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Reading Keim at Combine

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals- Kliff Kingsbury Press Conference The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim looked and sounded about as relaxed, confident and excited as ever before as he addressed the media at the 2019 NFL Combine.

Keim covered a ton of ground during his 15-16 minutes at the podium, and while he sounded a little coy at times I think he gave Cardinals’ fans some very good insights as to what he and Kliff Kingsbury wish to accomplish in free agency and in the draft.

First, Keim said that there were 3 or 4 of his own free agents and their agents that he is in discussions with about signing new contracts.

Later in the day, Mike Jurecki tweeted that the four players Keim was talking about are: OLB/DE Markus Golden, G Oday Aboushi, LB Deone Bucannon and DT Rodney Gunter.

The surprise here is G Oday Aboushi—-but Aboushi has the feet and athleticism that Keim talked about during his presser and was a pleasant late season surprise. Keim said that Kingsbury’s offense requires OL to be able to “bend their knees, change directions and play in space.”

Here is what PFF tweeted about Aboushi at the end of the season:

I am going to guess that Aboushi is the one in house free agent that Steve Keim re-signs before free agency.

There is uncertainty about the market values of Markus Golden, Deone Bucannon and Rodney Gunter and thus these players and their agents will want to test the FA waters with the hope that some team treats them like Rod Tidwell and shows them the money.

Recent whispers suggest that the Cardinals intend to pursue DT Domata Peko (Broncos), LB Brandon Marshall (Broncos) and DT Zach Kerr (Broncos). If such rumors are true, then it would seem the Cardinals are getting ready to move on from Deone Bucannon and perhaps Rodney Gunter (if he gets a bigger money offer than what the Cardinals want to pay).

About the draft—-Keim said that it is early in the process of building their 120 player board.

Yes, he said, that “Josh Rosen is the QB right now, for sure.” But, in subsequent interviews, Keim spoke very commendably of Rosen, saying how impressed he was with Rosen’s mental and physical toughness.

As for the kind of players Keim, Kingsbury and the Cardinals are looking for—-Keim could not have been more emphatic when he said players who “play hard, smart and physical—-players who love the game.”

Keim conceded that he and GMs around the league make most of their mistakes “on the person, not the player.” All of the top players have talent, but not all of them have the drive and passion to be great. Keim said, “It’s hard to read a player’s mind and heart.”

When asked about whether he would trade down from the #1 pick, Keim said the only way you stay at #1 is if there is one player that you are convinced would have the biggest impact, you have to take him—-otherwise—-”if there are X amount of players you have assigned an equal value to then you can feel confident about trading down—-the only question is where to draw the line as to how far.”

In a way, Keim answered his own question about the possibility of moving down in this year’s draft when he said that he has already studied a “number of players who warrant the #1 pick.”

With regard to my own film studies, I think Keim is correct about there being a number of players who could be considered for the #1 spot—-but, other than QB Kyler Murray (Oklahoma—-who obviously is a risky pick, but brings special and unique talents, but might be a moot point with Rosen on board)—-I am having the hardest time finding one of the top prospects emerge as a clear #1 choice.

DE Nick Bosa—-has the pedigree, but had an unfulfilled career at Ohio St, due to injury.

OLB Josh Allen—-has edge speed and nose for the QB, but he’s slight of build and doesn’t always apply his speed and physicality to run support and pass coverage.

DT Quinnen Williams—-had a superb season as a first year starter, but did not make much of an impact in the NCAA Championship game—-and needs body definition.

DT Ed Oliver—-coming off a so-so season after a cracker-jack season in 2017. Lacks ideal size, but wins with quickness and hustle.

In my opinion, DE Montez Sweat (Mississippi St.) and DE Christian Wilkins (Clemson) jump out as often if not more to me on tape than Bosa, Allen, Williams and Oliver.

The point is—-these are all very good players—-maybe not elite—-but very good.

This is what I think Steve Keim meant when he said there are a number of players worthy for top of the draft consideration—-and I have only mentioned the defensive lineman. QBs Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins (Ohio St.) are right up there—-and in terms of pure talent—-RB Josh Jacobs (Alabama) and D.K. Metcalf (Mississippi) are extraordinary.

If Keim is trying to stir up the Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins interest, he is being very smart. Because of the depth on the defensive line in the top 10 of the draft, it would have to be one of the QBs who prompts a team to try to trade up to #1.

I do not forsee anyone trading up for Bosa, Allen or Williams.

Thus, I believe that based on Keim’s comments that the only way he stays at #1 is if he and Kingsbury become completely enamored with DE Nick Bosa, OLB Josh Allen, QB Kyler Murray or DT Quinnen Williams. Otherwise, they are going to trade down to add picks.

Keim gave some great info as to the the type of players he is looking for:

  • Athletic offensive lineman
  • Big, physical WRs
  • Stud pass rusher

By adding extra picks in Day 2 of the draft, Keim can better address all three of these prototypes.

The draft picture should become clearer and clearer with each free agent signing.

If Keim signs an edge rusher in free agency to a multi-year deal—-then take edge rusher off the list at the top of the draft. Keim has said that Vance Joseph’s defensive philosophy is predicated on having two stud edge rushers and two premier CBs (Keim loves Robert Alford’s “tenacity, tackling ability, quick-twitch cover prowess”).

If Keim signs a big, physical WR in free agency to a multi-year deal, such as Tyrell Williams, Devin Funchess or Cordarelle Patterson, then the draft need is not as imminent. In the draft there are some dandies such as D.K. Metcalf, N’Keal Harry, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and David Sills.

As for athletic offensive linemen, in free agency, ones who could stand out are T Daryl Williams, G Rodger Saffold and G Quinton Spain—-but the draft is loaded with them—-T Andre Dillard, T Greg Little, T Yodny Cajuste, T/G Dalton Risner, G Chris Lindstrom, G/C Garrett Bradbury, G Michael Jordan, G Dru Samia, T Kaleb McGary, T Tytus Howard, G Darryl Williams and T David Edwards.

The Cardinals picked a great time to have 11 picks in the draft and the top selection in the first 6 rounds because this draft is deep in OL talent.

Keim said he needs to “hit big” in free agency on both side of the ball, but he says that free agency can be “fool’s gold” because there is little access to the players—-and thus it helps to have coaches who know the players in order to feel confident in the investment.

For that reason, Keim expects that some of the Cardinals’ free agents will wind up in Cleveland with Freddie Kitchens and Tampa Bay with Bruce Arians. But Keim says we will have a plan in place to fill those roster spots.

If I had to bet—-I think Kyler Murray is going to have to blow Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim and Adrian Wilson away in the interview and during a pre-draft visit for them to consider taking him at #1.

Otherwise, I think the Cardinals will try to trade down to accumulate as many top picks as possible.

What the Cardinals do in free agency will give us a very strong clues as to what their plans are with their top three to four picks in the draft.