As the 2019 NFL Draft inches closer, let’s narrow the focus to the first team that will be on the clock, the Arizona Cardinals. The decisions made at the top of this draft will have an exponential impact on the remainder of the first round. So grab a seat with me in the war room as we venture to do what’s best for this franchise.
Every year the NFL draft offers a twist. Between trades, new coaches and player meetings behind closed doors, there’s a lot of unknowns. In the end, we can only use the information at hand to form an opinion of what an organization thinks and needs. So, with the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals select…not so fast. Let’s first review the team in position to draft this year’s top prospects. Then, we’ll examine the players and formulate which selection makes the most sense.
Following a 3-13 record in 2018, the Cardinals fired former head coach Steve Wilks after just one season with the team. Now, I believe Wilks was given a raw deal. It’s challenging to have immediate success when you’re shifting defensive schemes and starting a rookie quarterback. It’s apparent the Cardinals front office was intrigued by a specific head coach. Combine that with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft and Arizona quickly moved on.
Unfortunately for Wilks, it’s tough to interview candidates when you have a head coach in place. After firing Wilks, the Cardinals would reach out to former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Both candidates would decline.
Well, that backfired.
There would be little options remaining in Arizona’s quest for an offensive mind. In the end, Cardinals’ brass thought it best to hire then USC offensive coordinator and former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. His 35-40 record as a collegiate coach has caused many to question the hiring. Regardless, he has the task of turning the Cardinals around. And he’d be best suited to make it quick as the front office is not known for their patience.
Most of the time, teams holding the first overall pick have a plan in place. This assurance results when there’s an undeniable top talent. Unfortunately for Kingsbury, this player does not exist in the 2019 NFL Draft. Furthermore, the Cardinals have holes at every position outside of a starting running back. Yes, they drafted Josh Rosen in the first round, but it’s debatable whether the quarterback is in Kingsbury’s long-term plans. The new head coach hasn’t exactly come out and backed the young signal caller. Defensively, general manager Steve Keim insists the team move back to the 3-4 scheme. Former Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph has been tasked with that. We’ll need to keep both the quarterback situation and defensive system in mind when making the first pick.
Then again, who is to say the Cardinals pick anyone first overall? The phone will undoubtedly be ringing. With this draft lacking a unanimous top player, it would be wise to field all offers. There are a few options when it comes to trade partners. You have the teams with multiple first rounders (Oakland Raiders & New York Giants), teams in the top 15 with numerous second-day picks and organizations willing to trade next year’s first-round selections. Keep this in mind for later.
Having said all of this, we must make sure we’re not passing up on a possible face of the franchise. Just because one player hasn’t separated from the pack doesn’t mean this group is lacking elite talent. Here are my top guys to hear their names called to start this year’s draft.
#1-Quinnen Williams (Alabama) – Defensive Tackle
Going back to the scheme, Williams would flawlessly step into a 4-3 defense as a stud 3-technique tackle. He’s my top player in the entire draft. Drafting him out of position at first overall is irresponsible, however. Steve Keim has made it clear that Arizona will return to the 3-4. If Arizona stays put and drafts Williams while one of the other top prospects transitions quicker elsewhere, the decision to put a square peg in a round hole could get people fired.
#2-Nick Bosa (Ohio St.) – Defensive End/Edge
The next best player for the Cardinals to consider is Ohio State’s Nick Bosa. Many pundits believe he’s the best overall player in this year’s draft. This is because he’s scheme versatile. Bosa could play defensive end in both the 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. He would also fill one of the four staples for a franchise. Those being the quarterback, a left tackle, cornerback and Bosa’s position of a pass rusher.
#3-Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) – Quarterback
The last player we’ll highlight for the first pick will be the best quarterback prospect. I say the best quarterback because Murray doesn’t land in my top ten players overall. So why is he being considered this high? The simple answer is that he’s a quarterback. Murray possesses various coveted attributes for the position. As the highlight clip can attest, he’s flat out dangerous. The Cardinals will be hard pressed to choose a defensive lineman over an electrifying offensive weapon like Murray.
I absolutely love Williams and imagine he could still make waves on the Cardinals’ defensive line. He comes off as a player that is just talented enough to do so. Having said this, his lack of 2-gap experience is sketchy. In a 3-4, interior linemen need to take on blocks and hold ground. For this very small reason, I’m out on drafting Quinnen Williams with the first overall pick.
Bosa may not be a natural fit in our defensive scheme, but he’s demonstrated the qualities needed to play all along the defensive line. He’s not limited to a single front. This could play an impact in two ways. First, he’ll fit with what Arizona is doing. Secondly, he’ll offer versatility within the system.
Offensive tackles and defensive ends are always competing against one another. Like boxers throwing punches, you can surprise someone for a short time before they adapt. What Bosa gives you is an unsettling presence. By swinging a guy back and forth, you generate adjustment concerns for an opponent. (AUDIO ON)
He also gives you all the traits needed in a premier pass rusher. He has incredible play strength and plays low in order to maintain leverage. What he lacks in overall athleticism he makes up for with pure effort as a high motor prospect. (AUDIO ON)
This is a no brainer. Let me just write in his name. N-I-C-K-B-O…before I can finish, the phone rings. Granted, the phone has been going crazy. With plenty of time, let’s just see what these guys have to say. It can’t be worse than what the Giants offered.
For a moment, you’d think someone from the live broadcast has called you, but then you remember Mike Mayock is now the general manager for the Oakland Raiders. He says he wants Murray. The offer is very lucrative. After diligently going over the pros and cons, Keim shuts it down. What did Jon Gruden learn with all of that whiteboard work? This intrigue causes us to take one last look. I mean, our offense was dead last this past season.
The pick is in
General manager Steve Keim is not down for a rebuild. His recent decisions speak volumes. The fact that he’s flip-flopped from a defensive coach to an offensive coach in a single year is telling. Again, he’s making the defense return to the 3-4 it played before 2018. Keim wants results, now.
The Cardinals would be wise to trade out of the first pick. They have several holes to fill that one single pick can’t mask. The problem is that Keim wants more than what teams are willing to give up. Because of this, the Cardinals will select the player that gives them the most immediate impact: Kyler Murray.
So, who will get Josh Rosen? Right now, the Cardinals will. Kingsbury gets the guy his system will flourish under, Rosen can compete and further develop, and Keim gets instant gratification in 2019. There’s no doubt that Murray, while far from unproven, will have an impact with his athleticism alone. On the plus side, if he’s not ready or has injury issues, Rosen is in the bullpen awaiting his shot. The only thing better than a quarterback on a rookie deal is two quarterbacks on rookie deals.