Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t go to the extreme when he grades teams in the immediate aftermath of the NFL Draft, a fair thing considering judging a draft ultimately takes years.
The ESPN draft analyst only handed out Bs and Cs across the league this year, but he judged few teams better than the Arizona Cardinals.
Kiper gave the Cardinals a B+ for their entire draft and joined scouting service Pro Football Focus in agreeing with Arizona general manager Steve Keim: Arizona won based on outright value.
“I don’t really give out As that often,” Kiper told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “Every one of those picks you could’ve argued could’ve been a round or two higher. Every one of them. Only one you couldn’t have argued on going higher is (62nd overall pick Andy Isabella). Every one of those picks was at a bargain point, even Mr. Irrelevant.
“I don’t think there’s a kid drafted that’s not going to make that football team, and I don’t think there’s going to be a kid drafted who’s not going to be on the field and have an impact at some point.”
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According to PFF, Arizona’s first six picks landed in the top-66 players of its big board. The Cardinals’ sixth pick, safety Deionte Thompson, came off the board 139 picks into the draft.
Arizona’s last pick and Mr. Irrelevant, tight end Caleb Wilson, was drafted with the final slot in the entire draft at 254 overall, and the lowest-rated prospect was sixth-round choice KeeSean Johnson, a receiver who was ranked 173rd on PFF’s board.
“One point in time people were projecting (third-round pick and defensive end) Zach Allen in the first round,” Kiper said Wednesday. “Some people thought (fourth-round pick and receiver) Hakeem Butler had a chance to be a first-round pick during the year. Some people thought (fifth-round pick and safety) Deionte Thompson could be a first-round pick during the year.
“You got guys that slid that people at one point in time had a higher grade on.”
While Isabella was arguably Arizona’s one reach, and not much of one, Kiper said others could grapple about the team ignoring need, especially to lead off the second round.
There, they selected Washington cornerback Byron Murphy, who could challenge to play right away as a nickel. A few other highly-rated players remained on the board.
“I think some people were questioning … the second-round pick of Murphy, not (taking) an offensive tackle when you have some guys there like Cody Ford, Jawaan Taylor and others,” Kiper said, adding that the pick still made sense. “Byron Murphy is a really good corner. You could argue he was the best corner in this draft. You could argue he should’ve gone in that 15-25 range.”
At the end of the day, of course, the Cardinals will be judged on this draft class based on how well first overall pick Kyler Murray progresses at quarterback under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Murray was a controversial pick due to his size, and Kingsbury enters the NFL with only college head coaching experience and a 35-40 record in six years at Texas Tech.
“It’s going to be fun to see how Murray and Kingsbury deal with this because Murray has critics and Kingsbury has critics — I should say doubters,” Kiper said. “I think it’s going to be fun to watch this whole thing.
“Their futures are tied together, basically.”
Cardinals 2019 NFL Draft picks
1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
33. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
62. Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
65. Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
103. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
139. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
174. KeeSean Johnson, WR, Fresno State
179. Lamont Gaillard, C/G, Georgia
248. Joshua Miles, G/T, Morgan State
249. Michael Dogbe, DE, Temple
254. Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA
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