A lot of nonsensical smoke, only to make perfect sense.
Draft Grade: A
Let’s get the Rosen stuff out of the way. Arizona played this as poorly as possible. They did not make the wrong decision. They handled the decision poorly. KK did them no favors by accidentally showing his affinity for Murray while coaching at Texas Tech but Arizona also tipped their hand when they structured all of their deals to leave open exactly enough cap to absorb Rosen’s dead money if he were to be traded. Teams pay attention to each other. That made it abundantly clear they were trading him right now. Then for some odd reason they thought blowing smoke, in comical fashion, would remedy the issue. It was a pathetic and useless attempt. A complete waste of effort and a bush-league look. They telegraphed this move. When you are at the negotiating table and your leverage is completely shot, you only have two choices. Either bend over and take it, or you walk away from the table. Arizona acted as if Rosen was Cinderella on the cusp of midnight and the Dolphins worked them over. Reports came out on day 2 that Arizona was getting a 2nd, and Miami traded that 2nd down and still Arizona bent over and took it. I don’t believe Arizona had to trade Rosen during the draft. It’s likely that his value would hold exactly where it was if they had waited. We just watched SF give up an early 2nd round pick for 6 weeks of Jimmy G. You had 3 years of cheap control left on Rosen. If a team found themselves without a QB as the season neared it might have induced a Sam Bradford-esque overpay. Then again, as I stated in Arizona’s offseason moves piece, patience is a virtue that Arizona seems to lack. They sold low, with no leverage, to get their shilling now.
Either way, it was the right decision but there was a good degree of self-inflicted value tanking.
#1. Kyler Murray
As the spread proliferates through the NFL, some unlucky team is going to show the entire league why the spread isn’t as easy to run as it currently looks. (Spoiler: It will be the Bengals.) With the selection of Kyler Murray, Arizona made sure that unlucky team would not be them. For the spread to work in the NFL you cannot have a bad offensive line, unless you have a highly mobile QB. Like Wilson and Watson, Murray is going to help save this mediocre OL from themselves. To top it off, Murray is a better QB than both Wilson (I’m a Badger fan) and Watson. This was a franchise saving pick. If you had kept Rosen and went in another direction, the results would have been disastrous. Murray is the #1 player on my draft board.
#33. Byron Murphy
Somewhere along the way the NFL must have passed me by. For the past few years I’ve continued to devalue CBs due to the passing game rules coupled with the growing importance of the safety position. On day one, it looked as if the NFL stopped valuing secondary players altogether. Maybe they graded them equally and they simply held off until the day 2 run started. I did not have them graded equally. Only one safety and one corner went off the board on day 1. Their loss quickly became Arizona’s gain when Arizona started off day 2 with a corner I had rated 9th on the entire board. He is ready to start day 1 and will push Alford out of the base defense immediately. You can wish he carried a few more pounds and had a better 40 time but Murphy can do everything. A number of the guys who wowed at the combine, can’t. You don’t have to project or dream on Murphy. All you have to do is let him play. Arizona has the corner opposite Peterson they’ve been waiting on.
#62. Andy Isabella
A value appropriate pick. While it lacks an impressive degree of value, the fit of this selection could not have been better. A fantastic ingredient addition. Best of all, KK seems to understand the player he is getting. 5’9 188lb is typically type casted into a slot WR role. Isabella is not a slot WR. He is a vertical spacing #2. He is faster than he is quick. He is not the twitchy small WR you look for in the slot. He can play it, but his ideal home is outside. This is a deep threat who Murray will love for multiple reasons. First, he’s going to scare defenses deep and that’s going to open up space for other WRs to operate. Secondly, Isabella has great awareness on secondary routes. When a play breaks down and the QB scrambles to buy time, Isabella knows how to find the open space and work back to his QB. He might be tiny, but make no mistake about it, Isabella is no JJ Nelson. He’s strong, controlled and knows how to work his routes. He is a perfect fit for this scheme and Arizona’s new QB. At least the low compensation for Rosen was used well.
#65. Zach Allen
This is a bit of a reach in my book, but I’m also going to immediately compare him to a player who went 63rd overall in 2016. He’s Adam Gotsis all over again. Last year Vance Joseph was the head coach of, you guessed it, Adam Gotsis. Allen is a hardworking, high motor, intelligent, mauler. He will do his job. The downside is that he is athletically limited and doesn’t offer pass rush upside. His rush repertoire is very limited. He won’t stop fighting until the whistle but he doesn’t create easy wins. He will eat 500-600 quality snaps in the base look and give way to a pass rusher in sub-packages. There were a few TE’s and OL’s on the board I valued higher. The scheme fit and need is there but late 3rd early 4th feels more comfortable.
