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Coy Cards and Draft Ratings

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Kyler Murray Press Conference Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest mystery in the aftermath of the 2019 NFL Draft is why the Cardinals were so steadfastly coy in keeping everyone, including Josh Rosen and his agent, in complete suspense at the start of the show.

I chose to call it a “show” because that’s what it was---a show.

What we do not know is what kind of incentives that Roger Goodell and the NFL front office gave the Cardinals to do everything in their power to maximize the draft night suspense.

What we do know is that the start of the draft last year commenced the same way---with the Cleveland Browns surprising the NFL universe by going with Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield.

We also know (if you recall) that the Browns took the entire 10 minutes to spring their surprise---just as the Cardinals did. Ugh.

I don’t know about you, but watching the Cardinals’ draft room and everyone just sitting there doing nothing except Steve Keim looking down at his cellphone was mystifying and torturous. They were waiting for a last second epic phone call to generate a blockbuster trade, right?

Um, I thought that at the time, but now I am convinced that the Cardinals were just simply complying with the league’s request to take the pick down to the last seconds.

Not only for the suspense factor---but the longer the draft is, the more the networks make in advertising.

But why oh why didn’t the Cardinals handle the Josh Rosen situation more prudently and compassionately?

This is the question that I kept asking Seth over and over during our several phone calls before the draft. Seth, as always, had smart answers. He said that if the team traded Josh Rosen two weeks prior to the draft and an unbelievable trade offer came the Cardinals’ way where the Cardinals would have to gamble that their top choice would still be available where they pick, they could have wound up losing Rosen and Murray.

Seth also pointed out something I never thought of, but now it seems perfectly clear, is it is wise for a team to wait to make sure that nothing happens, thank goodness, to their top pick.

So---as it turned out the Cardinals had struck a verbal agreement on a contract with Kyler Murray and his agent, in the event that Kyler would be taken #1.

The Cardinals had all their ducks in a row.

And moment before the pick was made, Kliff Kingsbury called Josh Rosen to tell him, “We think the world of you. It’s not you. It’s me.”

Yes, the Cardinals and GM Steve Keim come across as looking foolish when they then finally started making phone calls about Josh Rosen.

But, they had done exactly what the NFL wanted them to do and they played the scenario as safely and conservatively as possible.

Some draft pundits insisted that Josh Rosen would have been the top QB prospect in this year’s draft---which makes the Cardinals cautiousness sound worse.

However, it is so rare that a 1st round QB gets traded after one season---it would be like trying to trade your 2018 Toyota for a new 2019 Toyota of the same model.

Furthermore, when one looks at the draft grades for the top rated 2018 and 2019 QBs, the numbers do not work in Josh Rosen’s favor. For example, on NFL.com, here were their grades:

7.00---Sam Darnold

6.25---Kyler Murray

6.20---Dwayne Haskins

6.19---Josh Rosen

6.04---Baker Mayfield

5.98---Drew Lock

5.91---Lamar Jackson

5.90---Josh Allen

5.81---Daniel Jones

Now---I don’t entirely agree with those ratings, nor do most of you, I imagine. But, it’s an interesting comparison. And, it didn’t help Rosen’s cause that he played and struggled under such difficult circumstances last year. Obviously, anyone looking at these ratings now would rearrange them and there’s no way that Baker Mayfield would be ranked 5th, or so one would imagine.

On the eve of the draft, NFL Network’s David Carr was asked to what his rankings would be and here is what he wrote on the white board:

1. Mayfield

2. Murray

3. Darnold

4. Haskins

5. Allen

6. Jones

7. Rosen

8. Jackson

9. Lock

Carr said that for him it was a toss up between Mayfield and Murray, but he gave Mayfield the edge for having already played a year in the NFL and performed commendably.

As the draft played out, obviously the Giants, Redskins and Broncos had Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock (respectively) rated higher than Josh Rosen.

Please know that I am not trying to suggest that those three QBs are better and more talented than Josh Rosen, because I actually do not believe that.

Thus, my point is, despite waiting until the draft to actively shop Josh Rosen, I think the Cardinals did about as well as they could anyway, especially seeing as they were able to acquire one of the favorite players in the draft, WR Andy Isabella and add a 2020 5th round pick.

Yes, we don’t know what advantages the Cardinals could have gained by being transparent and by shopping Josh Rosen a few weeks before the draft.

What we do know is that the NFL’s newest strategy in doing all they can to keep the fans in suspense is working---and it is working big-time. Not only on Day 1 where this year they drew a whopping record 6.1M viewers, but also on Day 2 when they drew 5.7M (a 19% increase from last year), outdrawing the Golden State Warriors playoff game by 2.7M.

What we also know is that the draft this year drew 600,000 people into the streets of Nashville. Wow. That’s up from the 200,000 fans the draft drew in Philadelphia two years ago.

Having the draft covered by three stations was a boon---and just maybe this will inspire the league to make NFL games more readily and affordably available to out of town fans and thereby eliminate the NFL Sunday Ticket DirecTV monopoly.

While old-timers like myself loved the draft better when to was Rounds 1-3 on Saturday day and Rounds 4-7 on Sunday day---I have to admit the new format is growing on me. The sights and sounds of that crowd in Nashville were exhilarating---and while the NFL drags the procedure along tediously at times, at least we get the draft started two days earlier.

My biggest dilemma right now is which network I prefer. I still love listening to Mel Kiper---for years I bought his Blue Book and he was gracious in taking my phone calls back in the early days. But I find Todd McShay somewhat annoying and I miss the Kiper/Jon Gruden dynamic. This year I had a hard time sticking with them.

On NFL Network, I think Rich Eisen is a hoot and I very much enjoy and appreciate Daniel Jeremiah, Steve Mariucci, Charles Davis and special guest, David Shaw (he is fantastic)---plus I thought Joel Klatt and Peter Schrager were positive additions this year. Moreover, the NFL Network stayed much more on top of the picks as they were made, especially on Day 3. That’s why I would give NFLN an A and ESPN a B.

What was your experience this year and what are your thoughts? I love hearing what everyone else has to say.

What irked me the most, other than having to wait the whole 10 minutes on the #1 pick (making the draft already 25 minutes old by then), was Goodell starting the draft with the super fan contest. I mean, “c’mon, man.” It’s such a long wait for the draft----it just shows how clueless at times Roger Goodell is in understanding what the fans really want. Plus, I thought Steve Smith’s rant about Josh Rosen was egregiously wrong and unwarranted.

However, when all was said and done, this was my favorite draft for the Cardinals and thus the viewing experience felt all the more special.