Cardinals have eye on quarterbacks in upcoming NFL draft

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians (left) and General Manager Steve Keim, address the media about the upcoming NFL Draft. The team could draft a quarterback of the future if the right player is available. (Source: Matt Faye/Cronkite News). Cardinals coach Bruce Arians (left) and General Manager Steve Keim, address the media about the upcoming NFL Draft. The team could draft a quarterback of the future if the right player is available. (Source: Matt Faye/Cronkite News).

By Matt Faye, Cronkite News

TEMPE (CRONKITE) -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has groomed his fair share of talented young quarterbacks.

He was the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis when the Colts drafted Peyton Manning first overall in 1998. Arians was in Pittsburgh when the Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft.

Now, Arians may get to play mentor again. He and General Manager Steve Keim spoke to the media at the Cardinals training facility in Tempe on Tuesday ahead of next week’s NFL Draft, and neither were shy about emphasizing the importance of maintaining options at quarterback. Veteran Carson Palmer announced in February that he’ll return this season, but his plans beyond that remain uncertain.

“I can’t think of any playoff team in the last three years that didn’t have a good (quarterback), just to get to the playoffs, let alone win,” Arians said. “You can have the greatest defense in the world, but you still have to have a hell of a quarterback to score points.”

The Cardinals can light up scoreboards with Palmer behind center, but the team has to address the future of the position.

Arizona has eight picks in this year’s draft, including the No. 13 overall pick. Arians believes there are five or six quarterbacks in this draft that have the potential to become starters, but Keim said the Cardinals won’t take a quarterback unless a player they’ve identified as a viable successor to Palmer is on the board.

“When you get into a situation where you panic and force the pick, it will set us back from an organizational standpoint four or five years,” Keim said.

“The thing that’s hard for me with evaluating that position is there’s only so many people walking this earth that have the ability to not only make the throws from a physical standpoint, but their mind needs to be able to play fast enough as well.”

The Cardinals have previously selected high-profile quarterbacks in the draft with mixed results. In 2006, the Cardinals were not anticipating that Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart of Southern California would fall to them at the 10th overall pick.

Dennis Green, the coach at the time, famously called Leinart “a gift from heaven.” Instead, he was a bust.

In 1997, the Cardinals took Arizona State product Jake Plummer in the second round. Plummer led the team to its first-ever playoff since 1947, but the team couldn’t sustain success and he signed with Denver as a free agent in 2002.

Although Arians has worked with plenty of young quarterbacks, he said it’s impossible to know their capabilities for certain until they step into the huddle and “lead men.” If the Cardinals select a quarterback in this draft, he’ll have the opportunity to get more experience than a normal rookie would, according to Arians.

“If we’re fortunate enough to get a quarterback, he’s going to have a very unique situation because Carson (Palmer) doesn’t practice on Wednesdays,” Arians said. “So he’s going to get first-team game reps with his starting offense. Now that ain’t a normal rookie.”

Multiple mock drafts have the Cardinals selecting Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II in the first round. The team held a private workout for Mahomes, and Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame also have visited the team. Former California quarterback Davis Webb is also considered a potential Cardinals pick.

Quarterbacks come from various systems in college, but Arians said that isn’t an issue. He is only interested in whether they have the ability to quickly pick up his system in Arizona.

“When you get them on the board and you start teaching them your offense and they can spit it back to you in 15 minutes, then two hours later spit it back again, then you know they can learn any system,” Arians said.

And while Keim expressed the desire to pick the best players possible, he also acknowledged the importance of a solid signal-caller.

“If you don’t have a quarterback, you’re going nowhere,” he said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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