Arizona Cardinals trending upward with several recent draft picks
By Jim Koch
Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has done a whole lot better with a good number of his recent draft selections.
One of the main criticisms that Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has had to deal with has been his propensity for drafting players who can’t make it at the NFL level. Far too often, the 50-year-old executive has come up small when it comes to supplying the Cards with youngsters who can contribute.
Over the past three years, Keim has begun to reverse that trend. Several of the 50-year-old’s draft-day selections, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, are now starting to pan out. At last, Arizona’s gameday lineups are beginning to consist of individuals who came to the organization directly out of the college ranks.
For quite some time, that wasn’t the case with the Cardinals. Prospects who looked good on paper failed to produce as professionals. To fill in those holes in the roster, Keim was forced to orchestrate trades that mortgaged chunks of the franchise’s future.
Several Arizona Cardinals draft picks have begun to pan out
One Cards player who has taken a huge step forward this season is Zaven Collins, the team’s first-round draft choice from a year ago. The inside linebacker out of the University of Tulsa has transformed into the leader of the defense in his sophomore campaign. Collins has tallied 64 tackles, two sacks, four passes defensed and a pick-six in his 10 appearances this fall for Arizona.
Another young Cardinals linebacker is also beginning to turn some heads in his third season with the squad. Isaiah Simmons, the eighth-overall choice of the 2020 draft, has flashed his freakish athleticism in the 10 games he has dressed for. The 24-year-old has racked up 49 tackles, two sacks, four pass breakups and a pick-six during a week-seven win over the New Orleans Saints.
Byron Murphy, a second-round pick back in 2019, has grown into the shutdown cornerback that the Redbirds had hoped he would be. In nine starts, the 24-year-old has registered 36 tackles (three for a loss) and four passes defensed. The highlight of the year for Murphy was his 59-yard fumble return for a touchdown that lifted the Cards to an overtime victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2.
Back in 2019, Keim used a fifth-round supplemental draft choice on Washington State University safety Jalen Thompson. The 24-year-old gets overshadowed a bit by the great Budda Baker, but Thompson could be on his way to superstardom as well. The 5 foot 11, 190 pounder has been credited with 60 tackles, an interception and seven pass breakups in his 10 appearances for Arizona this season.
Another defender who’s coming into his own for the Cardinals is Zach Allen, the fourth-year defensive end out of Boston College. In 10 starts, the 25-year old has tallied 40 tackles (eight for a loss), 3.5 sacks and six passes defensed. There’s no doubt that Allen has benefited from playing alongside the magnificent J.J. Watt over the past two seasons.
One youngster worth mentioning from the offense side of the ball is Rondale Moore, a second-round draft selection out of Purdue University. In the seven matchups he has dressed for, the 22-year-old has hauled in 41 passes for 414 yards and a score. There were question marks surrounding the wide receiver following his rookie campaign in 2021, but Moore is beginning to prove his critics wrong.
It’s hard to argue with that kind of track record. Keim had his moments early on in his tenure, but his past few performances in the Cards “War Room” have been very impressive. Maybe it’s time to put any criticism about Keim’s drafting ability to rest.
(Statistics provided by ESPN’s NFL Scores)
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