One of the most important aspects of this offseason for the Arizona Cardinals is not nailing it and becoming an instant contender (though no one would complain) it is nailing it and being prepared for the next four seasons.
The Cardinals have a unique opportunity similar to the Ravens and Chiefs to build around a young, budding superstar quarterback and take advantage of their skill level and low salary.
The key though is finding supplemental players to pair with Murray that allows the Cardinals to maintain their level of play when Murray gets paid.
That’s why the draft will be more important than ever. The Cardinals need to find not just impact players, but they need to find fellow building blocks on day two and day three of the draft.
When you look at the Kansas City Chiefs, most of their defense was bought, with Chris Jones, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Derrick Nnadi all being the only draft picks on the starting defense for the Super Bowl Champions.
All three were day two picks and only Chris Jones played over 50% of the snaps as a rookie.
What the Chiefs did was draft and develop a defensive line that could supplement their 8 other starters. Jones has developed into a star, and that should not go unnoticed, but the foundation was built by consistently investing on day two along the lines.
Over the last five NFL Drafts the Chiefs have drafted these players on day two:
2015 - Mitch Morse (started 49 games in 4 seasons for Chiefs and 16 games in 2019 for Bills)
2016 - Chris Jones (started 41 games in 4 season)
2017 - Tanoh Kpassagnon (started 8 games in 3 seasons)
2018 - Breeland Speaks (started 4 games as rookie IR in 2019)
2018 - Derrick Nnandi (started 27 games in 2 seasons)
2018 - Dorian O’Daniel (started 1 game in 2 seasons)
2019 - Khalen Saunders (started 4 games as a rookie)
Five drafts, seven picks spent on the defensive front or offensive line. O’Daniel would be the only “bust” and is a key special teams contributor.
The Chiefs also traded away first round picks in 2016, 2018 and 2019. 2016 was for additional draft picks, 2018 was for Mahomes and 2019 was for pass rusher Frank Clark.
The Chiefs have consistently put their front seven on defense as a day two priority in the NFL Draft. They spend at least one pick every season on it and are not afraid to continue to cycle through.
The Cardinals in the same span of time:
2015 - Markus Golden (24 starts in 4 seasons for Cardinals 16 starts in 1 season for NY Giants)
2018 - Mason Cole (18 starts in 2 season for Cardinals)
2019 - Zach Allen (1 start in 2019 before going on IR)
Compare the numbers. Three picks since 2015 on day two for offensive line and defensive front players.
The Chiefs have two players that have nearly as many starts alone as all the picks for the Cardinals combined. The Cardinals have 43 total starts out of day two players. The Chiefs have 134 starts out of their day two players along just the offensive line and defensive front.
The Cardinals have the quarterback, they have the weapons, they need to find a way to invest as heavily and consistently along the lines.
It’s not about using day one picks, the Chiefs have not drafted an offensive linemen in the first round since Eric Fisher or a defensive front player since Dee Ford, it’s about consistently drafting these positions. It is about consistent investment, not premium investment.
That’s where the Arizona Cardinals are now. It doesn’t have to be the eighth pick to get help, but you can’t get help if you never consistently invest.