marcus Golden (first time around) and hope No. 226 Jayden Davis makes the team. I really wonder where Max Melton was on the Cardinals draft board. Will most likely never know that answer but does this pick look like a little reach to you considering three corners went right before him? Unlike Tip Reiman, I believe in birds, especially our Arizona Cardinals 😀"

Does it seem Melton is a reach? No. It was the middle of the second round, and considering how many corners are needed these days, getting one of the best seven (with the 43rd pick) doesn't seem a stretch -- and you are assuming the Cardinals had all six of the corners drafted in front of him above him on their board, and mathematically, that's improbable. For instance, most see Cooper DeJean as a safety/nickel. If the Cardinals are seeking an outside CB, Melton would make more sense. Plus, I don't see this group going off their board for a particular position like that.

From Jason W:

"Hello sir, I just want to thank you and Dani for all of the great content you both provided for us leading up to the draft. I purposely left out Paul and his football mustache that he tries to grow every year, because of his horrible and repetitive idea of four quarterbacks going first and then trading back. Thankfully he is not the GM. Sorry I do feel the need to qualify this rant with 'no offense.' I am excited by the draft haul. Were there any picks that surprised you? Thank you again, have a great day!"

Now I need to shield Paul from the mailbag. Man oh man. Anywho, I was probably like most people that was surprised by the Trey Benson pick, again, not that they took a running back, but I just didn't see it being as early as it was. That said, I didn't see them ending up with yet another third-round pick, and taking potentially the second-best back in the draft with a "bonus" pick (and yes, I know that particular pick wasn't the extra one picked up) is smart.

From Bob D:

"Hi Darren. Thanks for the mailbag. I really enjoy it. My questions are, when do you think the season schedule will be released? Also do you think we'll get any primetime games? Thanks for your insight."

I think the hope is for the schedule to be out in the next week or so. Haven't seen a date yet. As far as primetime games, I could see this offense, with a healthy Kyler and MHJ, earning at least a Thursday and maybe a Monday.

From Nigel Green:

"Greetings Darren, now the draft is over as well as the main part of free agency, the Cardinals have amassed an impressive influx of new players, all of whom give me a lot of optimism for the coming season, my question is this, while I don't expect playoffs do you think a winning record is out of the question? Many thanks for the chance to participate in the mailbag."

Let me start by saying I think the team expects a winning record. Otherwise what are we doing here? But objectively, I absolutely think nine wins (or more) could be possible. Kyler is healthy for the whole season and the weapons have been upgraded. It doesn't mean they will have a winning record, but the opportunity is there (and you never know with the postseason either; teams make a jump all the time.)

From Perry Van Hook:

"I would like some explanations of the Cardinals draft, especially in the second round. Overall I think they did a very good job, picking very good players at every turn, BUT I am not sure why they were content to just make the best choice (based on their assessments) and did not try to get some better players. With pick 35 they could have drafted either Cooper DeJean or Kool-Aid McKinstry, both of whom were rated and measured much higher and both were projected to be likely first round picks. If they really felt strongly they certainly could have made a trade to move up to a spot where they could have drafted them too. Can you add some information or team perspective to this?"

It feels like you answered your own question. "If they really felt strongly." They obviously did not, and in fact, felt strongly enough about the cornerbacks available that they were willing to move down and wait it out. I've said it before, but when it comes to potential players, rated my higher and projected by whom? Not only did neither get into the first round, both fell, so it wasn't only the Cardinals who felt the way they did. I tweeted out a Monti quote around that time and it seems like a good time to embed that here.

From Ryan Garcia Jr.:

"Hi Darren, I have a request please. On behalf of all fans: LOTS OF VIDEOS the next couple weeks. We are entering into the bleak nothingness of the offseason and these vids will be our football fix until OTAs. Particularly the rookies coming in. We LOVE those and I'm not sure why. But please film EVERYTHING! Them arriving. Picking out jersey numbers. Meeting vets. Eating in the cafeteria. There's nothing not interesting I promise. Thanks!"

The message has been noted and passed along. Although just because fans want to see something doesn't mean we have the OK to get all of that stuff. We will do the best we can. I know our video team is always looking to provide the best content they can.

From Minnie Qwan:

"I was looking at the offseason workout photos and thought James Conner is looking a little thin? Have you noticed if he's dropped weight? Also with the drafting of Trey Benson we now have four running backs. JC, Trey Benson, Michael Carter, and DeeJay Dallas. I thought Carter played well last year, and Dallas was just brought in in FA. So will we carry four backs or is there a tough decision coming?"

I haven't talked to Conner but when I have seen him, he looks like the same Conner to me. As for the running backs, you are missing Emari Demercado (and Tony Jones.) Do I think they keep four backs on the 53? Yes. DeeJay Dallas (and probably Benson) can have roles on special teams too. Guys are going to have to earn their way (and yes, that means new free agents, such as Dallas.) But with as much as they want to run the ball, having depth at the position is crucial.

