When Steve Keim was hired, Cardinal fans knew there were going to be changes, but they didn’t know exactly what to expect.
However, after watching the new general manager maneuver his way through three intense days of the NFL draft, everyone has a new sense of excitement. Keim, a former offensive guard himself, bucked the trend of avoiding offenisve linemen and selected Jonathan Cooper, an offensive guard with the seventh overall pick in the draft.
Most NFL experts shun the idea of taking an offensive tackle with a top ten pick in the first round, but Keim saw the talent that Cooper possessed and wasn’t worried about the national negative perception. Keim’s bold moves continued in the second and third rounds.
His next controversial decision was motivated by Daryl Washington’s four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, paired with the loss of veteran Paris Lenon. The Cardinals had a need at outside linebacker, and rather than taking golden boy and Heisman candidate Manti Teo, the Cardinals traded down with the San Diego Chargers.
They acquired the Chargers’ second-round (45th overall) and fourth-round (110th overall) picks. This proved to be Keim’s most savvy move of the draft, as the Cardinals were then able to select powerful LSU linebacker Kevin Minter with the Chargers’ second-round pick.
Most draft pundits had Minter as the higher-rated prospect, and the Cardinals were able to get him seven picks later and secure an extra pick in the process. In addition, acquiring the extra pick allowed the Cardinals to take a bit of a risk with their third-round selection.
The Cardinals drafted Tyrann Mathieu, who is an extremely talented secondary player from LSU. Mathieu was suspended for the 2012 season and was kicked off the team for testing positive for marijuana use.
If no off-field issues existed, Mathieu would have been a late first-round or early second-round pick, but with the off-field problems, many general managers didn’t want the headache. Keim felt differently, and he may have landed a dynamic playmaker who could end up being the steal of the draft as a result.
In rounds four through seven Keim continued to impress, taking the best players available on the Cardinals’ board. The Cardinals managed to add talent and depth to a team that went 5-11 last year, even though the best players were already long gone.
The impressive piece isn’t what the Cardinals have added necessarily, but how they have gone about their business. Keim showed the ability to take risks by taking individuals others may not have, and he showed that he knows how to trade to acquire additional picks, which is something the Cardinals haven’t done since they regretfully passed on Terrell Suggs in 2003.
These risks that Keim has taken may not pay off in the end, but at least Cardinal fans know that there is finally someone who isn’t afraid to take the necessary risks to try to put a winning team on the field at the helm.
And if they do pay off, which is likely, Keim will benefit the team in even more ways.