The Cardinals don't hold as many first-round picks as the Raiders, Giants, or Packers, but they might be the most important team in this week's draft. After all, how the Cardinals use the top-overall pick -- and there are a multitude of options available to them -- will shape the draft more than any other decision.
The vast majority of the Cardinals' focus will rightfully be on their decision at the top of the table, but their draft won't end there. As of Monday night, they'll enter the draft with 10 selections -- one pick in each of the first five rounds followed by two sixth-round picks and three seventh-round compensatory picks. Based on how poorly their 2018 season went (3-13 with a negative-200 point differential), the Cardinals need to hit on more than just the first-overall pick. An influx of talent is needed to engineer a successful rebuild.
In the third installment of our Play GM series (2019 NFL Draft, beginning of course with the top-overall pick. As for the actual draft, you can stream our live coverage right here on CBS Sports HQ or download the CBS Sports app for free on any mobile or connected TV device./ ), let's examine how the Cardinals can approach every round of the
Pick: No. 1
The way I see it, the Cardinals have three options in the first round.
Option 1: Take Kyler Murray and trade Josh Rosen
Despite recent rumblings suggesting the Cardinals are moving away from their plan to take Murray, I still believe this is the most likely outcome.
It's no secret that new coach Kliff Kingsbury has eyes for Murray. Back in autumn, before Kingsbury had been fired by Texas Tech, Kingsbury said he would take Murray No. 1 overall if he ever had the chance. Kingsbury now has that chance, although it is worth noting that it is still general manager Steve Keim who is likely in charge of draft-related matters -- and it was Keim who pulled the trigger on a trade to grab Rosen at No. 10 in last year's draft. Then again, , so if Kingsbury believes Murray gives them the best chance to build a winning team, they should go get him.
And it's not like Arizona is the only team that believes Murray is worthy of the top-overall pick.Murray quickly cemented his status as the best quarterback in this year's draft class.
The problem is, in order to take Murray, they need to find a way to trade Rosen. While there will certainly be suitors for Rosen -- a very talented quarterback who would be in the top pick conversation if he was entering the NFL this year -- it's going to be virtually impossible for the Cardinals to recoup all of the value they parted ways with to take Rosen a year ago, which might affect their strategy. Every possible suitor knows the Cardinals likely want to trade Rosen, which lowers their leverage. Although I would argue that Rosen's dreadful rookie season, which he spent in a terrible offensive system, shouldn't be held against him, teams will certainly use it against the Cardinals during negotiations.
Getting a first-round pick is unlikely. Getting a second-round pick is possible, but not every team will be willing to give up one. According to SNY's Ralph Vacchiano, the Giants -- a very quarterback-needy team -- and they don't think a third-round pick would be enough for the Cardinals. It's not known how the rest of the field feels -- teams like the Redskins, Chargers, Dolphins, and Patriots could all conceivably be interested -- but it's not far-fetched to think they could agree with the Giants' assessment. If the Cardinals don't get an offer they want, would they still be willing to take Murray and then trade Rosen away for a less-than-ideal price?
To sum up: I believe that the Cardinals want Murray. But I also think they'll only take Murray if they get a offer for Rosen that helps them save face. In that sense, even though they have the top pick, taking the player they likely want (Murray) isn't entirely up to them.
Option 2: Trade down
If the Cardinals decide to stick with Rosen, their best option might be to trade down the board to gather more draft ammunition they can use to fill out the roster around him. All it would require is a quarterback-needy team to get desperate for Murray and to offer the Cardinals an attractive package.
When the Bears traded up from No. 3 to No. 2 to grab Mitchell Trubisky in 2017,the No. 3 pick, a third-round pick (67th overall), and a fourth-round pick (111th overall) in the 2017 draft plus a third-round pick in the 2018 draft. There are that come to mind. The point remains the same: Trading out of a spot where a top quarterback will get taken usually results in a haul of picks. And given how difficult drafting is -- it's a crapshoot -- the best way to build a strong team is to acquire as many picks as possible to give yourself more opportunities to strike gold.
I think there's one team in particular that could be calling the Cardinals this week with offers: The Raiders, who own pick Nos. 4, 24, and 27. The Raiders need a new franchise quarterback to take with them to Las Vegas. Derek Carr's contract is about to become very cuttable. Now, the Raiders just need to identify their long-term solution at the position. That solution could be Murray. And there's an argument to be made that .
Last week, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the Raiders sent all their scouts home and won't allow them to return before the draft in order to prevent their draft plans from being leaked. As I wrote at the time, the report isn't actually that big of a deal. New general manager Mike Mayock inherited most of the scouting department. He was always expected to replace them with his own scouts after the draft. Now that the scouting work is over, he has no reason to keep them around. The scouts have no real reason to demonstrate loyalty to him because they know that they're probably not ever returning to the team.