#103. Hakeem Butler
This is the pick that cements Arizona’s draft grade. It stuns me that he lasted until day 3, but Bulter could not have landed in a better home than Arizona. Drafted to be the heir to Fitzgerald, Butler gets at least 1 year to learn from one of the most professional WRs the game has ever seen. I had Butler ranked 10th overall on my draft board and with good reason. He moves like a basketball player. His degree of body control is uncommon in of itself. His ability to contort in the air, hang, and hold his position is a rare trait. I often talk about WRs and CBs who are light or heavy in the air. Players who are heavy in the air win jump balls through contact. Butler is one of those. That’s rare and at 6’5, it’s a unicorn. He has the hands to make spectacular catches but play in and play out they are erratic. His routes lack polish despite the fact that he’s a 6’5 WR who runs a fantastic hitch route. The agility is there, the coordination is there. He’s downright graceful. It’s understandable that teams saw him as a project and decided to take something “safer” but those teams made a mistake. I grade players on what they are capable of doing, not how polished they are. Butler moves like DeAndre Hopkins and Hopkins is 4 inches shorter. This fit, opportunity, system and mentor has “told you so” on the tip of my tongue. Arizona might have won the entire draft right here. Arizona claimed #1, #9 and #10 on my board. That’s astonishing.
#139. Deionte Thompson
Some had him as high as the 1st others, including myself, had him in the later parts of day 2. I don’t argue against him falling to the 5th. I see value in where he was selected due to his raw traits. My concern is that he lacks a feel for angles and shows questionable instincts when he is not coming down hill. Every time I watched him, I hoped a team would play him at strong safety where his range will be a plus trait. That could help overcome his poor instincts and poor technique. Alabama sends some amazing athletes to the NFL with very sloppy technique. Thompson is one of those. I can’t get past his low grading instincts but he has the athletic tools to dream on. Could make for a hell of a gunner. Might be able to take over for Swearinger if you extend Swearinger two years. It’s hard to find a clean fit at a position for him. Certainly worth a 5th round pick though.
#174. Keesean Johnson
Sad admission: I love the Mountain West Conference. Its schedule bounces around on weeknights and concludes Saturday nights. I’ve watched a lot of Keesean Johnson and sadly a lot of Marcus McMaryion. Broadcasts were enough to rule out McMaryion, but Johnson got some extra film review. McMaryion is pretty damn erratic and he did his WRs no favors. Keesean doesn’t have great burst and isn’t a twitchy athlete. He’s got gliding speed, good routes and adjusts to the ball very well in the air. He reminds me of Geronimo Allison. He can just flat out play. Basically, if you were a WR on the Cardinals before the draft and your name is not Fitzgerald or Kirk, pack your bags. Keesean Johnson and UDFA AJ Richardson from Boise State are coming for your jobs. I could see Johnson and Richardson claiming the 5th and 6th WR spots behind Isabella and Kirk. Neither wins routes with burst but they make for good targets even when lacking separation. Both show a high degree of polish.
#179 Lamont Gaillard
Offensive line play at the college level has deteriorated dramatically since zone spread took over. Despite that, teams will burn high pick after high pick on OL projects based on measurable and raw tools. They can’t block yet, but hey maybe they could someday. Don’t get me wrong, I love the raw traits of Tytus Howard as much as Houston does, but I find it hard to take a player that early whose pass-pro hands currently look like a kitten trying to catch a butterfly. OL has become a risk laden bust heavy position. There’s a solution to this. Get proactive at OL. Draft bunches of them, who have traits to work with, late in the draft. Let your OL coach earn his money. Cunningham is a prime example of this and Gaillard will do the trick as well. There’s a long way to go before Gaillard can contribute on a high level but he has raw power, good pad level, natural bend and light feet. That’s enough to be draft worthy in the 6th. I’m not sure how he fits in the zone scheme because he’s a sloth laterally but he also is currently fat. He could stand to lose 30 bad pounds and gain 15 good. The technique needs refinement. There are too many moments where he lunges at his blocks. His upper body has the desired length but it lacks strength. He slides off his blocks too easily. He also has some good reps vs Payne and Quinnen and they are pretty good. Coach him up.
#248 Joshua Miles
If you watched the East-West Shrine game then you know as much about him as I do. Morgan State isn’t readily available. He has the frame you are looking for and we’ll see how that goes. Looks clumsy in all phases of the game. The kick step is quite an adventure. That late in the draft, it’s worth a shot. I liked Cunningham’s movement skills. Can’t say the same about Miles. I’d prefer other options but they don’t have his frame. To me this looks like a hail-mary that’s going to miss its mark. I doubt that he can stick at tackle, but he has a chance as a long zone guard.
#249 Michael Dogbe
Earlier I mentioned that Zach Allen will handle base sets and then give way to a pass rusher in sub-packages. This could be that guy. There are a number of big bodies on the DL for Arizona but this could be the ace up their sleeve. He has a great burst, shows closing speed and a well-rounded pass rush repertoire. Some moves are instant, others take a beat but if he can pick up his suddenness on countermoves this is a hell of a find in the late 7th round. Currently he anchors poorly against the run due to being high cut and playing with higher than desired pad level but the pass rush ability is plus and the motor runs hot. He has the strength to get hands off him and the get off to get into the backfield in short order. Great 7th round pick and if 1 of these late picks hits, you are beating the odds.
#254 Caleb Wilson
He has admirable straight line speed but it doesn’t show up on the field. He has length but he’s very weak and the routes are lacking. If you can’t block, you are a WR, and he’s a WR. I don’t see him as a guy you keep on the 53. It’s ok to miss at pick #254 and I believe they did.
AJ Richardson is worth a look and he is the only UDFA that Arizona has signed that popped up on my radar.