The Arizona Cardinals find themselves in a unique position with regard to the 2019 NFL Draft. They own the number one pick in each of the first six rounds—-and if they are smart they will take advantage of bonanza trade offers in Rounds 1, 2 and 4.
Fist of all—-let’s get one thing out of the way.
This year is a rebuild—-not a retooling.
Can everyone on planet earth now admit this?
The Cardinals made the mistake of trying to do both last season and, as the Las Vegas odds makers predicted, the Cardinals were the worst team in the NFL.
The Cardinals made the bold move of hiring an offensive innovator and QB jockey in Kliff Kingsbury. To be fair—-installing an innovative offense and grooming a young QB are going to take some time and patience.
Now—-what Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim needs to do is take a fresh clean slate approach to the table—-which means letting go and making up for past mistakes.
Keim drafted the team’s QBOF in last year’s draft. Keim likes Josh Rosen’s chances under Kingsbury’s leadership and guidance.
The only reason to stay in the #1 spot in the draft would be to take franchise QB. Even though I and a small cadre of others have tried to make a case for Kyler Murray (because of his natural fit in an Air Raid offense)—-all indications thus far are that Rosen is and remains the chosen one.
Another reason to stay at #1 would be if there was clearly a player there who is, without a doubt, head and shoulders above all the rest.
Draft pundits have been feeling for quite some time that Ohio St.’s DE Nick Bosa fits that bill.
But—-Bosa is still rehabbing from his bilateral abdominal surgery—-and his brother, Joey. has been injury prone—-he’s missed 15 games in 3 years.
With the Cardinals switching back to a 34 base—-where does Nick Bosa fit?
When the Chargers drafted Joey Bosa they were a 34 base defense and they played Bosa at LDE and then moved him to the edge on passing downs.
Is that what the Cardinals would have in mind for Nick Bosa?
If that’s the case—-it would be yet another situation of the Cardinals asking their 1st round draft pick to play a position that he is unfamiliar with.
Plus, Nick Bosa weighs in the 265 range, which is a little light for 34 DEs.
Notice too that after Joey Bosa’s first year with the Chargers, they switched their base to the 43 in part so that Bosa could play 43 DE, his most natural position.
With the switch back to the 34, the Cardinals finally have the chance to get things right with 2017 1st round pick LB Haason Reddick. Reddick, whose Combine numbers compared to Von Miller’s, thrived on the edge at Temple—-and with the former Broncos’ head coach, Vance Josepth, now the Cardinals’ DC, it is quite possible that Joseph can help develop Reddick as a dynamic 34 OLB and nickel edge rusher.
Furthermore, thanks to some nifty acquisitions made by Steve Keim last year, the Cardinals are unusually deep on edge players—-as behind Chandler Jones and Haason Reddick they have Zach Moore, Vontarious Dora and Cameron Malveaux, each of whom flashed pass rushing ability this past season.
Perhaps the Cardinals could add one more in house edge player to that depth if they can agree to terms with Markus Golden or Benson Mayowa.
However, the key to the Cardinals’ entire off-season may very well hinge on what they decide to do with oft-injured LT D.J. Humphries. Steve Keim had already picked up Humphries’ 5th year option, but Keim can opt out before March, which would make Humphries an unrestricted free agent.
The bottom line is Humphries has started a mere 27 games in 4 years—-the past 2 years he has missed 18 games due to injuries. In 9 games this past season, Humphries earned a respectable 68.8 PFF grade, which ranked him as the #40 tackle—-but that doesn’t take into account 7 missed games due to injury, nor the fact that being the #40 rated tackle doesn’t even place him in the top 32—-which for a 1st round draft pick in his 4th year, is unsatisfactory.
The combination of these deterrents would make Steve Keim’s decision to pick up Humphries’ 5th year option at $9.6M a desperate attempt to get value out of a former 1st round pick who has consistently underachieved.
The clear answer—-as it seems at least to me—-is to use the $9.6M saved by letting Humphries become a free agent on one of the top guards in free agency, such as the Rams’ Rodger Saffold or the Colts’ Mark Glowinski—-and then—-trade down from #1 to add another 2nd round pick (and possibly much more)—-to then select a LT who played well in Mike Leach’s Air Raid at Washington St. and who stood out this past week at the Senior Bowl.
If the Cardinals draft LT Andre Dillard, they have their starting LT for the next 5 years, the duration of Kilff Kingsbury’s contract.
Finally the Cardinals would be drafting a 1st rounder who will play the exact same position he played in college.
And they would be rebuilding their new offense around players who fit the system.
Plus—-this is the kind of draft, depth-wise, where the Cardinals can stockpile talented players who are superb fits in the Air Raid offense and the 34 defense.
I think the Cardinals could trade down in Rounds 1, 2 and 4 if they get superb offers.
What this also would enable the Cardinals to do, with so many draft picks, is avoid spending excess money on fringe level UFAs.
For example, with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk returning as starting WRs...and with some good potential WR talent already on board with Chad Williams, Trent Sherfield, Pharoh Cooper and Jalen Tolliver...instead of pouring money into a very average group of veteran free agents...the Cardinals should be able to dedicate two of their top 4-5 picks on WRs who can be hand picked by Kliff Kingsbury.
The key holes the Cardinals need to fill in free agency are at G, DT, ILB, CB. Getting stronger up the middle and on both lines is of paramount importance. And—-finally getting a competent CB opposite Patrick Peterson is of paramount importance.
At RT, Keim has recently stated that he would like to re-sign Joe Barksdale (respectable 2018 PFF grade of 62.5) and continue to groom 2nd year talent Korey Cunningham as the potential long-term starter. Plus, the Cardinals should re-sign T/G John Wetzel as a RFA.
Therefore, using Humphries’ $9.6M to upgrade the guard position and then drafting the ideal LT for the Air Raid offense in Andre Dillard would seem to be a major step in the right direction.
With the #1 pick in the draft the Cardinals may be able to trade down twice to add a pair of 2nd rounders to go with their own—-and still be able to draft LT Andre Dillard.