GLENDALE, AZ — The NFL Draft gets underway Thursday in Cleveland, and we know this: Three quarterbacks are coming off the board with the first three picks. Where the other two highly rated quarterbacks come off the board is what will help dictate the trickle-down effect to the Cardinals who hold the 16th pick.
Watch all seven rounds of the NFL Draft on ABC15 starting with round one Thursday at 5 p.m. and rounds two and three Friday at 4 p.m.
"We're hoping they go with the top five picks," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the run on quarterbacks. "It will push a player that we have rated really highly to us. So, it's going to be interesting."
Who might that push to the Cardinals? They have needs at cornerback, wide receiver, and tight end for starters.
Kyle Pitts (Florida tight end) will be long gone. The top three receivers (Ja'Marr Chase/LSU, DeVonta Smith/Alabama, Jaylen Waddle/Alabama) are likely gone in the first 15 picks. So too will the top corner. Do they covet any of those guys enough to trade up?
"If you had to weigh it out, with six picks and where we're sitting, I think it would be more likely to trade back than to trade up," said Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim. "As far as trading back and accumulating more picks, it's no different than a lottery ticket, the more you have, the better you have a chance to hit. So, we know it's an inexact business and to be able to accumulate more picks would be a real coup for us."
The Cardinals are lacking in the draft capital department, missing third and fourth-round selections.
Keim raved about the depth of the wide receiver class this year. And between Patrick Surtain II from Alabama, Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech, and Jaycee Horn from South Carolina, cornerback isn't lacking top-end talent either.
"I do think that it's a deep corner draft. Pick your poison, you know, these guys are all a little different. Surtain II, Horn, Farley, they are guys that can be nickels, nickel only. To me, the nickel position is getting harder and harder to find," Keim said. "[We] really feel good about that position and the opportunities that may present themselves, but those top three are all very, very good."
If Kyler Murray has the influence he believes he should, do the Cardinals get him another offensive player to help take that unit to the next level after going with a defensive player in the first round last year?
"I think going into year three, same system for a lot of these guys. We felt like we made some key additions in some key spots, and then Kyler's mastery of the offense," Kingsbury said. "With all the things coming together, we just really hope we can take another big step offensively and be one of the offenses that's really hard to stop this season."
"Obviously, if two players are in a similar area, and one is a positional need, you'd lean towards that player," Keim said. "But you never want to get in a position where you have your board stacked and you have an 87 or a 90-type player, and you pass them up for a positional need because, ultimately, your needs are always changing. I've said it many times, your needs in April and May are much different than they are in October, November. So, needs are always changing, but you can't have enough good players."
An interesting wrinkle heading into the draft was the difficulty in scouting players. Between the number of opt outs from last college football season, and the fact that 1,800 players of about 5,500 from the draft scouting pool decided to return to college, the scouts had their legwork cut out. Keim said they attended close to 50 pro days, which is way more than normal, because there was no combine.
But every team is in the same boat. We'll see what the Cardinals walk away with Thursday night.