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Gollin's 2012 Pre-Draft Blog - by Jeff Gollin

Do We Do This Trade?  - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - Reports that San Diego (at #18) wants to trade up - to leapfrog Dallas at #14 and grab safety Mark Barron - have fueled speculation that the ideal trading partner could turn out to be our very own Cardinals. Let's examine more closely:

As I see it, the only way this makes sense is if there are 18 players the Cardinals would be happy to take in the first round. So let's do a combined count of (a) players likely to go in the top 18 and (b) those whom the Cardinals would consider part of their top 18.

Luck, RG3, Kalil, Richardson, Blackmon,Clairborne and Tannehiill figure to be no-brainers. That's 7. Gilmore, Keuchly, Cox, Reiff and DeCastro would bring the total to 12. Barron would make it 13. Which would mean that the Cardinals would have 10 highly-thought-of players to choose from if they kept the pick (Barron, Ingram, Upshaw, Poe, Brockers, Thompson, McClellan, Kirkpatrick, K Wright, Glenn) and, should we opt to trade down to #18, would have 5 of these left to choose from. Sounds like a plan.

But there's the matter of what we'd get for exchanging the picks. We're told that the old Draft Value Chart will be obsolete due to the new CBA. According to that chart, the Cardinal pick at #13 is worth 1150 points. The Charger pick at #18 is worth 900. The remaining 250 points would be a couple-hundred shy of SD's 2nd round pick, but would be enough to award the Cardinals the Chargers' 3rd and 4th round picks. Those two picks would help take the sting out of our losing a second round pick in the Kolb trade, but I'm not all that crazy about the talent-pool at our own #80 pick in the 3rd round let alone SD's a  few picks later.

Bottom Line - Unless there is someone still on our Board at #13 that the Cardinal FO is in love with, I'd do the deal for San Diego's second round pick in a nano-second. But if we had to stick with the old Value Chart and settle for a 3rd and a 4th, I'm not sure I'd do it. It would be a close call. It would depend on how the Cardinals view the level of talent in the 3rd round,.

 Why Seven Round Team Mocks are Useless  Friday, April 20, 2012 - Think about it; the Cardinal MO of late has been to "draft for value." Last year, they considered Ryan Williams a first-round value, but drafted him in the second round. The year before that, they considered Daryl Washington a first-round value, but draft him at #47 in round 2. They've been doing it ever since 2004 when Dennis Green drafted Dockett and Dansby later than their perceived worth.

 Prior to that, the Cards under Coach Mac would target certain players they really liked and would draft them "one round early" (so they'd be sure they'd get them). The problem was that, by drafting players "one round early", they gradually eroded the overall talent-level of their roster. By moving 180-degrees away from that strategy, the Cardinals have frequently drafted players of higher value according to their board, and the overall talent-level of the roster has gradually improved.

Which brings us to now. It's virtually impossible to predict whom the Cardinals will draft in rounds 3 - 7  because - regardless of how the players stack on their board (or yours) - they will grab the highest-value player that falls to them. Who that might be will be a mystery until it happens (because neither we or the Cardinal brass will know which teams will pass on what players and which guys will fall through the cracks).

So have fun laying out various 7-round scenarios and pulling for the Cards to pick the sleepers you hope they'll take. But don't get too bummed out if you don't get more than one or two guys right.

2012 Schedule Released  - Tues. April 17, 2012 - To get the obvious question out of the way, we're on Prime Time evening TV twice - a Monday Nighter at the Rams and a Thursday Nighter hosting the Niners. Other highlights:

  • Open/Close
    We open at home Sept. 9 hosting. Seattle and close Dec. 30 in San Francisco.

  • Favorable Early Home/Away
    Four of our first 6 games are at home (finally!)

  • BYE
    Our Bye Week is Week #10 (Sun. Nov. 11). It comes at a good time - slightly past mid-season. (First time we recall that ever happening).

  • Short Work Week
    We have a short work week - 5 days between Sun.Sept. 30 (Dolphs) and Thurs. night Oct. 4 (at the Rams)

  • Long Work Week
    We have a long work week - 10 days between the Thurs. Oct. 4 game in StL and Oct. 14 hosting the Bills

  • Mini Long/Short Work Weeks
    We get an extra day prepping for the Niners on MNF Oct. 29 but lose a day between that game and the Sunday game Nov 4 in Green Bay

  • Snow Games
    If you define the potential snow season as beginning Nov. 1, we risk snow dates Nov. 4 (in Green Bay), Dec. 2 (in NJ vs. the Jets) and Dec. 9 (in Seattle if it snows there in winter).

