Steve Keim: Cardinals could move up in draft, team focused on 4 positions

Bob McManaman
Arizona Republic
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Typically, you don’t get much out of an NFL general manager other than his name, rank and serial number when he agrees to sit down with reporters to discuss the upcoming NFL draft.

Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, seemed to be in a bit more of giving mood on Thursday at the team’s Tempe training facility.

Perhaps it was because it was the first time in three years that Keim has been able to hold his annual pre-draft news conference in person rather than in virtual form over Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, something he referenced with a big smile.

Keim didn’t exactly go out of his way to detail which specific prospects the Cardinals might be targeting with their first few picks out of the eight overall selections they own in next week’s draft. He did, however, reveal that the team will have its eyes on four primary positions during the first two days of the draft — wide receiver, edge rusher, cornerback and interior offensive linemen.

He also intimated that the Cardinals won’t be afraid to make a trade and move up “four or five spots” from the No. 23 pick they own in the first round if there is a player they really covet.

“All those positions are really strong,” said Keim, now in his 10th season as Arizona’s GM. “The one thing I’ll say about this draft is I don’t know that from the standpoint of top-heavy guys, like guys who are sort of rare and unusual in your grading scale, I think there’s real good quality. I don’t necessarily think I’ve seen the (can’t-miss player). To have the first pick in the draft, I think you want to be convinced that this guy’s special.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t multiple players he and the Cardinals are strongly considering. Keim said he and his staff have identified 26 to 27 prospects deserving of a legitimate first-round grade, including four players who might be perfect fits.

“There’s a number of scenarios that, depending on how the board falls, there could be an option really to go up four or five spots and potentially get a guy that we think is a dynamic playmaker or difference maker,” he said. “And if maybe we get to a point where we’re not thrilled or we have four or five players sort of in the same area, you can probably move back some picks and acquire some more and still get the player you want.”

With no picks presently in either the fourth or fifth rounds, there is a distinct possibility the Cardinals could swing a deal to pick up more draft capital in those rounds, Keim said. He noted how they did that just a year ago by trading back into the fourth round to select Marco Wilson, a cornerback out of Florida who became a starter as a rookie.

“The fact that we had such high grades on him and he played the way he did, it really helped us throughout the season,” Keim said. “So, same approach. If there’s a guy that we really like, we’ll be aggressive and go get him. If not, there’s the potential to trade back and get additional picks.”

Keim said he’s already begun having conversations with other general managers about possible draft-day trades, just in case. It’s standard practice this time of year, a week ahead of the selection process.

“Yeah, I’ve had some calls,” he said. “Guys that just wanted to let me know that, ‘Hey, we’re willing to move around.’ And I’ve done the same. Guys you generally talk to prior to the draft, just letting them know we’re open for business.”

From listening to Keim on Thursday, don’t be surprised if the Cardinals make a play for one the Top 6 or 7 wide receivers in this year’s draft class — probably either Chris Olave from Ohio State, Treylon Burks from Arkansas, Jahan Dotson from Penn State or Christian Watson from North Dakota State.

Keim noted that top-rated wide receivers are becoming as critical to a team’s success — and just as expensive, too — as the premier positions coveted during the free-agency process such as quarterbacks, left tackles and cornerbacks. If you can draft a future No.1 guy, it only makes fiscal sense.

“Receivers are playing into that a little bit,” he said, “so obviously when you see some of the salaries that these guys are getting at the receiver position, if you can get a No.1 receiver there’s no reason not to take one.”

Presently, the Cardinals’ top three wide receivers are DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Rondale Moore. The team could use a replacement for wideout Christian Kirk, however, after he left as a free agent this offseason to sign with the Jaguars.

“I like what’s in the room right now,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Thursday. “I think we’re always trying to find a young guy to develop after losing Christian but I’m really excited to see how Rondale steps into more of that role next year. Getting A.J. (back) I think was huge. We really liked what he gave us last year on and off the field. And obviously, Hop, I mean you saw the difference when he was in there. Hopefully, we get him back (healthy) full go.

“We have some young guys, Antoine (Wesley) and (Greg) Dortch, that we like, and we’ll continue to develop them as well.”

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