- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sometimes Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim may be too smart for his own good.
In the lead-up to the draft, Keim was open and honest about his intentions this week: he wanted to move back and collect more picks. After the Miami Dolphins completed the 19th pick on Thursday night, Arizona went on the clock with its eventual pick, Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, still on the board. But Keim stayed true to his philosophy, entertaining trade offers that would’ve allowed Arizona to add to its six picks.
With Bucannon and another safety, Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, available at 20th, the Cards struck a deal with New Orleans, trading back to 27th and acquiring a third-round pick, 91st overall.
“We didn’t want to go back too far because we didn’t want to lose the player,” Keim said.
It was a risky move. Instead of picking Bucannon at 20th and preparing for Friday’s second and third rounds, Keim hedged his bets that Bucannon would last seven more picks.
“I think you measure the risks versus the reward, and we had enough players on our board that we felt comfortable with,” Keim said. “He’s the guy we could’ve taken at 20 but we took a gamble and we were thrilled. We’re very excited to get him at 27.”
Yet Arizona ran the risk of letting its biggest need slip away at the cost of another third-round pick that the Cardinals “so badly wanted,” Keim said.
But when a defense struggles to stop tight ends and wide receivers as much as the Cardinals last season, when is that risk too great? Of the 29 touchdowns the Cards gave up in 2013, 17 were to tight ends. It’s been written about before but that was the difference between watching the playoffs and playing in them.
The Cardinals’ decision makers had a common refrain throughout the past few months: They didn’t have a glaring need. But Keim and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians used the word “need” often Thursday night, so, obviously, there was a desire to pick a good safety early. When Arizona went on the clock at 20th, Clinton-Dix had slipped right into their grasp. At 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, Clinton-Dix would’ve filled the “specific need” Keim had talked about. Then Arizona traded down.
“We liked Clinton,” Keim said.
“Nothing that we didn’t like about him,” Arians said.
“It was just that this guy’s size, speed and his physicality, we felt like was a better fit,” Keim said of Bucannon.
Then why not take Bucannon at 20 and eliminate the risk of losing him? After a successful 2013 draft, Keim hasn’t made any mistakes, yet, that would warrant crucifixion by type. But he definitely was playing with fire Thursday night.
After the pick, Keim explained why obtaining another third-round pick was so crucial.
“Just looking at the players that are potentially there and what it also allows us to do if we want to move, it just gives you great ammunition and get a potential impact player in this draft in the third round – now two of them,” he said. “Or, potentially, maybe package something and get two second-rounders. It just gives you a lot of ammunition.”
Stocking up on picks and players on Friday and Saturday makes sense and, as the Cardinals proved last year, could produce impact players. But at what risk? Arizona should feel fortunate Bucannon was still there at 27th.
The Cardinals got their man and their picks. High risk. High reward.