All eyes heading into the draft are on two-sport superstar Kyler Murray who, having turned down Major League Baseball, could be taken as the number one pick in this year’s NFL draft.
The dynamic 21-year-old Heisman Trophy winner’s status has soared in recent months, with it set to peak in Nashville on April 25.
Heading into the draft, the Arizona Cardinals are in pole position to claim the signal caller.
After picking UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen at number ten last year, Arizona turned in woeful performance after woeful performance, bagging themselves this year’s top pick in the process.
In a bid to rejuvenate the franchise, owner Michael Bidwell and general manager Steve Keim shipped out Steve Wilks and have turned to young, offensive minded college coach Kliff Kingsbury to take up the helm.
Kingsbury is a student of the Air Raid offence, something he has been able to adapt over the years to suit different quarterbacks throughout his time in college football, including Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel and Patrick Mahomes.
And while he has outwardly said he can adjust his system to suit Rosen, there is no denying his admiration for Murray.
Just five months ago, Kingsbury heaped praise on Murray, calling him an athletic ‘freak’ before adding: “I would take him with the first pick in the draft if I could.”
Should the Cardinals back their first round pick?
Of course, you have to feel for Rosen – given an uninspiring offensive playbook to work with at times throughout his first season in the NFL, he was always going to struggle.
He forged a good relationship with wide receiver, and fellow rookie, Christian Kirk, but over the course of the year Cards fans rarely got to see the brilliance of Larry Fitzgerald made use of and inexperienced tight end Ricky Seals-Jones was never given the opportunity to build on impressive performances under former Arizona head coach Bruce Arians.
As the franchise fell to a 3-13 record, Rosen completed just 55.2 per cent of his passes, notching up 2,278 yards and a passer rating of only 66.7.
Most importantly though, the California-native chucked 14 interceptions after taking over from early season starter Sam Bradford.
His first season struggles could be dismissed as being exactly that, a young player finding his feet in the big time while being hampered by play calling and other franchise issues.
Having used a first round pick on him last off-season, there will be those inside the organisation, and Rosen himself, who believe they should stick with him and give him the chance to develop.
But when given the chance to throw all his backing behind Rosen at the combine, GM Keim could only tell reporters: “Is Josh Rosen our quarterback? Yeah, he is right now, for sure.”
The use of the words “for sure” seem very telling.
Setting Kingsbury up to succeed.
When the Cards installed Kingsbury as their new head coach, many raised eyebrows and questioned the appointment.
How would a coach who managed a 35-40 record in his time at Texas Tech, who has no NFL coaching experience, get on when given last year’s worst team to try and turn around.
Although Nick Bosa has long been tipped to be this year’s number one pick, the Cardinals top brass must now consider how they can best set up their new coach to succeed in the desert.
Of course, they would be well within their right to ask him to work with, and try to bring the best out of, their current young quarterback.
But if they are to give Kingsbury the best chance, giving him a quarterback he already knows, a quarterback who already knows and understands the Air Raid system is a must.
When the Cardinals meet with Kyler Murray, it must be with the intention of taking him with the first round pick in this year’s draft.
photo credit : USA Today