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Banking on Chase

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The Arizona Cardinals finish to the 2018 NFL Draft tells us about the direction they were headed.

NCAA Football: Fordham at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, John Harris of the Washington Post wrote a preview titled “The Best Prospects for Day 3.” One of the nine players Harris highlighted was Fordham’s record-breaking RB Chase Edmonds. Here is what Harris wrote:

“After the 2015 season, I was combing the FCS all-American teams looking for some diamonds in the rough and noted a sophomore running back from Fordham. Only three sophomores earned that honor so I figured I should check him out. Come to find out, he was even better as a freshman. Regardless, from that first viewing, I was smitten with the lightning-quick human highlight reel. Edmonds turned 2- and 3-yard gains into chunk runs for Joe Moorhead’s offense (now the head coach at Mississippi State). Edmonds isn’t blessed with Saquon Barkley’s size and speed, but he is one of the quickest backs in this draft. He was banged up throughout most of 2017, missing a number of games, but he probably needed to save some tread on the tire after 864 touches in his first three seasons. At the combine, he strung together some impressive testing, including a sterling 6.79 seconds in the three-cone drill. He won’t be a three down back but his explosiveness, combined with his receiving abilities, bodes well for Edmonds to make a roster after being a Day 3 selection.”

Some Cardinals’ fans seemed surprised that Steve Keim would pick Chase Edmonds at pick in the 4th round at pick #134. However, knowing how much time Keim, Steve Wilks, Mike McCoy and RB coach Kirby Wilson spent scouting and visiting with Edmonds, it would even be reasonable to assume that Edmonds was a part of the conversation at pick #97, where the Cardinals eventually decided on C Mason Cole of Michigan.

Yesterday, when Steve Keim was asked why he drafted Edmonds when he already had a similar player in T.J. Logan, Keim was very quick to offer a salient distinction. He said that Logan is more of a straight-line runner, whereas Edmonds thrives on vision, sneaky balance and wiggle. Keim went on to say that he and the coaches compare Edmonds to a “lofty” NFL RB, but did not want to divulge the name.

What is very impressive about the way Steve Keim goes about his business is how vital the pre-draft visits are in narrowing in on the players he wants most. Keim and the coaches (and even Michal Bidwill when available) relish spending enough face time with the prospects to get a precise feel of their football IQ, their passion for the game and their magnetism as people. In that way, when Keim drafts players they already feel like family to him, the coaches and the players themselves.

What’s equally impressive is how connected this year’s draft picks are to one another. Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk went through the college recruiting process together. They met at camps and developed a friendship, which has lasted to this day In fact, Rosen and Kirk took their recruiting visits to UCLA together.

It just so happens that Chase Edmonds was visiting the Cardinals when Josh Rosen was in town and they started developing a rapport.

This draft must feel like serendipity to Steve Keim. The fact that he could host these key visits with Rosen, Kirk and Edmonds and then actually draft all three of them is quite a sleight of hand.

Some Cardinals’ fans were asking, “Why draft another RB when you already have David Johnson and T.J. Logan?” It’s a legitimate question, particularly when there are other needs.

But, the addition of Edmonds, who is more of a three down RB than Logan, further addresses Mike McCoy’s wish to run a Patriots’ style offense. The Patriots like to go 4-5 deep at RB and they prefer RBs who have upside as receivers. Edmonds said yesterday that the Cardinals have already informed him that in addition to running the ball, they are going to use him, like they will with David Johnson from time to time, in the slot.

One of the things that last season proved was the Cardinals need more reliable, consistent playmakers on offense. Steve Keim used this draft to put the icing on that cake. Keim will need to add another TE or two in the weeks ahead because passing away from leverage to the TEs is a staple of the Patriots’ offense. It also happens to play right into Sam Bradford’s and Josh Rosen’s most prolific strengths.

While Steve Keim would not say which “lofty” NFL RB Chase Edmonds reminds him of (fantastic that Keim is now showing restraint where players comps are concerned), in studying Edmonds’ running style and production, I think he compares very favorably to Maurice Jones-Drew. Low center of gravity---superb balance and vision---surprising lower leg power---very slippery and elusive in terms of wiggle---good, soft hands and precise route runner.

