Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports

Arians sees opportunities in third round of NFL Draft

The Arizona Cardinals have a strong history of finding playmakers in the third round of the NFL Draft, and Bruce Arians likes the opportunities available to the team in 2017.

What do David JohnsonJohn Brown and Tyrann Mathieu all have in common?

Aside from being key young pieces for the Arizona Cardinals, all three players were third round draft picks by the organization during the Steve Keim-Bruce Arians era.

Since Keim took over as general manager and Arians took over as head coach in 2013, the Cardinals have developed an excellent reputation for finding value in the middle-to-late rounds of the NFL Draft.

Outside of selecting Johnson, Brown and Mathieu in the third rounds of different drafts, the team has found important contributors like Alex OkaforEarl Watford, J.J. Nelson and Andre Ellington in rounds four through six in recent years.

At the NFL owners' meeting that took place in Phoenix last week, Arians opened up about why he thinks the organization has had so much success in the third round of recent drafts, and essentially he sees the third round as an opportunity.

By that point in the draft, Arians said he no longer needs to worry about reaching for a player, and thinks that there's still plenty of starter-caliber players on the board who didn't necessarily check off every box with scouts. 

"I think it's in your scouting and your building of your board, for me personally, I love the third round," Arians said. "I think of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton just recently, Ty (Mathieu), David (Johnson), John (Brown), that's, I love that round that for whatever reason, that didn't fit somebody's eye, fall right there. And if you love them, go get them. I think that's the round where you don't have to worry about reaching, just take the guy that you love that's going to go make your team."

Arians said that the Cardinals should have an excellent opportunity to develop some of their drafted talent this season because of the way Arizona's roster is composed. With veterans at key positions like safety, inside linebacker and wide receiver, Arians said he feels as though the Cardinals can take players who will serve as understudies to more established veterans and can learn and grow from watching the veterans in front of them.

"I'd love to get a guy under Antoine (Bethea), I'd love to get a guy under Karlos (Dansby), I'd love to get another corner, would love to get another wide receiver under Larry (Fitzgerald)," Arians said. "I don't know if we can get all of those high picks, but we've been really, really lucky from round three to round six and getting some quality guys and free agency."

Arians said that one of the positions he thinks is particularly deep in this year's crop of talent is at inside linebacker, where Arians said there should be value later on in the draft. 

"There's some really, really good ones (inside linebackers) especially down the line that don't have the name," Arians said. 

Though much of Arians' comments were focused on the upcoming draft later on this month, he did offer a plan of action for a player the Cardinals drafted in a late round in 2016 that he believes can materialize into another contributor for the team's defense.

While sixth round selection Harlan Miller spent most of the 2016 season on the practice squad as a cornerback, injuries forced Miller into the team's lineup late at the season at the safety position, a spot he didn't even play at in college. Even though he was new to the position, Miller was a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals' coaching staff and Arians said that Arizona is going to take an extensive look at Miller as a safety this coming fall in hopes he can develop into the type of a player who qualifies as a late-round steal.

"We're going to start him (Miller), leave him at safety, and knowing that we have an extra corner, but he's trained his whole life as a corner, but we'll train him at safety," Arians said.

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