  • Holiday Tie-ins
    Oct. 29 MNF vs. the Niners  - 2 days before Halloween. Nov. 25 - Thanksgiving Weekend - we host the Rams. Two days before Christmas on Dec. 23, we host the 23 Bears. One day before New Years Eve on Dec. 30 we play our final game in San Francisco.

  • Possible intriguing Story Lines
    We face Matt Flynn in our home opener followed by Brady & Vick. Other intriguing matchups: Tim Tebow Dec. 2 and a rejuvinated Bear offense on Dec. 23. A tight division race could come all the way down to our final game Dec. 30 vs. the Niners

 Pre-Draft Period is 2 Weeks Too Long - Sat. April 14, 2012  - The Silly Season is upon us. As Charley Casserly describes it, the next 10 days or so will be when teams retire to their War Rooms, hang up the "Keep Out" signs, roll up their sleeves and start stacking their final Draft Boards. This understandably creates a "news-vacuum" frustrating to everyone who earns a living covering sports, pro football or the draft.

In the communications biz, it's axiomatic that "mischief fills an information-vacuum." This is when a few guys projected to be undrafted free agents suddenly appear in the first 2 or 3 rounds of the draft boards that exist only in reporters' minds. Or where names you never heard of even creep into the bottom of a smattering of first round mock drafts. (One new hotshots we're hearing about: Chandler Jones DE Syracuse. And at the top of the draft we're beginning to hear QB Ryan Tannehill's name being mentioned as a possible 3rd pick, with Matt Kalil dropping like a stone).

People! People! I can't restate this loudly enough - the names of guys rumored to be shooting up and down the draft boards are creatures of the disinformation-universe and media writers who need stuff to say . Most if not all the NFL teams haven't come close to finalizing their draft boards yet.

Whom to Believe - As we get closer to Draft Day, the mocks get wilder and wilder as more "casual followers" from the media chime in with their picks. But there are a few media experts worth listening to. They fall into 2 categories: (1) Those who really know football scouting and drafting (not too many of them) and (2) Others (mostly local beat writers) who have inside sources within the FO's of their hometown team. And, oh yeah, I'm pretty sure there's a network of beat-writers across the nation who feed one another tidbits of local gossip and rely upon one another for guidance - logically good sources of info, but beware the evils a herd mentality can sometimes deliver. Guys I follow: Gary Myers and Peter King nationally. Somers and Jurecki locally. The "pick by pick" guys on NFLN and ESPN "cheat" - they get a :15 to :30 - second information-lead as to what's written on the draft-card, and then they act as though they knew it all the time.

Anyway - Enjoy the final 2 weeks before the draft, but trust your own eyeballs and take all the wild buzz floating around out there with a grain of salt.

BPA vs. Need   - Sun. April 8, 2012 - With less than 3 weeks til Draft Day, the boards are heating up with robust debate over whether a team (or teams in general) are better off selecting the Best Player Available (BPA) at each pick or whether they'd be better of "drafting for need." Although I've been a BPA guy ever since Dennis Green took over for Coach Mac, I'm playing Devil's Advocate this year; raising the question of whether the Cardinals are (a) in such dire straits at certain roster positions (like OT and #2 WR) and (b) did little to address the crises in free agency - we should set aside our BPA policy for this year only and, with each pick, select the "best player available who'll fill a major need."

To further the discussion, I've lain out three 7-round mock draft scenarios; (1) following the BP philosophy, (2) filling a primary need and (3) filling an alternative primary need. Enjoy:

Pick By BPA By Need A By Need B
13. J Wright WR Glenn OL Hightower ILB
80. Pead RB Curry DE Matthews WR
112. Bergstrom OL A Cole LB Iloka S
151. Adcock OL Jenkins WR Kaddu LB
177. Keenum QB Martin S O Bolden CB
185. D Wolfe DT Benjamin WR Shoemaker WR
221. Rodriguez FB Hicks DT Paige-Moss DE

Late Risers  - Fri. April 6, 2012 - I'm not sure why we're seeing so many "below the radar" draft prospects moving up the charts this year (& I suggest you heed Charley Casserly's words of caution - that the most meaningful data you get on most prospects is the stuff you collect in Nov./Dec.) but this has certainly been the year for guys coming out of nowhere to occupy 1st or 2nd round grades. I don't think this is so much due to players suddenly getting better in the offseason, but that scouts are becoming more sophisticated about back-checking players and doing due-diligence after seeing interesting things about players at the Combine and later. The following is my list of prospects who have suddenly jumped in value:

Ryan Tannehill QB
(Once the Luck and RG III excitement quieted down, scouts began to realize that there was still pretty good talent directly below them. Tannehill (who admittedly is a raw but talented 2 - 3 year project) may go as high as the Top 10 in the first round.