From Dylan L:

"Darren, thanks again for your mailbag. What are your thoughts on MHJ not signing the NFLPA agreement? I'm not familiar if there are negotiations that can occur or if it's the same with every player. Second, unless it changed and I didn't see it I believe he also hasn't hired an agent. That makes a lot of sense since rookie contracts aren't really negotiable anymore so why would you give an agent money for nothing. (I also understand that agents can get and help with getting endorsements.) Do you think this is advice from his Dad?"

From William Wootten:

"Hello Darren. Marvin Harrison Jr as of yet hasn't signed the agreement for his likeness to be used, so we aren't able to buy his jersey. Do you think he will eventually sign it and has anyone asked him about it yet?"

Another instance to combine a couple of questions with one answer -- such that it is. I addressed this some last week in a blog post, but essentially, yes, I think eventually Marvin will sign an agreement and his jerseys will be available. I also think that yes, his father -- having played a Hall of Fame career himself -- can smartly provide advice for his son as he makes his way through his own pro career. It would be foolish for MHJ to not take advantage of such a resource. Something to keep in mind about Marvin Jr.'s jersey and his number -- he will have a number when he finally gets on the field Friday to start rookie minicamp. But it is possible that will not be his long-term number. We will see. Rookies change their numbers often if they can when we get to the end of training camp and numbers become available. And if MHJ hasn't had his jerseys made for the public yet anyway, it would not be difficult to make a move.

From Artie Bratton:

"Hey Darren, thanks for mailbag. So I tried to do research and failed, but my thought with the new kickoff rules is that kickers should do a squib kick away from the returner, forcing the returner to go get it. I am not sure how far a squib kick actually goes, but I feel it usually comes down about the 20 and then rolls toward the end zone. With the kicking team not able to move until it is touched though seems a lot harder to maintain your gaps. I think it will be interesting, until it isn't."

Couple things with your theory. One, if the ball hits the ground in the landing area, the blockers/tacklers can move. Doesn't have to be touched. Also, it's tough to do a squib kick when the kicker has to get it up and over two lines of players from 25 yards away and still have it land as a squib.

From Cayetano Charley:

"Hello Darren. I know draft picks haven't signed but do you know what number will MHJ take? I noticed 88 is not taken so I was wondering if you have any insight of what number MHJ will wear?"

He can't wear 88, that number is retired for the late J.V. Cain. At this point, his number still TBD. And as I noted earlier, even the number he ends up with during rookie minicamp and perhaps even the preseason might not be his final choice -- we will see how it all plays out.

From Robert Malicki:

"Hi, Darren. For me, it's nice to exhale with our team choosing Marvin Harrison, Jr. The drama of various scenarios on what Monti would do had me on edge for weeks. I don't have a question but I will share a personal story as we await the release of the 2024 schedule. At this time in 1996 my father and I knew the Cardinals would be travelling to Indianapolis to play the Colts. As long-time fans of the Big Red from their Chicago days we were committed to acquiring tickets in the Hoosier Dome for that game. What happens in the '96 draft but Arizona chooses Chicago native and Illinois phenom Simeon Rice and the Colts choose as their No. 1 Marvin Harrison. Simeon Rice had had a great debut as a rookie frustrating the Colt offense with sacks, hurries and dominance. But Marvin shocked us and everyone in attendance with an airborne fully stretched out arms extended TD grab right in front of us! Three decades later we have the last laugh, Marvin's own son being handed to us as a gesture of, 'Will you forgive me now?'"

Simeon Rice was a hell of a pass rusher and obviously MHS was a great, great player. I'm not sure MHJ coming to Arizona is anything but coincidence but I think the Cardinals are more than happy about that turn of events.

From Juan de la Peña:

"Hi Darren, I really enjoyed your coverage of the draft, hoping this class end up in our top five all-time. What is your estimate of the starting offensive line? Does Isaiah Adams emerge as starting left guard in Week 1? Thank you very much!"

Still kind of early for that conversation, Juan. My guess -- and it's a guess right now -- is Paris is left tackle, Jonah Williams at right tackle. Froholdt at center. Will Hernandez at right guard and, right now, I'm going to guess Elijah Wilkinson at left guard. That's just me being conservative before rookies get out there. But do I think Adams will be given every chance to win such a job? I do think that. Another option: Could Froholdt get work at left guard if they think Jon Gaines can play center? These are the things they will look at during this offseason work. Rookies can and will play under this coaching staff but they have to show themselves worthy.

From Ken Moroney:

"Is it likely the Cardinals will sign an established wide receiver after team cuts or a current free agent?"

Maybe. There was a report Tuesday they will talk to Zay Jones, whom the Jaguars just cut. They like MHJ and Michael Wilson and they know Dortch can help, Zach Pascal is still around, and they have rookies Tejhaun Palmer and Xavier Weaver too. If they decide to bring in a vet, the competition for a spot is going to be hard.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren. Thank you for the mailbag. Is it just me or is there a lot of players who don't get the fifth-year option picked up across the league. I heard what Monti said about the salary cap flexibility and I wonder if that's a big reason why some teams don't pick it up. Do you think the fifth-year option a good thing? Even with Kyler Murray, did we use his option year or was the extension done before? Who was the last player the Cardinals used the fifth-year option on? Thank you for your time. Darren, you're the best."

