If you were running the Arizona Cardinals draft, what would you have done? I have always thought it was silly to offer up draft grades. It's always a wasted exercise because in order to give a grade, you must know more than the person you're grading. Rarely do students teach teachers so why should draft analysts grade the people that are actually doing it?
I prefer to go a different route. I'd like to offer a different opinion on each pick and let you watch over the years to decide who was right. Obviously, if I'm giving you my opinion, I should be willing to listen to yours. Feel free to tweet me @doug987FM.
As an observer, I disagreed with almost every pick. However, unlike last year, I didn't think any pick was a disaster like Ryan Swope or disagree strongly like I did with D.C. Jefferson over Zac Dysart. Of all great ironies, it is the Cardinals who went for grit instead of the Diamondbacks. Arizona only has one sexy pick.
For the purposes of this blog, I'll tell you what I would have done if I was on the clock at the exact time the Cards were. Keep that in mind when you see the high number of guards I would be taking. I wouldn't actually draft 14 offensive lineman but if I was on the clock with the available names Arizona had at their disposal this year, I would have went in a different direction almost every time. For better or for worse, here's what I would have done if I was the Cards GM.
Cardinals first round: trade
My first round: Darqueze Dennard/trade
This would have been my toughest decision of the night. I would have fought like crazy to get more from the Saints. You can't fall in love with a player. I might have screwed this one up because it's a good trade but I'll stand on the table for Dennard.
When the Cardinals went on the clock, Dennard was available. Dennard would have spent a year as the third CB learning from Cromartie and Peterson. He is the best cover corner in the draft and, in my opinion, totally undervalued by NFL general managers who fall in love with Combine stars and not the tape. It would have killed me to trade down and pass him up.
I would have told the Saints, I can't give up Dennard for just an extra 3rd round pick. I wouldn't play chicken. I would have sat in the war room stressed out. Deep down inside, I would know that a 3rd round pick for moving down just a few slots is a great deal. With one minute on the clock, I would call the Saints and tell them that my next phone call is to the table to take Dennard.
"This is a fair trade but I just love Dennard too much. I'm not playing you but I need you to go over the top to get me off of Dennard. Even a 2015 pick will be enough." I think they would have done it because New Orleans had to get in front of Philadelphia.
I can honestly say, I don't know what I'd do if the Saints stood pat.
Cardinals first round: Deone Buccanon
My first round: Bradley Roby
This pick truly shows the respect Steve Keim has earned throughout the league and both the national and local media. So many analysts said this wasn't a good pick at the moment that it happened. However, with time to re-evaluate Bucannon, analysts move this pick up to "solid." This is clearly an acknowledgment of one of two things: either the media trusts Keim so much that they back tracked on their initial opinion of the Bucannon pick or they are outwardly admitting Keim was more prepared than they were.
I really like Deone Bucannon but I would have passed on him in the first round. Bucannon would be my main target for Friday. It's a little disingenuous of most analysts to act like passing on someone for value purposes is the easiest thing to do. It simply means Bucannon would still be there if the draft was run exactly as they saw it. As we look at the 49ers going safety after Arizona, it's pretty clear, Bucannon would not be there in the middle of the second round where he would have been my target.
For me, there were still five more players I liked better than Bucannon by a large margin. I'll be watching the career of Bradley Roby to see if I was right. Bucannon doesn't have character issues and Roby does. I'd be taking advantage of Bruce Arians' ability to reach kids, knowing this could end in disaster.
Cardinals second round: Troy Niklas
My second round: Morgan Moses
I had a lot of targets when round two started. In my make believe world, Bucannon would be available in the second round. I also would have entered the round wanting to choose from a long list of possibilities. I thought for sure Arizona could get a steal and the numbers went from 12 players to four when Keim was on the clock.
Sorry for the long list but this will show you how much talent went off the board before Arizona picked at 20
According to my rankings: Ra'Shede Hageman, Kyle Van Noy, (Deone Bucannon), Jace Amaro, Stephen Tuitt, Cyrus Kouandijo, Timmy Jernigan, Morgan Moses, Kony Ealy, Troy Niklas, Trent Murphy and Jack Mewhart.
As the Cards were on the clock, those names were down to Moses, Ealy, Niklas and Mewhart.
I do like the pick of Niklas. He's a very under-rated pass catcher -- from a box-out stand point and not an athleticism stand point -- and an excellent blocker in the run game. Arizona can give looks very similar to some of the great Colts' offenses of Peyton Manning with an athletic pass-catching tight end on one side and the run-blocking TE on the other.
My problem with the pick is just how good I think Morgan Moses is. If you've listened to the show for any length of time, you know I'm a fan of Bobby Massie at right tackle. I would not have come into this draft with the goal of giving up on him.
However, Moses is just too good to pass up. I can't say the Cardinals made a mistake because I only thought two players were better -- Kony Ealy was the other -- and because I like the pick. I just think Moses is an excellent player who fills a more dire need.
Cardinals third round (A): Kareem Martin
My third round (A): Kareem Martin
Before I salute this pick, please understand I would have lost my mind if the Cardinals had allowed me in their war room. I thought Chris Borland and Gabe Jackson were late second round talent who started the third round still available. I also love Louis Nix III. I think he's a second round talent but I would have made him a major target in the third round since I knew I was the only one that valued him that high. It was crushing that all three names were off the board when the Cardinals had their turn.
I think the Martin pick is the best pick of the draft for Arizona. None of the outside linebackers for the Cardinals are as athletic as Martin. Although I question his football IQ, I don't question Todd Bowles' ability to coach. If Bowles was able to get pressure on the quarterback with the pieces he had last year, I think he'll do wonders with Martin.