Brock Osweiler QB
Big ol' guy with a cannon. and a huge upside who could conceivably vault into the first round. depending on team needs for QB's.

Stephen Hill WR
Once listed as #18 on the PFW position-ranking list, but off-the-charts Combine scores changed all this - most experts have him rated in Kendall Wright territory (a half-dozen to one -dozen pegs beneath the first 2 WR's (Blackmon and Floyd).

Coby Fleener TE
Initially, no TE's were projected to be drafted in the first round, but supply & demand being what it is, Fleener (who wasn't even a unanimous choice to be rated #1 TE) is now getting a hard look at the bottom of the first round

Cordy Glenn OL
Ranked among the top half-dozen guard prospects, Glenn - who played a lot of tackle in college - demonstrated so much athleticism during his Senior Bowl and Combine workouts to cause those whose teams are mildly hysterical about needing a LT to cut Glenn considerable slack and move him up the charts possibly as high as "Reiff territory" in the top 10 - 15.

Shea McClellan DE
Originally listed #14th among DE's by PFW, McClellan is now showing up in the first round of Kiper's latest mock and among Mayock's Top Five DE's. We don't know why. It just is.

Stephen Gilmore CB
Started out ranking #4 or #5 among a very talented pool of corner prospects but is now rated as high as #2 (behind Clairborne.

Mark Barron S
Always the highest rated safety of this class, but safeties seldom go high and the talent this year was somewhat underwhelming. But supply and demand apparently has forced Barron high enough to now be considered a Top 10 - 15 pick.

Josh Robinson DB
He wasn't even ranked by PFW and 18th best CB by Lindy's though he did rank #8 according to PFDG. But DRC or AJ Jefferson-level workout numbers have moved him into Mayock's Top 5 corners.

Additional "Watch List":
DE Andre Branch has been getting more than his share of attention. ILB Bobby Wagner has posted insane workout scores as has OLB Kyle Wilber.

Cards Add Veteran Safety/Lose Lutui
On the heels of losing versatile DB Richard Marshall and signing former Steeler CB William Gay, the Cardinals signed 28 year-old safety, James Sanders. This in addition to lining up pre-draft interviews with a few prospective rookie safetiesk, including George Iloka and Brandon Taylor.

Duece Lutui has been signed by his old college coach, Pete Carroll in Seattle. A year ago, he had signed with Cincy but, in a truncated Lockout offseason, skipped the physical which he subsequently failed. Deal was voided, and the Cardinals welcomed him back. Although he had well-publicized weight problems and never regained his starting LG spot last season, I feel badly and am disappointed - here you had a local kid with "planet people" measurables and a sparkling personality who grew up an ardent Cardinal fan (a perfect recipe for a perennial pro bowl lineman. Instead, he ate his way off the roster and is history as a Cardinal. It's stories like these that are behind the decline of many a franchise.

Bell Signs With Philly (One Source So Far)  - Wed. April 4, 2012 - KFFL reports that the Eagles have signed Demetrus Bell to a five year contract. This means that (unless Marcus McNeill is interested in us and can pass  a physical) we will either have to "draft for need" to upgrade our OT situation or stand pat with what we've got. I've always been a bit reluctant to preach doom or gloom (preferring instead to react to things as they happen) but I'm really frustrated that the single most critical area of weakness (because the ground game, QB safety and protecting late-game leads all rely on a strong offensive line. Ours sucked last year, and - other than swing-guy Adam Snyder - we've done nothing to fix it. And now we'll probably pass up top athletes at other positions (like Ingram and Keuchly) or tradie down out of the top-talent plateau  in order to reach for a LT (repeating the same mistakes we made when we passed on Adrian Peterson to reach for Levi or when we passed on Suggs by trading down to grab Bryant Johnson and Calvin Pace).

Cards Entertain 7 Visitors - Mon. April 2, 2012 - Seven prospects are said to be visiting the Cards (Note - This doesn't necessarily mean we'll draft these guys or sign them as FA's (quite often, we'll use these interviews to fill in missing gaps of information not obtained from game-tape, at the Combine, or from their Pro Day). What can be said, however, is that we know that at some level or another, the Cardinals have shown interest in the young man. Visitor list includes:

Juron Criner WR Arizona (Rated #10 WR by Lindy's and #13 by PFDG)
Matt Conrath DE Virginia (Rated #20 DE by Lindy's)
Ronnie Cameron DT Old Dominion
Ryan Davis LB Bethune Cookman
Javron Hosley CB Virginia Tech (Rated #7 CB - behind Gilmore and Minnefield by Lindy's and #12 CB by PFDG)
Omar Bolden CB ASU (Rated #23 CB by Lindy's and #19 by PFDG)
Tavon Wilson S Illinois

