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5 Things we learned from the 2021 Draft Episode of “Cards Flight Plan”: First Class

What did this year’s draft episode teach us about the Arizona Cardinals and what new insight did we get from inside the draft room, thanks to the team’s media members?

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Every year, it always is greeted with new insight and special revelations.

It, of course, is the award-winning Cards Flight Plan mini-doc series that’s produced by the Arizona Cardinals featuring groundbreaking behind-the-scenes footage

Like in 2020, the “I’m good with that one at 8 if y’all are” from Kliff Kingsbury before Isaiah Simmons went to the team 8th overall at the 7:30 minute mark:

So, what to make with this year’s draft episode? In case you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to watch it at the link below before continuing:

All set? Well, then let’s go!

Here are 5 big takeaways from the 2021 draft & the process:

#1. The Cardinals LOVED Zaven Collins and Collins loved being drafted

The sheer emotion from Zaven over the phone and him saying the team was going to “[bleeping] kill everybody” and “get a ring on the finger so big a show dog wouldn’t be able to jump over it” was a highlight.

There was a bit of fun made at Steve’s expense, and he even poked a bit of fun at the media that he knew was recording as well, with Rob Fredrickson texting in saying the equivalent of “I liked that pick of Zaven Collins so much I bet that you let [Michael Bidwill] pick it this time.”

Hilarious.

A bit of a shot at some of the team’s past first rounders, to be sure, but the GM had nothing but confidence was all that Keim had as he said that he was a “starter day one, big fast and smart.”

He then paused, saying “put that on camera, guys.” Playing to the crowd and watching media? Love it. Keim’s trusting his “two trees” to deliver in a big way this year.

Speaking of Zaven, it was adorable seeing the guffaw on his face as he checked out the high-tech bubble practice fields and even readily adjustable...although it’s clear that as he lined up illegally in one drill at rookie camp, it IS going to be a work-in-progress for the rookie.

#2. The Top 120 board, as usual, remains covered but there’s always a gem or two to guess

The notable top 120 draft board that the Arizona Cardinals draft from is a closely-guarded secret, and this year’s was no different. Colors weren’t just obscured, but were also color-changing to a degree to disguise the REST of the players that were bound for other teams in the league.

In 2019, Keim talked about the way their board fell “perfectly” in a way almost mirroring the 2004 draft in which he revealed that Larry Fitzgerald was indeed the #1 player on their board and would have been a Cardinal no matter who was available with the pick.

This year (I won’t tell you when) a notable eye might have caught a brief glimpse of some of the last names of a few of the actual draft selections that had been obscured, and interestingly enough, one of those names was “MOO” (as in...Moore, not a cow).

Given the 2021 draft, this could mean either Elijah Moore or, given the context, “more” likely Rondale Moore, the future Cardinal who would be taken with the 49th pick a bit later in the video. Some other names that might have been spotted could be the likes of Teven Jenkins or Christian Darrisaw, both fitting into spots near where they were actually selected in the NFL draft in rounds 2 and the first, respectively.

The “what if” game is one of the most interesting ones to play with draft prospects. What if Rondale Moore wasn’t there? Would Keim have gone receiver or really taken another position? Also...

Even Zaven’s last name of COLLINS, some fans on reddit were able to put together that Collins was likely ranked between 9 and 12 on the Cards’ big board.

Well I’m here to tell you that after the current episode...it’s likely that he was ranked even HIGHER than between 9 and 12, but that’s besides the point. The point is that the Cardinals’ got the guys they wanted in back-to-back rounds and that’s an unusual point for any team to have given the uncertainty of the draft.

#3. Bill Davis and the Cardinals’ Defensive Mindset

LB’s Coach Bill Davis stopped in for a film session on Zaven Collins, showing the impressive diagnosis and athleticism for the “quarterback” of his defense.

However, the back-wall signs perhaps had just as much insight as to the defensive philosophy of the Cards.

