Let’s be honest, the Arizona Cardinals have some holes on their roster to fill.
Like, a lot of holes.
With players like Robert Nkemdiche, Haason Reddick, DJ Humphries and Brandon Williams still major question marks on the roster, Arizona’s drafting has struggled to make an impact.
By trading back, they could add more picks to infuse the roster with more talent, right?
NOTE: Obviously, the Cardinals’ draft position hasn’t finalized yet. While them winning 7 straight to go 9-7 is, well, not going to happen at this current point they are picking 4th overall, so that will be where I will slot them for this article.
Anyway, here’s four reasons why Arizona should stay put at the top of the draft, yes, even at #1 overall.
#1. Usually trading back takes you out of contention for elite, impact players
There’s occasionally a time or two where a team can leverage another team for more picks, either due to a team moving up in the draft to jump someone or convincing a team of that very thing.
The Browns traded away a 4th, 5th and 7th to move up for Trent Richardson at #3 and the Bears gave up 2 thirds and 4th to move up 1 spot to take Mitchell Trubisky (presumably ahead of a team like the Jaguars) and therefore didn’t miss out on a top 5 pick.
Is it possible that could happen? Sure. But it’s unlikely.
Meaning the Arizona Cardinals would likely have to move way way down. And that becomes an issue when you realize...
#2. Too many players in the top 5ish picks fit needs the Arizona Cardinals have
Outside of the quarterback (which is tentative as Justin Herbert is considered the top prospect in the draft but might not even declare) you could argue the Arizona Cardinals have needs at just about every position but running back, a shutdown cornerback (well, for now, anyway) and punter.
Okay, I’ll take kicker off the list too.
But the cream of the crop of this year’s draft class seems to be on a different level from years past. Some of those players are here on Mel Kiper’s big board to pull from:
- Nick Bosa, a potentially better edge-rusher than his brother Joey
- Ed Oliver, one of the most dominant players in college football from 18 years old
- Quinnen Williams, a beast of a player who’s getting more Aaron Donald comparisons than Oliver
- Some really like the tackle in Jonah Williams as well, and Arizona’s offensive line need is big-time
There’s top notch corners in Greedy Williams and Deandre Baker, and even other edge rushers and defensive linemen if they win a few more games.
Many GM’s and teams like to trade down every year, but mostly because:
A. They either are looking to gain value from a haul
B. The talent isn’t that great
This year? There aren’t a plethora of top quarterbacks like there were last year, and there’s enough talent in the top 5-10 picks that unless a team picking 14th is moving way way up, it’ll be hard to find value.
Now a question—what if they’re picking #1 overall?
Well what did the Cleveland Browns do?
They drafted this guy rather than trade down for more picks because they saw the talent was too good to pass up:
And now the Browns have one of the best defenses in the NFL with Garrett looking like a freak.
Imagine if Garrett was now a member of the San Francisco 49ers how different that team would look, and how much they’d be laughing at the Browns today.
Keim should stay put, even at #1, because the talent IS that good this year.
3. $70 million in free agency can fill holes better than an extra 2-3 draft picks can down the line
This is pretty self-explanatory. The Cardinals need an overhaul and they want to turn it around and win quickly.
That’s not done with a ton of rookie players who need time to adjust to the league. With Free Agency taking place a few months before the draft, Arizona with their largest amount of cap space they’ve had in a very long time will be able to cut down on the majority of the needs they have on the roster, meaning they can draft more for talent than for having to scramble to rebuild a franchise through trading down repeatedly for more picks.
4. The draft is a crapshoot—Even good GM’s gamble and miss often
The NFL draft is like playing Texas Hold ‘Em in a way. There’s a strategy, a gamble and a risk taken that can turn out in your favor or not based on how you’re holding your hand and what cards are turned over.
The last few years, Steve Keim’s gambled away a few chips on players that haven’t made an impact.
But he’s not the only one.