This year, only 13 of 32 options were not picked up (a 14th player who wasn't picked up, Ravens wideout Rashod Bateman, actually got a two-year extension.) It all depends on the player and how he fits into the team. Obviously the Cardinals declined Zaven Collins' options but Monti made clear they still like him as a player -- they just didn't want to be locked into a $13 million salary next season. With Kyler, they did exercise his option, but obviously a few months later the extension was signed so the option was moot. The Cardinals haven't had an option since; there have only been two -- Collins and Isaiah Simmons. Overall, the Cardinals have had 11 guys eligible for the option since it came into play and they have used it five times. My opinion is that it is a tool that is good for the teams, maybe not as good for players. But it's in the CBA.

From Kirk Matthews:

"Hi Darren, I just watched OC Drew Petzing's presser, discussing MHJ and the off season happenings. I gotta tell you, I rolled my eyes so hard I fell out of my chair. Why do coaches do this ridiculous theatre about 'We're always happy to get a good player at that point in the draft and we're interested in him coming in to compete and try to find a spot.' You don't do that with No. 1 overall QBs, so don't do it with our obvious generational No. 4 overall No. 1 WR. He is THE GUY that our offense will be built around. Why can't you speak openly on that fact?"

Ron Wolfley likes to say, instead of "coachspeak" that coaches know how to speak "median." I completely understand where you are coming from. I was the one who asked in the press conference after he said such of how that could be said about MHJ, in this case, for all the reasons you state. He simply said that's how Marvin has to approach it. Look, in the end, coaches have different ways of looking at things than I might, or you might. Of course, I loved covering Bruce Arians because of how blunt he was. But most coaches don't see the benefit of that, nor do they see the benefit of pumping up players brand new to the team, even if they happen to be a top 10 pick. That's understandable. (And truthfully, while I think Harrison will be very good, we do have multiple examples of top 10 picks that never do prove they deserve a top role.)

From Buzzy Wilson:

"In your experience do older players really lose a step overnight or is it gradual?"

It really feels like a case-by-case basis, and also depends on the position and what is asked of them. It's tough to ask (most) 30-year-old defensive backs to be as fast as they were at 27. In the end I think it's more gradual, hidden by the experience and knowledge the good players gather. Eventually, the physical tools disappear to the point you can't make up for them anymore with smarts; it can feel like the player lost it overnight but that's not really it.

From Garth Short:

"Darren, not sure if this is a question or a request. But, prior to the draft the team put out a draft primer, where they looked at all the position groups. Any chance of a post-draft follow up, showing where we stand going into training camp? I know I really enjoyed the pre-draft look."

They plan is to have such a position breakdown, but it will be later in the offseason, in the time after minicamp. Not a lot of content in those days, so having it then makes a lot of sense.

From Nelson Woodward:

"Hey Darren! Looking at the 2025 Draft there is a top tier CB, Ben Morrison out of Notre Dame, who went to Brophy. I think he'd be a top target, right? CB Will Johnson will be a top 10 guy which means we wont be within reach. Otherwise the class appears to be STACKED at pass rusher. After Monti's tremendous 2024 class I think pass rush is the only glaring hole on this team; not withstanding BJ Ojulari's upcoming season. Perhaps he flourishes. What are your thoughts on needs going forward?"

Goodness gracious Nelson. You are already on 2025 needs and the draft? C'mon man. We've barely cleared this one. You mention specific cornerbacks; go back and look at the "way too early" mock drafts from this time last year and see how many of the guys projected as first-rounders didn't come close. Heck, we are way too early to be way too early for needs. Injuries matter. This season's performances matter. We will get there. But holy heck, not yet.

From Blaine S.

"Hey Darren. Big fan of the Cardinals Underground podcast. I tune in for the content, but leave laughing about the banter. Fave quote this week -- Dani talking about predicting the tight end draft pick stating -- 'I'm not going to say it...' but then said it for the next 2 minutes. Love it! My question involves a discussion you three had -- draft editorial coverage. I agree with you on mock drafts (I don't follow them or need them) and post-draft grades (I can tolerate these, but take them with a grain of salt). To help get me more hyped and into the draft, what editorial angle do you recommend?"

I have no issue of these things as entertainment. What gets frustrating is when I see fans take them as gospel. Look, there is no shortage of pre-draft coverage of college players, and lots of talented people doing breakdowns of such players. Here's the only issue: Those breakdowns aren't what everybody sees in particular players; it's still one man's (or woman's) opinion. In the end, you can get to know what a player does on the field, but no one knows for sure how the person or player will translate to the NFL -- otherwise, every pick for every team would work out.

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