With picks #182 and #254, Keim knew he wasn’t going to be able to draft an immediate contributor, so he selected two talented projects in CB Christian Campbell (6-1, 195, Penn St.) and T Korey Cunningham. (6-6, 305, Cincinnati). Campbell has the size, strength and athleticism to one day be a stout boundary zone CB in Wilks’ system. Wilks helped develop Josh Norman into a star, and Norman was a 5th round pick.

In Cunningham, who wowed the Cardinals’ coaches with his 4.9 speed and 38” vertical at 6-6, 305 to the point where Ray Brown was calling Cunningham during the draft yesterday to say he was going to do all he could to bring Cunningham on board. Mission accomplished. Good thing too because 8-9 other teams were hot on Cunningham’s trail, should he have gone undrafted.

In addition, if the reported UDFA signings are accurate, the Cardinals added a very impressive haul of talent. Some of the signees who have a legitimate chance to make the 53 man roster are: DE Alec James (Wisconsin), CBs Deatrick Nichols (CFU), CB/S Taveira Thomas (Ferris St.), TE Andrew Vollert, FB Austin Ramesh (Wisconsin), LB Frank Ginda (San Jose St.), LB Matt Oplinger (Yale) and SS A.J. Howard (Appalachian St.).

I jumped for joy when I saw the Cardinals signed QB Chad Kanoff of Princeton,. I knew that Byron Leftwich made a trip out to New Jersey to work Kanoff out and was highly impressed. Kanoff set passing records at Princeton. This past year he completed over 73% of his passes while garnering 1st team All-Ivy league honors.

I was very surprised based on the pre-draft buzz surrounding Kanoff that Kanoff wasn’t drafted. Going back to John Harris of the Washington Post, he had Kanoff as one of his top 9 prospects for Day 3. Here’s what he wrote:

“The buzz of the 2018 draft surrounds the top five or six quarterbacks, but for a team that wants a developmental prospect with a ton of upside, it’s time to turn to the Ivy League. Kanoff was the Ivy League offensive player of the year, breaking record after record in his senior campaign. Breaking records in the Ivy League doesn’t always make one an NFL prospect, but Kanoff is 6-4, 219 pounds, prototypical quarterback size with a strong arm and athleticism. He ran 4.90 in the 40-yard dash, posted a vertical jump of 32.5 inches and had a stellar pro day. He completed better than 73 percent of his passes in 2017 and displayed the accuracy and velocity that teams desire in an NFL quarterback. Don’t be surprised to hear his name on Day 3 alongside some better-known FBS signal callers.” (Washington Post)

Amazingly, another one of Harris’ top 9 prospects for Day 3 was LB Frank Ginda of San Jose St. Here’s what Harris had to say about Ginda:

“If it moved in the Mountain West Conference, more than likely, Ginda tackled it. He amassed 173 tackles in 13 games to lead the nation (more than 13 stops per game) last season as a junior and decided to enter the draft to capitalize on that performance. He had 179 stops in his first two seasons, so it wasn’t as if he was a one-year wonder. He’s quick to the football and seemingly has an idea where every play is going to take place. He’s excellent against the run and, even more important, it seems in the new NFL world order, he plays the zone read and quarterback run extremely well. I love the pop in his pads and the fact that once he makes contact, the play is done; he didn’t miss often. He’s nearly the same exact size as Roquan Smith and ran relatively well at his pro day (averaged 4.7 in the 40). He knocked out a 6.8 on the three-cone, not surprising given the way he can redirect to the ball carrier. He’s going to be a team’s Day 3 draft steal, no question.” (Washington Post)

Furthermore, how about the two UDFA kickers the Cardinals signed! P Joe Davidson (Bowling Green) and K Matthew McCrane (Kansas St) are legit NFL prospects. Davidson at 6-7, 235 booms the ball (net average of 42.3) and McCrane set the all-time FG percentage record (86.4) at K-State and the all-time extra point percentage (99%). His career percentage of made field goals of 50 yards or more was over 60%.

As Steve Wilks has enthusiastically maintained that all jobs are wide open, gone are the days when Cardinals’ kickers have token competition in training camp, if any at all. This is game on!