"Another Fluid PreDraft Week" - Sat. March 31, 2012 - Two events could logically influence the direction of the draft. First was the injury to Eagle OT Jason Peters (which could reduce the likelihood that Demetrus Bell will land in the desert and place extra pressure on the Cardinals to draft for a need at LT). Second was the signing of smashmouth Giant RB Brandon Jacobs by the Niners (which, in turn could pressure other NFL West teams - including the Cardinals - to "draft for defensive size and toughness" instead of speed). If the draft were held to day, I'd see our most likely options being DeCastro, Ingram and/or Keuchly. I'd be happy with any of the three, but in the unlikely event none were there, I'd be tempted to try and trade down for at least one extra pick.

Update on 7 Round Mock -
While putting together Top 221's, Top 13 Board, Position Rankers etc., it dawned on me that there are two different Boards that teams would logically assemble prior to a real or mock draft: (1) "The Players as the Team Views Them" and (2) "The Way Other Teams View Them" (i.e. where they'd be likely to come off the board).

Because each team has its own drafting priorities (& own scouts), their view of the talent pool will differ slightly from the other 31 NFL teams (including the Cardinals). As a result, there will be typically at least a few highly valued players (as we view them) who will fall to us at each point in the draft, thereby, to our mind,  providing better value than the pick deserves, resulting than a better-than-average overall draft from year to year.

When laying out seven round mocks, it's important we avoid the hazard of "using our own board" to figure out who will or won't be available at each pick (because we'd run out of quality picks early- every player we like will come off the board early but that's unlikely to happen in "real life" because other teams won't like all of them as much as we do).  A more realistic way to do it is to use respective third-party draft board as an indicator of where players are expected to be drafted round by round. So that's what I did.

Updated Gollin 7 Round Mock -
Tuesday March 27, 2012 - The compensatory picks have been made and, although the official draft order hasn't been released by the NFL, Mike Sando and ASFN's JoeSchmo's renditions were nearly identical so I decided to use Sando's. I did something different this year - I created a chart (based on CBSportsline's overall player rankings) showing  the best available player for each position at each point where we pick, and from those players, I made my projection. Here they are:

13.  DeCastro G (2nd Option: Keuchly ILB)
80.  J Brown OL (2nd Option: Kendricks ILB. 3rd Option: Ta'amu NT)
112. Matthews WR (2nd Option Blake C. 3rd Option: Wilber OLB)
151. B. Taylor S (2nd Option: Bryan TE)
177. Foles QB (2nd Option: Datko OL)
185. Fangupo DT (2nd Option: Igwenagu TE/FB)
221. Carder LB

Scoping the Draft - Mon. March 26, 2012 -
Til now, I've refrained from doing mocks or predicting Cardinal draft strategy because it was too early and there were too many other variables (including free agency) to clear away. Well let's just say that Phase 1 is nearly over. Time to move into Phase 2:

There appear to be three strategies open to the Cardinal FO: (1) Draft the best available athlete from our short list of 13, (2) Reach for need (most probably at LT but possibly a wide receiver or pass rusher or (3) Trade down (probably into the early twenties) in order to replace our lost ("Kolb") 2nd round pick.
  • It's unclear who'll be available at #13 if we go the BPA route - most notable names being the WR (Floyd), OG (DeCastro), RB (Richardson), OT (Reiff), DE/LB's (Ingram or Upshaw) or the ILB cruncher (Kuechly). What is doubly unclear, however, is where these and other prospects are slotted on the Cardinals' Top 13 board. For all we know, the Cardinal staff may be in love with one of the NT's (Poe or Brockers).

  • If the Cards do reach for need (note - even if they do this, they'll never admit it), they could draft Stanford LT Jonathon Martin. Or they could decide to play musical chairs on the O-line and draft DeCastro as an indirect "need" pick. Or they could target a receiver and -  if, as expected, Blackmon and Floyd are gone - roll the dice on Ga. Tech burner, Stephen Hill.

  • But just as likely is that the Cards have either (a) decided to trade down in order to regain their lost pick or (b) have a sjort list of 4 or 5 players they hope will be available at #13 and will trade out of the spot should all of those players be no longer available. If we do trade down, this draft appears deep in good, though not-elite offensive linemen and quality defensive tackles and we could help ourselves a lot by regaining our lost #2.

It's hard to figure. Maybe things will seem clearer as we get closer to the draft, but I suspect, we'll be in the dark until Draft Day itself. Catch you later.

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