Arians’ draft comments hint at Cardinals’ priorities

Bruce Arians, coming off a 10-6 debut season, is preparing for his second draft with the Cardinals.

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One thing Bruce Arians has established in his year with the Cardinals — other than that he’s a pretty good coach, of course — is that he doesn’t possess the coachspeak filter that comes installed standard on most of his peers. He speaks his mind and means what he says.

With that in mind, Arians has made some interesting comments this week in regards to the Cardinals’ plans for May’s NFL Draft. On Friday, in a radio interview with FOXSports.com’s Jay Mohr, Arians was asked about the possibilities in the first round (the Cardinals have the 20th pick overall after going 10-6 in Arians’ debut season), and his responses were frank.

"We need (help) on both lines of scrimmage. … If there is a quarterback that we just fell in love with at the right spot, then I would say quarterback. But if it’s a quarterback for me in the first round, he’s starting. I’m not a guy that believes sitting on the bench teaches you anything."

That assessment echoed what Arians had told Bob McMananam of the Arizona Republic on Tuesday during a draft-related Q&A. Asked which prospects he’s most excited about and who might end up in Arizona, Arians told the Republic: "I think it’s on the lines of scrimmage. We’ve got to continue to build our offensive and defensive line. I like our skill players, but we’re always looking for speed. I like the big, physical guys, a speed pass rusher. Speed is always the thing for me. But with our two lines of scrimmage, just continue to develop them and get better."

Considering that the Cardinals still are badly in need of an upgrade at tackle and got almost half their sacks this past season from the not-exactly-young John Abraham and Karlos Dansby, these statements shouldn’t come as a surprise. Also consider that last year’s first round pick, at No. 7 overall after a 5-11 season, was spent on guard Jonathan Cooper even though interior linemen are often considered to be unworthy of top-10 picks (partly because teams drafting that highly usually have more pressing needs).

But there has been some speculation that the Cards might be interested in a first-round quarterback — FOXSports.com’s Joel Klatt recently listed Arizona among the possible destinations for Johnny Manziel — to groom behind the 34-year-old Carson Palmer as a future starter. The team’s backups are Drew Stanton, who hasn’t taken a regular-season snap since 2010, and Ryan Lindley, who was last seen in 2012 completing 52 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and seven interceptions.

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Arians, though, emphasized that he has little to no interest in the quarterback-of-the-future discussion, as he told McManaman: "Well, we’ve got two pretty good ones that are younger (Stanton and Lindley). But for us right now, it’s about winning a championship. I don’t think we can afford to have a guy come in like that. I’m not a believer in a guy learning anything sitting on the bench. You have to play; it’s the only way you learn. He’s got to get the reps in practice, he’s got to be under center and throwing all the time, or he’s not going to get any better."

So if there’s a franchise QB who’s ready to step in as a first-year starter available at No. 20, sure, the Cards would be interested. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Now, answers to pre-draft questions always have to be taken along with a grain (or packet, in some cases) of salt, as the smokescreens vastly outnumber the legitimately informative quotes. But given the timing — four months before the draft, before anybody has a good feel for even the first few picks, let alone the entire first round — as well as Arians’ typical no-B.S. style, it seems likely that he was voicing his honest opinion. And assuming that’s the case, it’s clear that he wants help to try to win big now, not a quarterback for two or three years from now (a feeling presumably shared by most coaches coming off 10-win seasons).

The caveat, of course, is that it’s general manager Steve Keim and not Arians who has the final say in the Cardinals’ draft selections; Arians’ thoughts on positional need aren’t the be-all, end-all of the discussion (especially with no idea of who/what will be available at No. 20). But they certainly carry some weight, and given the likelihood that Arians and Keim are on the same page about the Cardinals being a legitimate contender next year, it’s possible that we just got our first real insight into the Cards’ plans/priorities for the 2014 draft. In terms of draft-related information, it doesn’t get much more specific than "both lines of scrimmage" and "speed pass rusher."

Adjust your early mocks as you see fit.