There are two moments in Steve Keim’s 14 year history with the Cardinals that’s motivating him to be successful. The first is the day the Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Eagles to win the ’08 NFC Championship, and the second, the most important one in my opinion is, the 58-0 beating the Cardinals took from the Seattle Seahawks last year and Keim making a pact with himself to never let that happen again.
When Keim took over as GM, he made the promise that the Cardinals would have a new aggressiveness and boldness, which is a statement that all new GM’s make at their introduction press conference. Now that training camp is only days, let’s take a look at the player Keim has brought in through the draft.
In NFLDraftScout.com’s Top 100 players list, Keim drafted four players from that list, Jonathan Cooper (18th), Alex Okafor (26), Kevin Minter (35th), and Andre Ellington (78th). They also scored when they signed undrafted free agent, Tony Jefferson, who was ranked number 93 on the list which makes it a total of five players.
Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com made his own big board of the top 32 players in the draft. The Cardinals snatched up Cooper (13th) and Okafor (21st) from his top 32.
Lindy’s Pro Football Draft Report made its own mock draft of the first two rounds. Minter was projected to get picked in the first round, Cooper and Okafor where projected to get picked in the second round.
Jonathan Cooper, he is a much needed talent that is worthy of a first round pick, even though offensive lineman can be found later on. He’s a high school wrestler with long arms and a wide anchoring base, who is quick and balanced, a good fit in a zone blocking scheme.
Kevin Minter, the second choice of the Cardinals. His solid play in college had him projected as a late first to a second round pick. Minter shows good timing on blitz and can get by the O-Line with ease, reads the action in coverage and shows skills to project where the ball is going to be.
Tyrann Mathieu, the third pick, is going to move to free safety, with his size, that’s the best move for him even though he plays with a tenacious ability that makes him play tough football. In 2011, he won the Chuck Bednarik Award for making big plays, and even though he’s a year removed from the game, I’m sure there’s a chip on his shoulder and when emotion is used right, the sky’s the limit.
Fourth round pick, Alex Okafor was projected to go in the first round, but fell to us in the fourth and was too good to pass up, he should be a good fit, one way or the other. He played defensive end at Texas but will be tried at outside linebacker, with his ability to rock bigger blockers, he’s a complete package when wreaking havoc in the opponents backfield.
Fifth round pick, Earl Watford, was projected to go in the sixth round, Watford has to much of an upside at this time to pass up. With Watford being a zone blocking guard with good quickness off the snap, lite on his feet, and the ability to adjust in space to a moving target, Keim pulled the trigger and scooped up this possible legitimate starter.
Projected to go in the fourth round, Stepfan Taylor, was selected in the fifth and adds experience in a high-octane pro-style offense. Taylor is well built with a powerful lower half and doesn’t shy away from contact, he doesn’t possess any single elite attribute, but brings toughness and a consistent production.
Ryan Swope, a projected fourth round pick who is capable of putting up first round numbers with the right QB. While some view him as a slot receiver, who’s fearless coming over the middle, he has the ability to be effected on the outside.
Andre Ellington, the other sixth round pick who was projected to go in the second to the third round due to his speed and having two 1,000 seasons his last two years in college. While Ellington lacks the traditional size for a running back, he doesn’t avoid contact, has elite balance keeping his feet under him, allowing him to be a shifty runner and make plays.
Now, the ninth overall player selected, in the seventh round is D.C. Jefferson. He is a big target, able to cover a lot of ground, he is a willing blocker to set the edge, but he’s raw and has a lot of work ahead of him.
I know Tony Jefferson wasn’t drafted, but with his draft status, I felt like showing the man some love.
Jefferson was projected to go in the third round but went undrafted. I bet because of that, he’s got a chip on his shoulder like Tyrann Mathieu and is going to make everyone pay.
Jefferson has to work on his tackling, but he is a versatile athlete with natural awareness and a good football IQ. He isn’t shy when it comes to contact, enjoys blitzing and playing in the box, and can drop into coverage in man or zone, quickly changes directions and closes in.
So there you have it, out of ten new faces, eight of them have the ability to help out on the field from day one. So with what I’ve seen from the new regime so far, I must say, A Job Well Done.