- The Seattle Seahawks built repeatedly through the draft an elite defense and found Russell Wilson and traded a pick for Marshawn Lynch. Then they traded away a stud center for Jimmy Graham and drafted busts repeatedly for a few years in a row.
- Bill Belichick spent a 1st round pick on a player who’s now a rotational defensive lineman in Dominique Easley with the Rams, and there’s no expectation of perfection amongst even the elite talent selectors in the NFL.
- The Browns have spent years trying to find an elite wide receiver and that’s after trading down from Julio Jones...who’s maybe been one of, if not the best, in the NFL the last decade.
- Arizona Cardinals fans who were furious when the team traded back from taking Terrell Suggs instead for Calvin Pace and Bryant Johnson.
This is the issue with trading down, however, more than it just giving you more of a chance to miss...you get a LOT more chances to miss.
See below what a trade back did for the Cleveland Browns:
Carson Wentz for:— Jared Mueller (@JaredKMueller) April 28, 2018
(Lots of little moves in there not accounted for)
The Browns could have had Jalen Ramsey.
They instead got a TON of picks and ended up at the end with an elite player in....Denzel Ward after an 0-16 season. And that’s just how the NFL draft works. You don’t trade back and suddenly add 3 pro bowl players you “find” in the draft.
Even successful NFL GM’s or a Bill Belichick will draft players who end up as massive busts just because that’s how the draft works. Guys get hurt or don’t develop often and the scouting process works to find guys who are the most likely to succeed.
There’s very very little talent to be found otherwise in that trade. And it’s not just the Browns.
While Davis seems to be coming on and Conklin is a solid right tackle, the issue isn’t the players they took working out...it’s the fact that whatever picks they got in return, none of them added up to replacing or surpassing the value of a Joey Bosa, a Ezekiel Elliot, or a Jalen Ramsey.
All three were instant impact Pro-Bowl caliber players and it was easy to see. The other players for the Titans might have helped flesh out their team but how many of them are true game-changers?
What you make up for in picks, you lose in talent & a sure thing. Think of a bird in the hand like Terrell Suggs being worth two in the bush like Calvin Pace and Bryant Johnson.
And the odds of Arizona finding a player as impactful as the ones that will be at the top of the draft a bit later?
Not very high.
5. Steve Keim has to land the plane after far too many misses in the first round
Imagine it’s the day of the NFL Draft.
-Fans are sitting, waiting and excited to see who Arizona takes.
-The news comes in. It’s a trade down...to a playoff team that moves up for a pass rusher or defensive lineman.
-Keim moves back and takes a 1st round offensive lineman or a wide receiver and picks up a 1st round pick for 2020.
If that lineman turns out and succeeds in Arizona, he’ll be the first under Keim, and fans will have to wait until 2020 to see the pick and, unfortunately, don’t think it’ll be very high given that it’s a playoff team.
The playoff team’s rookie instantly impacts the team and pushes them further forward as a rookie, while the Cardinals fans are pointing at Keim and what could have been had.
Steve Keim can NOT afford another miss like this.
Taking a sure thing for a currently 2-7 team that needs an influx in talent is a much better option than adding less sure items that might not stack up and gives even more reason to the haters calling for Keim’s head.
It’s as simple as looking at it being a bad idea to trade a more known quantity for a greater number of unknown quantities. And it can’t be Steve Keim’s strategy to trust himself and try to pick the good players.
Because look where that’s gotten him—on the hot seat to national media and a 2-7 team that’s already having fans assign “bust” labels to players and are looking at him as being part of the problem, not the solution, for the Cardinals.
In essence, the NFL draft is a gamble. It’s a risk. It’s betting on players and the surest hand is the one that’s found with a top 5 pick rather than a move-back.
I know I’d rather gamble on an Ed Oliver, a Jonah or Quinnen or even a Greedy Williams than I would adding later picks that are less talented, and less of a sure thing.
Trading back is more of a risk.
And it’s a risk that their current GM in Steve Keim, or anyone in the organization this year, should not take.
Don’t trade down, Arizona Cardinals.
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