Cardinals third round (B): John Brown
My third round (B): Brandon Thomas
The amount of talent still on the board shows the Thursday night trade to allow the Saints to move up was the right one. Again, I have to give Keim full credit because if I'm running the draft, I probably don't have this pick due to my conviction for Dennard.
I can praise Keim for the trade but I don't like the execution. If Arizona walked away from the trade with Bucannon and Brandon Thomas, they nailed it. I don't like risking this high a pick on a player from Pittsburg State. In no way am I trying to be an authority on Gorilla football. They have an outstanding program for their level of competition. I never saw Brown play and only watched him on NFL Network's coverage of the combine, so it would be unfair for me judge him.
I can tell you how much I like Brandon Thomas. There's very little chance he would have made a huge impact this year coming off of ACL surgery but there's second round talent there.
If I'm right on Thomas, my 2015 O-line has Cooper and Thomas as starting guards and I'm set for years. I can't say Keim made a mistake because I don't have the knowledge on Brown and I'm selecting an injured player but I'll stick my neck out and say Thomas' injury is a smaller risk than Brown's lack of competition.
Cardinals fourth round: Logan Thomas
My fourth round: DaQuan Jones
If I'm Steve Keim and two quarterback gurus (Tom Moore and Bruce Arians) tell me to draft Logan Thomas, you almost have to trust them.
It's very easy for me to sit in my office and type that I would tell them thanks for their opinion and not use it. However, I wouldn't have made this pick.
I think the accuracy issues of Thomas are legitimate concerns. I'm also extremely confident I could get Thomas later in the draft. With A.J. McCarron and Aaron Murray still on the board, you have to expect other teams ranking those two higher than Thomas.
Although I believe in my coaches' ability to evaluate QBs better than me, this wasn't the right pick.
Every year, there's something wrong with Dan Williams. Someone will always be there to make an excuse for him. Whether you think he's great and just had some bad breaks or you're tired of waiting for all this talent to show itself for 14 straight games, maybe some competition would help.
DaQuan Jones is huge and reasonably mobile. Even if he doesn't compete with Williams, giving Williams a break every two series might give you more energy from him.
If Thomas proves to be an excellent quarterback due to the work with Arians and Moore, I still won't recant on this pick because you can't say anything to get me to believe Thomas would have been gone by the time Arizona drafts in the 5th round. With my way of thinking, the Cardinals could have had both Thomas and Jones versus just one.
Cardinals fifth round: Ed Stinson
My fifth round: A.J. McCarron/ Ed Stinson
I believe the fact both McCarron and Aaron Murray were still on the board for Arizona proves me right that Thomas would have been available here as well. This further emboldens me that I would have been right to push off the opinions of Arians and Moore. If I'm right and Thomas is on the board here, I would have listened to them and taken Thomas here. However, I would let both of my coaches know that I'm deferring to them because I rank McCarron and Murray ahead of Thomas.
I put two names here because I think it's dependent on the previous round. Like I said, if Thomas is there, I'll trust my coaches. If my gamble was wrong and someone else took Thomas before my fifth round pick, I would have run to the podium to take McCarron. I would have McCarron do every interview and laughed all the way to the bank that I picked my future quarterback in the fifth round. I'm not saying McCarron will turn out to be a great QB but I think he would have been excellent with the grooming of Arians and Moore developing under Carson Palmer.
Obviously, I wouldn't have selected McCarron if I had picked Thomas in the fourth round. Having said that, I love the pick of Stinson. He reminds me a lot of Jared Allen.
In no way do I mean that as a comparison to the Jared Allen you think of today.
I remember when Kansas City drafted Allen in the fourth round. It was impossible to project Allen having the career he has because his motor propelled him to being an elite pass rusher. Although I don't see the same pass rush skills in Stinson, I see the same motor.
I don't like the situation surrounding the pick with Thomas going one round too early and eliminating the chance to take an amazing value in McCarron. Yet once the Cardinals were on the clock with Thomas in the fold, they nailed this pick. Stinson is the definition of a football player. He will produce for years and be a fan favorite.
Cardinals sixth round: Walt Powell
My sixth round: Marquis Flowers
Everything I know about Walt Powell, you could have read too. I have to admit, I never watched a Murray State game and didn't write any notes on Powell while I was watching the Combine. If a small school guy does well at the Combine or looks good to me, then I take notes and call friends in the industry to get as much information as I can.
You can either respect my honesty or mock my lack of professionalism but I had no idea who Walt Powell was when I was watching the draft.
Therefore, in fairness to Keim, I can't say anything about the Powell pick. The players I liked all have holes or don't fit what the Cardinals need. There were actually nine players still on the board when Arizona picked that I thought were missed by other GMs but most of them didn't fit Arizona's scheme or would have been overkill at one position, similar to trading for a Jody Davis baseball card in the 80's considering everyone had 47 of them.
With that in mind, I liked Marquis Flowers in this spot. I'm not trying to show U of A some love here.
I care what conference a player comes from but I care very little which team in that conference a player played for with only only a few exceptions -- Alabama, for example.
I think Flowers is a good athlete who can rush the passer without giving up his edge. This late in the draft, special teams is also a major factor. I think Flowers will be a big success at the NFL level from a special teams stand point.
The Cardinals did not have a bad draft. It was actually pretty good, it just wasn't sexy. The problem is San Francisco and St. Louis both had sexy drafts. How should we rate this draft for the Cardinals? I think they had one of the best drafts in the NFL, so that's great. I also think Arizona had the fourth best draft in the NFC West, so that's not good.
The best way to describe this draft is the Cardinals are a better team today than they were Wednesday, but the gap between third place and the teams above them did not close an inch.