But. And the way I see it, the biggest possible secret is the Raiders wanting to move up to No. 1 to take Murray. In the event a trade doesn't get completed, they wouldn't want Carr to find out they tried to replace him.
If the Raiders traded up to No. 1, a deal would include the No. 4 pick going to the Cardinals. At No. 4, the Cardinals would still be able to take one of the following players: Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen, all of whom could be in play at No. 1 overall. In addition to getting a top defensive player, the Cardinals would get an assortment of other picks, which they could then use to fill out their roster.
For those reasons, this is my favorite option of the three.
Option 3: Take Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, or Josh Allen
If they don't decide to trade Rosen and if they don't get a good offer to trade down, the Cardinals should take a top defensive player. The three players to consider: two pass rushers in Bosa and Allen, and an interior lineman in Williams. Williams might be the best player in the draft, but Bosa and Allen play a position that is often considered to be more valuable in today's NFL. Out of those three, Bosa and Williams are the frontrunners.
Regardless of who they take, the Cardinals would be adding Bosa/Williams/Allen to a defensive front that already features Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs. That's not a bad outcome.
Second-round picks: No. 33
Third-round picks: No. 65
If the Cardinals use the first-overall pick on a player on the defensive front, they should target a receiver, cornerback or offensive lineman in the second round. If the Cardinals use the first-overall pick on Murray, they should target a receiver, cornerback, offensive lineman, or a player on the defensive front (edge or interior).
One receiver who could be in play is N'Keal Harry, who played collegiately at Arizona State. According to Rapoport, he had a private workout with the Cardinals on Saturday. Other targets could be Marquise Brown, A.J. Brown, and D.K. Metcalf, although there's a very real chance all three of those players will go in the first round.
Two cornerbacks they could target are DeAndre Baker out of Georgia and Justin Layne out of Michigan State, both of whom are possible first rounders. Players on the defensive front they could be eyeing include defensive linemen Jerry Tillery and Jeffery Simmons (two potential first-round picks). One interior offensive lineman to keep an eye on is Erik McCoy (Ryan Wilson has).
A lot of those players are considered first-round talents. Many of them won't be available at the beginning of the second round. But every year, potential first-round picks fall out of the first round. So, the Cardinals should be able to get a first-round talent with their second-round pick.
A pass rusher they should consider in Round 3 is Jachai Polite, who was once regarded as first-round pick before his stock plummeted during the draft process. Wilson has Polite falling to the third round in his seven-round mock. A receiver like Deebo Samuel could be around at No. 65, as could Parris Campbell. Wilson has. Julian Love, who ranks higher than Mullen on our cornerback board, could also be available. In terms of an offensive lineman, the versatile Michael Deiter could be a good option to give the Cardinals flexibility up front.
Fourth-round picks: No. 103
Fifth-round picks: No. 139
Sixth-round picks: Nos. 174 and 179
Seventh-round compensatory picks: Nos. 248, 249, and 254
How the Cardinals approach the final four rounds obviously depends on how they approached the first three rounds. But at this point, I think every position except quarterback should be on the table. It's not like the Cardinals are especially deep at any position.
So, let's run through some players who could make for good fits in Arizona. For this, I'm going to lean on Ryan Wilson's and R.J. White's seven-round mock drafts, which you can findand .
- Tight end Dax Raymond in the fourth round (per Wilson)
- Center Lamont Gaillard in the fifth round (per White)
- Defensive tackle Daniel Wise in the fifth round (per Wilson)
- Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa in the sixth round (per Wilson)
- Defensive tackle Albert Huggins in the sixth round (per White)
- Receiver KeeSean Johnson in the sixth round (per Wilson)
- Running back Darwin Thompson in the seventh round (per Wilson)
- Linebacker Sione Takitaki in the seventh round (per White)
- Defensive end Jalen Jelks in the seventh round (per Wilson)
- Offensive tackle Isaiah Prince in the seventh round (per Wilson)
So, there you have it. The Cardinals don't just own the most important pick in the draft, they also own nine picks over the final two days of the draft. It's a tremendous opportunity to dig themselves out of the hole they fell into a year ago by hitting on most of their picks, but also a dangerous opportunity to further bury themselves in the depths of the NFC West by making several poor selections.
Beginning on Thursday, we'll find out how the Cardinals plan to approach the draft when they answer the biggest question of the offseason: Murray or Rosen? Two days later, the Cardinals will make the final pick of the draft, bringing an end to draft season and ushering in the 2019 season.