The Arizona Cardinals enter Thursday’s draft with just six picks to help build out their roster. This draft has been touted by many as one of the deepest drafts in years. General manager Steve Keim has said himself that this draft will produce impact players as deep as the fourth and fifth rounds. He is also on record as saying that he will draft with a three year plan in mind.
What does that mean exactly?
It’s the difference in thinking between a head coach and a general manager. The coach wants players who can help them win now, whereas the general manager is looking at the best player available who may not necessarily be a need right now, but will fill on within three years. That means quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line and cornerback are all in play. To use a specific example, the Cardinals’ signing of Antonio Cromartie helped alleviate the need for a corner this coming season, however, the Cardinals will not shy away from a corner if they feel he is the best player on their board because they now Cromartie is only on a one year deal and corner will be a need next season.
So how does that affect the outlook for the Cardinals in this draft?
It means that if the Cardinals get the opportunity to trade down from their 20th pick in the first round and acquire more picks, then they should probably do so. Many draft experts believe this year that a lot of the guys going in the latter part of the first round will be very similar in ranking to the guys going in the second. If the Cardinals agree based on their board, then once again trading down makes sense.
Of course to trade down the Cardinals will need to find a partner. A team wanting to move to number 20 will be looking for a specific player. Here are two potential scenarios that could entice the Cardinals to move back.
The Cleveland Browns:
The Browns could trade the #26, #71, and #145 to move up to #20. That gives the Cardinals an extra third and fifth round pick to work with. Why for the Browns? The latest buzz has the Browns saying that they will not be drafting Johnny Manziel with the #4 pick. If that’s the case and they don’t go quarterback at all then they could be looking to move up with their second first-round pick to make sure they are able to acquire one. If the Browns like Derek Carr then they might need to move up to #20 to get him.
The San Francisco 49ers:
The Niners are the most intriguing team in the whole draft. They have six picks in the top 100 and are going into this draft with the most flexibility of any team in the NFL. Would the Cardinals deal with a division rival? Of course they would, especially in the draft where it is all simply about value.
The Niners could trade #30, #61, and #129 to move up ten spots to #20. A couple of potential targets the Niners could be interested that won’t likely fall much further than #20. High upside pass rusher Anthony Barr, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Marqise Lee, or Brandin Cooks, or possibly a corner like Justin Gilbert if he falls a little. The Niners have a ton of picks and a pretty stacked roster so it makes sense for them to make sure they get a player they love.
The Cardinals would benefit from adding another second and fourth-round pick in this scenario. The potential to add six possible impact players in the first four rounds would be very enticing to the Steve Keim and his staff. But would they want to make a deal with a divisional rival?
If these or any other scenario like them come to fruition the Cardinals can still get an immediate impact guy in the late first round. LB Ryan Shazier who has been slated for the Cardinals in many mock drafts could still be around. The Cardinals could look at the top of the second tier of available safeties like Deone Bucannon or Jimmie Ward. They could also grab an eventual Darnell Dockett replacement in Ra’Shede Hageman or a guy like Louis Nix III to add depth to the line and provide insurance if Dan Williams leaves as a free agent next year.
This draft is full of interesting possibilities and I can’t wait till Thursday to see what kind of drama unfolds and what direction the Cardinals take with their first pick.