The period leading up to the NFL Draft is filled with smokescreens, subterfuge, and simply silly takes.
Teams push their preferred narratives through connected reporters and press conferences, in the hopes that their true intentions stay hidden and their targets remain on the board until they’re on the clock. The misdirection game requires poker faces, like when the Detroit Lions flatly told safety Miles Killebrew, “we don’t want you at all,” then took him in the fourth round.
This year, the most visible smokescreen — or raging fire — surrounds the Arizona Cardinals’ No. 1 pick. Many NFL mock drafts have the Cardinals taking a quarterback, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, with the their first selection for the second-straight draft. Arizona nabbed Josh Rosen last year, and reports have suggested they could trade him or stick with Rosen, trade down, and take a pass rusher (Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams) instead.
Before he became the new Cardinals head coach, Kliff Kingsbury said he would take Murray with the No. 1 pick if he could. Now he can, but Kingsbury told reporters the team has yet to make a final decision.
“We’re still working through things,” he said. “It is a process. I wouldn’t say the hay is in the barn.”
So, are the longstanding links between Murray and the Cardinals a smokescreen? Or have the recent reports suggesting the team is looking elsewhere been the real subterfuge?
Here’s what NFL experts are saying about the situation:
Nate Davis, USA Today
Sure, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa or Alabama’s Quinnen Williams would be prime assets for the Cards D, but it’s just hard to believe that the club isn’t trying to add a little more value to incumbent QB Josh Rosen, last year’s first-round pick, before dealing him to clear the way for the Heisman Trophy winner, who appears like the model conductor for Kingsbury’s Air Raid attack. Sometimes, where there’s smoke, there’s merely somebody blowing it up your you-know-what.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
Chances are that they already know what they’d do if they were on the clock right now. Chances also are that the Cardinals realize that they gain nothing by tipping their hand. Interest in the ABC/ESPN/NFLN trimulcast will be maximized if the team (and ESPN/NFL) maintain a façade of uncertainty, and it would be foolish to presume that the parties who directly benefit from getting the most people interested in tuning in on Thursday night don’t want that uncertainty to be maximized.
Why else would ESPN and NFLN’s top insiders be so silent regarding Arizona’s plans? Former NFL receiver Antonio Bryant’s repeated insistence that Nick Bosa not Kyler Murray will be the first pick cries out for something from someone who traffics exclusively in NFL transactional information. But by either confirming or debunking Bryant’s report, the cat will be out of the bag, and there will be less reason for anyone/everyone to tune in to ABC/ESPN/NFL Network on Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Will Brinson, CBS Sports
I’m just not buying that the Cardinals are going to take way less value on a Josh Rosen trade when he can run the Air Raid. Give me the defensive stud.
Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune
The latest whispers have the Cardinals going in a different direction, but that doesn’t make sense because they have been stringing along Josh Rosen all offseason. Pair Murray with new coach Kliff Kingsbury and see what they can do.
Steve Schrock. NBC Sports
It’s entirely possible the Cardinals are putting this out there because they want to see what offers they can get to move out of the No. 1 spot, should a team really want Murray or perhaps Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa. And if they don’t receive an offer that blows them away, they’ll stay in that slot and draft Murray anyways.
Adam Schefter, ESPN
The one thing about the NFL is that quarterbacks are currency. And I can tell you this: Last year, when the Cleveland Browns had the first and fourth overall picks, at one point in time — I know people will be skeptical of this — they considered taking quarterbacks at No. 1 and No. 4, then auctioning off one of the quarterbacks that they liked less.
So if you’re the Arizona Cardinals, and you like Kyler Murray that much — it’s hard to imagine him going No. 1 overall — but maybe there’s a scenario that you get him, and then you auction off Josh Rosen. If that’s what the new quarterback likes — that’s what he wants — why would you not acquiesce to that when you can get a king’s ransom for Josh Rosen, who some teams really like? … It’s not implausible that scenario could unfold.
Kevin Patra, NFL.com
If it turns out all the assumptions about the Cards pairing Murray with Kingsbury have been false, then the entire complexion of Thursday’s draft changes. A team that previously thought it had no shot at acquiring Murray would all of a sudden see the door open.
The Cards brass has played the entire process close to the vest — to the detriment of Rosen most of all.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN
[On odds the Cardinals select Murray with the No.1 pick]
The Cardinals are rumored to Kyler Murray in more ways than one at the top of the 2019 NFL Draft, and while the discussion is whether to trade former first-round pick Josh Rosen or not, there is no reason why the team couldn’t keep both signal-callers and go with the winner from camp. The idea of being married to a first-round pick as a starter right away doesn’t have to take effect next season, and the duo battling it out to be the best could be the ideal situation in the desert.