Trying to get inside the mind of draft's quietest top-10 team; mail
Is it just me? Are the Arizona Cardinals in the witness protection program for this draft? The Cards, with the seventh pick, seem positively under the radar like no other team in the top 10. I had the chance the other day to look into their feelings about the pick and about the tenor of the top of this unpredictable draft with Cardinals GM Steve Keim, who, like so many of his peers up top, will be running a draft room for the first time.
Check out the top of the draft.
• No. 1: Kansas City, with a new GM in John Dorsey and new coach in Andy Reid.
• No. 2: Jacksonville: Rookie GM David Caldwell and new coach Gus Bradley.
• No. 3: Oakland second-year GM Reggie McKenzie.
• No. 4: GM Howie Roseman is running his first post-Andy Reid draft, with a mystery coach, Chip Kelly.
• No. 6: Joe Banner/Mike Lombardi together for the first draft.
• No. 7: Keim, a rookie.
• No. 9: Sudden rookie power-broker GM John Idzik running the Jets, with the added ammunition of the 13th pick after trading Darrelle Revis.
• No. 10: Tennessee's Ruston Webster has been the GM, but this is the first draft without front-office czar Mike Reinfeldt running the show.
That's seven of the top 10 teams in this draft with a front-office shakeup in the last four months, and an eighth, Oakland, still adjusting to a new football operations guy, McKenzie.
"The reason no one can figure out this draft,'' Keim said, "is the new people at the top, plus the fact that so many prospects that high have more of an element of risk this year. You look at the last couple of drafts -- last year, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at the top, your teenage son could have picked them. Two years ago, Cam Newton, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus, same deal. They were obvious. This year, it's not so obvious.
"A lot of guys up there are projections, and with projections come risk. This is a solid draft, but there are no Megatrons [Calvin Johnson] in it. I've come to the conclusion after years of scouting that we miss more on the person than on the player. The human element has become so hard to judge, no matter how hard we work on that side of it. Having said that, we spend nine months falling in love with a player, then three months confusing ourselves on that player."
I've said that for a long time. The prep-overload on the draft has gotten ridiculous. With the league pondering moving the draft to mid-May, it could get worse. Much worse. Much more paranoia, much more over-thinking decisions that could have and should have been made the week teams leave the scouting combine. This draft should be held March 25-27 (after the early rush of free agency), not April 25.
The Cardinals could go a few ways in this draft, but I can't see them passing on one of the top three tackles (Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson) if one of them is there at seven.
"I absolutely think there's a very good chance all three will be gone by seven,'' said Keim -- and he was emphatic about that.
"You know what you don't see a lot of quality in when you get to veteran free agency? Three things: left tackles, cornerbacks who can run, and pass rushers. And quarterbacks, obviously. So if you've got a chance to get a tackle you think can play right away at a pretty high level, there's going to be a rush for them.''
In my mock draft, I had Johnson there for Arizona, and Arizona taking him. Others have him gone by then. Todd McShay of ESPN had the three tackles going 1-2-4. No clues from Keim, but if the big three are gone, I could see a reach for the most electric player in the draft, receiver Tavon Austin, or a pass rusher like Ziggy Ansah or Dion Jordan.
Now for your email:
WOODY DIDN'T WANT TO PAY HIM. "What's the 'back story' re: WHY Woody Johnson would NOT spring for a deal with Darrelle Revis?''
-- Alain Sassonte, Denver
My take, though I have not spoken to Johnson about it: He thought $16 million a year was too much for a cornerback coming off knee surgery, and he was tired of always feeling held hostage by Revis, wondering when the next holdout would come.
THE JETS DID A SMART THING. "The immediate response to the Revis contract is that it is team friendly and that the Jets should have offered that same deal. The Jets have been getting bashed in the media for this and I don't get it. First, this contract actually is great for Revis for the first two years. He gets a $10-million raise this year and next year is basically guaranteed. However, after that Revis certainly will be looking for a new deal. There is no way that he is going to play into his 30s under a contract in which he can be cut at any time. This contract would ensure another dispute if he stayed with the Jets. Second, the downside of the no-bonus-money contract is the really high cap number.''
-- Chris, Washington, D.C.
My theory on Revis has been the same all along: I think the Jets needed to find a way to get a deal done with Revis because he's the best player on the team. You keep your best players. You make peace with your best players. You make your best players feel like franchise cornerstones. In the last year, the Jets have paved the way for Revis to leave because of the immense cost involved. I would have paid the immense cost, as long as I could have been assured another holdout was not just around the bend.
THANK YOU. "I'm excited about your upcoming, new football-centric microsite. My question is more of a selfish one: Does the advent of this new site spell the doom of MMQB and MMQB Tuesday Edition?"
-- Micah, Colorado Springs
Nope. They will still exist. The Monday column, as I've said a few times, will exist until they don't want me to do it anymore, or until I'm in the cold, cold ground.
DID WASHINGTON OVERPAY FOR RG III? "The Bucs gave up one first-rounder and change for the best player at his position (granted, coming off a serious injury). Only a year ago the Redskins gave up THREE first-rounders and some change for an unknown player (who had injury concerns himself) who arguably isn't even top ten at his position. Is this just a sign of the poor position the Jets put themselves in, or can we accept that Washington went way overboard in the deal?''
-- Daniel, Chicago
Totally different story. When it comes to quarterbacks at the top of the draft who are widely regarded as safe bets to be good in the NFL, three first-round picks is not too much to pay. I believe Washington didn't overpay -- not at all. Re Revis, too many teams were scared of him because his contract demands were excessive (in their eyes, not mine) and he was coming off ACL surgery, and he's 27. That created a one-team market. Remember, Cleveland was bidding up that market for Griffin too.