Cardinals could be looking at O-line in draft
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Steve Keim and Bruce Arians have been through the draft before, with more than three dozen years of NFL experience between them.
Their next one with the Arizona Cardinals will be unlike any other they've done.
That's because this year's draft, which starts on Thursday, will be their first running the show as general manager and head coach.
"We're excited,'' said Keim, in his first year as Arizona's GM. "It's been a great process for us so far. ... The hay is almost in the barn, as some would say.''
Keim's role in previous drafts was very hands-on.
He joined the franchise as a regional scout in 1999, became director of college scouting in 2006 and director of player personnel three years later. Keim was named the Cardinals' general manager on Jan. 8, replacing Rod Graves, who was fired along with coach Ken Whisenhunt the day after the 2012 season ended.
Through his rise in the organization, Keim was instrumental in Arizona's drafts, helping the team pick future Pro Bowlers like Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Darnell Docket and Adrian Wilson.
The difference now is that the final decisions fall to him.
"Really, being able to delegate has been an issue for me to come to grips with because I was so involved with drafts in prior seasons,'' Keim said. "I still am very involved, but at the same time there are other distractions that pull me away.''
Arians spent 20 years as an assistant coach in the NFL, with stops in Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans and Cleveland. He also worked eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, including five as offensive coordinator, and became the Colts' interim head coach last season after being hired as coordinator.
Arians also played a big role in his teams' draft decisions, though his input was always on one side of the ball, unlike now.
"For me, five days I'm evaluating special teams and defensive players where I used to be talking about offense and meeting on offense,'' said Arians, named Arizona's head coach on Jan. 17. "It's different for me the volume of players, sitting in on the meetings. It's been a grind.''
Keim and Arians will have some important decisions to make, starting with the seventh overall pick Thursday night, as they try to rebuild a team that finished 5-11 last season after a 4-0 start.
The Cardinals' new bosses started an overhaul of the roster during the offseason, adding 15 new players, including several who could become starters, while nine - six that started - were released.
Arizona's top priority in the draft would appear to be on offense.
The Cardinals had arguably the NFL's worst offense last season, finishing last in total offense and 31st in scoring, thanks in part to an offensive line that couldn't protect the revolving door of quarterbacks or open up holes for the running backs.
Most draft prognosticators have Arizona using the seventh pick to get an offensive lineman, but the team could use a premier pass rusher as well.
"You never saw offensive linemen go in the top six picks,'' Arians said.
"It was running backs, receivers, glory players, quarterbacks,'' Arians said. "Now there is such a value on both sides of the ball that in the last few years you're seeing a ton of offensive linemen and defensive linemen in the first round, where people are having luck getting good backs and finding wide receivers.
"So there has been a nice change in philosophies over the last few years and you've got to kind of stay up with that kind of thing, too.''
Quarterback also could be a position the Cardinals look at, though maybe not with the seventh overall pick.
Arizona's rotation of quarterbacks last season was ineffective and the team released both Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. The Cardinals may have found a suitable replacement after trading for Carson Palmer, and signed Drew Stanton as a free agent.
This year's quarterback class doesn't rate up there with last year's, which included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson.
Still, there are some quality players in the draft and the Cardinals could take a chance.
"I really do believe there are about four or five quarterbacks in this draft that are going to play for a long time,'' Arians said. "It's just the difference between last year. These poor guys have to follow last year's class and that's not real fair sometimes.''
Arians and Keim get the job of trying to sort it out - as the men in charge this time.