TEMPE, Ariz. — When you grasp the magnitude of the task for the Cardinals’ management, scouting and coaching staffs as they prepare for the NFL Draft, the sheer numbers are staggering.
"It’s been a long year," general manager Steve Keim said Thursday at a press conference at the team’s headquarters. "We started this process last May with our college scouts who went on the road and looked at 13,000 names across the college campuses — seniors and draft-eligible juniors.
"(We) whittled that number down to a little less than 2,000 NFL prospects for us. We went to the (draft) board with about 591 players, and just this morning we finished up with 120 players on our draft board.
"We’ll draft off that board. I can tell you at the top there are 20 guys we certainly like that will fit us, that will make an impact on our team."
The Cardinals have a pick in each of the first six rounds (20th, 52nd, 84th, 120th, 160th and 196th overall) and no pick in the seventh, but Keim said the team would like to add more picks by trading down. The logic is simple: More picks increase the odds the team will "hit on" some players that can help them down the road.
Keim believes there will be opportunities for the Cardinals to draft a safety, a tackle and maybe a receiver in this draft. He praised the depth of this draft at both the tackle and receiver positions and said there are four or five top-end safeties at the top, then a bunch of guys who might be able to help a couple years down the road.
Neither Keim nor coach Bruce Arians was willing to offer much more insight about the Cards’ draft plans, acknowledging the rampant misinformation that flies from every team this time of year.
"Everything you hear this time of year is the furthest thing from the truth," Keim said. "Except from us two."
Speaking of misinformation, here are a few highlights from the press conference. Take from them what you will.
— Keim and Arians did not rule out drafting a quarterback this year, but Arians said it would be difficult to ask a first-round pick to sit and added that any quarterback taken in the third round or later is there for a reason — because of flaws in his game.
"To think you’re going to draft (a QB) in the third round and he’s going to beat out (third-stringer) Ryan Lindley, that’s tough to do," Arians said, acknowledging that some such as Tom Brady (and Russell Wilson in his own division) have bucked that rule of thumb.
— Both the coach and the GM said inside linebacker Daryl Washington’s potential discipline by the league for a domestic assault charge would not impact their approach going forward. Keim said Washington’s situation underscores why teams build depth. Arians said the team likes its depth, although that’s hard to believe after Karlos Dansby’s departure in free agency.
— Keim said the high number of underclassmen in this draft will increase the number of quality players who do not get drafted. With that in mind, the coaches and scouts have already reached out to some players who may not get drafted to try to "plant the seeds" that the Cardinals are a good fit for rookie free agents.
— Despite some perceived areas where the Cardinals need improvement or depth (right tackle, edge rusher, strong safety), Arians said the Cardinals "really don’t have a glaring need."
And finally, this take from Keim on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, whom he called a polarizing figure:
"He’s one of the few guys this year when you are evaluating players where you want to get a big Coke and a popcorn box, put your feet up and it’s fun to watch.
"There are not many guys who have come out with his skill set."