While “G.T.B....on 3!” with G.T.B. standing for “get the ball” might be a timing mechanism for the team to work on in one way or another (loose balls from fumbles within 3 seconds, a timing pattern for hitting players, etc). the wall to the left had an image that summed up the Vance Joseph philosophy in 3 simple steps:

  1. Win on 1st down
  2. Get off the field on 3rd down
  3. Protect the Paint (FG’s Only)

While some might ask “what about second down?” this really was what we saw for the Arizona Cardinals’ defense early in the season, when they were one of the best 3rd down and red zone defenses in the entire NFL, and kept their offense in the game quite often.

The Lions game in particular in holding Detroit and Matthew Stafford to Field Goals stands out here and it’s interesting to see the team’s unique perspective on what they want to be as a defense...and how well they can execute according to this game plan.

4. Kyler <3’s Rondale and Keim really (really) <3’s Rondale’s return ability

While there were several Cards fans who were aghast when Asante Samuel Jr., a cornerback, was selected two picks ahead of Arizona, Steve Keim didn’t seem to be phased when there were two picks left to go ahead of Arizona.

He mentioned Rondale Moore’s return ability as the first thing, along with him as a kick returner. Coach Kingsbury called him a “dog” and “special” with the ball in his hands.

But what stands out the most was how Steve Keim KEPT mentioning his return ability. Return ability. Kick return. Return ability.

Four times! I wonder how they envision his role in Year 1?

But Keim also mentioned that Kyler Murray “loves this guy” and even said the same to Rondale on the telephone itself.

Who wouldn’t love an explosive athlete who’s smaller than you at 5’7 that could look up to you...mentally and physically?

Keim: “You can do some fun [stuff] with him.

I think that about sums it up.

5. The trade-up for Marco Wilson took more negotiating...but Arizona felt it was worth it

There was an interesting set of calls preceding the trade with some negotiation. At around 16:52 in the video, an iPhone rings and Keim says what seems to be “Fitterer” aka Panthers GM Scott Fitterer.

The Panthers picked RB Chuba Hubbard at pick 126, while Arizona ended up moving to 136 for Wilson. Perhaps the call was trying to get Arizona to move up for a running back given their lack of depth? Or was Carolina looking to move back? Or even up at all, if the piece is disjointed?

It’s curious, but perhaps several teams were looking at the Cardinals knowing they needed to make a move up. So negotiations began, going back and forth:

-Baltimore offered their 4th for a 2022 3rd, straight up, allowing Arizona to keep their 5th round pick

(this fits in the typical draft value of a current pick being worth a pick ONE round higher from next year’s draft...it was just too high for Arizona)

-Arizona counters with a 5th and 2022 4th for a 2021 4th and 6th...which is called even.

(this also fits most of the updated/revised trade value charts that can be found floating around on the web that differ slightly from the Jimmy Johnson trade chart with the future 4th being worth just enough more than the current 4th that Baltimore needed to toss something else into the deal)

-Baltimore accepted the deal even though Arizona was looking to move a piece in 2022 should they decline and the move was made

Arizona clearly liked Marco Wilson a LOT as they said that he could play inside and out and “they said he was the smartest guy on their defense so they had to use him some in nickel”.

Now THAT is interesting.

Mostly offensive Florida Gators were selected in this year’s draft, with Tedarrell Slaton the only other defensive player from Florida selected from this year’s draft (Wilson going ahead of him), and the Cardinals felt that it was “huge” that they acquired him.

Bonus: The insight “G” had on the selection of Tay Gowan.

I would love to know who “G” is that Steve Keim was calling about before the team made their selection of the UCF corner Gowan official.

Could it be player personnel director Dru Grigson?

Or college scouting coordinator Ryan Gold? Not as likely...

While it’s not a shot at defensive quality control coach Rob Grosso, the person who makes the most sense is clearly 12 year veteran cornerbacks coach Greg Williams. “A 6’1 corner who can fly”. Getting the sign of approval from the position coach is something that is good communication and something that every good NFL team does to get on the same page.

And when that happens all the time, the “first class” of a draft class can really become the future of a First Class NFL organization.

What were your fave takeaways from the episode?

Sound off in the comments below!