The Arizona Cardinals spent the first window of the offseason adding veteran leadership to the organization, as the team pursued three players with at least 10 years of NFL experience in free agency.
While linebacker Karlos Dansby, safety Antoine Bethea and kicker Phil Dawson will all play critical roles for the franchise in 2017, next week, the organization will have the opportunity to add a slew of players who could impact the team for years to come.
With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, Arizona Cardinals' general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians met with the media Tuesday to discuss the team's pre-Draft process and approach and break down how Arizona has prepared for the most pivotal portion of the league's offseason.
"It's an exciting time of year for all of us, I think we would all agree that the NFL Draft is the lifeblood of every NFL organization and going into our fifth year together, the transition and the process has been extremely smooth," Keim said. "Our coaches and our scouts do a fantastic job, they all understand what we're asking from them."
Keim and Arians began working together in 2013, which happened to be the year the organization took a third round gamble on LSU product Tyrann Mathieu who has become a face of the franchise and one of the key players for Arizona during the Keim-Arians era.
Together, Keim and Arians have selected 29 players over four different drafts, and 19 of those players were captains at the college level. The organization's focus on leadership and speed under the duo has become one of the hallmarks of Keim's tenure as a general manager, and this year, Keim asked his staff to dig even deeper with the players the Cardinals are scouting.
Keim said Tuesday that members from the Cardinals' organization have visited over 300 different colleges around the United States and Canada, produced over 5,000 scouting reports, and of course, helped compile the team's draft board featuring its top 120 prospects.
"This year, in particular, we've challenged not only our coaches but our scouts to go deeper," Keim said. "To get more background information. This year, it's been astounding how many reports have been written. Over 5,000 college scouting reports. We've attended over 303 colleges across not only the United States but Canada as well and when you look at it from top to bottom, we came up with 823 grades that were considered draftable with guys who were considered legitimate NFL prospects."
After finishing 7-8-1 in 2016, the Cardinals secured the 13th overall pick in this year's draft, and have been linked to various quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs, which are all positions of need for Arizona.
Keim said that there are definitely 13 players the Cardinals like enough to consider drafting with the 13th overall pick, but on Wednesday, he also indicated that he and Arians would not be afraid to trade up or down depending on how the draft unfolds.
Because the Cardinals lost key veterans like Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson in free agency, Arizona expects to pick up a handful of compensatory selections in 2018, which could give the organization ammunition if it wants to make a trade this year.
"We're going to take the best player available at 13, at nine if we trade up or at 18 if we trade back," Keim said. "So we're going to have a good player available, coach and I have looked at enough guys and if we stuck at 13, there's 13 guys that we like that I know can make us better. We're going to be happy either way, I think if you get into a situation where you panic and you force the pick, it'll set us back from an organizational standpoint for four to five years."